INNOVATION DRIVEN

Kuwait 2018 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Sheikh Dr. Meshaal Jaber Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, Director General of Kuwait Direct Investment Promotion Authority (KDIPA), on progress thus far, as well as continuing efforts for the year ahead.

 Sheikh Dr. Meshaal Jaber Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah
BIOGRAPHY
Sheikh Dr. Meshaal Jaber Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah has been Director General of KDIPA since its establishment in July 2013, and chairs the Permanent Committee for Streamlining Business Environment in Kuwait. Prior to that, he was Chief of the Kuwait Foreign Investment Bureau (KFIB) Division under the Ministry of Commerce & Industry from 2008 until 2013, served as Deputy Chairman for the National Offset Company (NOC), and served as a member of the Board of Directors for the Central Bank of Kuwait. He holds a PhD in HR and marketing management from the University of Portsmouth (UK).

What have been KDIPA's key achievements in promoting Kuwait as an investment hub?

KDIPA attracted a total of KWD707.9 million (USD2.3 billion) in cumulative direct investments approved and licensed between January 2015 and March 2017. This entailed establishing 22 legal entities from 14 different nationalities focused on the services sector with activities in ICT, maintenance, healthcare, and renewable energy services. The licensed investments are expected to provide more than 1,000 direct jobs for Kuwaiti nationals, as well as a host of indirect jobs along with specialized training programs and supporting R&D efforts. Ultimately, these investments are expected to contribute favorably to diversifying the economic base, enhancing productivity, and fostering competitiveness and sustainable growth in support of the National Vision 2035 and its developmental pillars. Moreover, they will generate a positive trickle-down effect in the local economy through collaborations and linkages with local suppliers and producers. Regarding KDIPA's promotional activities that stem from its core role as the country's promotional agency, it continued to receive several investment and trade missions interested in doing business in Kuwait; participated in official dialogs, delegations, and bilateral negotiations to promote Kuwait internationally; took part in specialized promotional events and exhibitions; and signed MoUs with several peer agencies. In September 2017, KDIPA partnered with the Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) and the US Chamber of Commerce to organize the US-Kuwait Economic Forum in Washington DC, the first of its kind that brought together various Kuwaiti and American officials and business people to further enhance bilateral economic relations. Furthermore, KDIPA partnered with the Financial Times (FT) and fDi Magazine to launch a targeted external promotional campaign Kuwait Investment Outreach (KIO) roadshows, the first of which kicked off in London in December 2017. Upcoming roadshows are scheduled in Singapore and Silicon Valley.

What steps is KDIPA taking to support the shift toward innovation and sustainability embedded in the economic diversification process of Kuwait?

KDIPA initiated a national project to prepare the study, Enhancing the Competitiveness of Kuwait in International Indices: Engine for Transformation into Knowledge and Innovation-Based Economy, and listed it under the second medium-term Development Plan (2015/2016-2019/2020). The project ultimately aims to produce a proposed national roadmap to transform Kuwait's economic development path from the current transitional phase between factor-driven and efficiency-driven toward an innovation-driven economy, according to the renowned Global Competitiveness Index developed and published annually by the World Economic Forum. Phase I of this project is completed, and we are proceeding with Phase II to develop a proposed coherent growth strategy that sets priorities, identifies policies, and creates programs that will facilitate sustained inclusive growth and competitiveness to achieve the intended socioeconomic development goals.

What are your initiatives for the coming year?

KDIPA has adopted a more proactive approach to achieve its intended goals by continuing to implement various promotional campaigns, generate investment leads, conduct investor targeting initiatives, provide continuous facilitation, and develop investor services and aftercare operations. Of particular importance, KDIPA will co-organize the second Kuwait Investment Forum (KIF2018) under the patronage of HH the Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah with KCCI, to be held on March 20-21, 2018 at Jaber Al Ahmad Cultural Centre (JACC). This event is anticipated to be one of the largest economic events in the country, which reiterates the government's commitment to attract value-added investments and support the private sector's role in the economy in line with the country's National Vision 2035. In addition, other Kuwait investment outreach roadshows will be organized focusing on key sectors and targeting leading multinational companies. KDIPA is also carrying on with its plans to develop the three economic zones in Abdali, Wafra, and Na'ayem, as well as managing the free zones in Shuwaikh, Nuwaiseib, and Abdali, and the commercial plots transferred by the Council of Ministers.