BUILDING CAPABILITY

Oman 2018 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Dr. Dhafir Awadh Al-Shanfari, CEO of Oman Authority for Partnership for Development (OAPFD), on the goals of the authority, its current projects, and its focus for the medium term.

 Dr. Dhafir Awadh Al-Shanfari
BIOGRAPHY
Dr. Dhafir Awadh Al-Shanfari is CEO of OAPFD, which was established in 2014 to oversee and manage the PFD program known globally as offset. Prior to his appointment as CEO, he was head of the management department at the College of Economics and Political Science, Sultan Qaboos University. He was also the Co-Director of the Academic Innovation Assistance Program (AIAP), a joint TRC-SQU program aimed at fostering innovation at higher education institutions in Oman, and was a member of the committee for the National SME Development Symposia held in 2013 and 2015. Dr. Al Shanfari also chairs and is a member of various boards in the Sultanate.

How has OAPFD evolved in recent years?

Those who are familiar with offset, our PFD program, understand that it is mainly focused on the defense industry; however, this has not been the case in Oman for several years now. In Oman, offset is generally used to leverage large international contracts with defense and security agencies and civil infrastructure contracts to achieve national policy goals. Close to 80 countries around the world implement their offsets into defense and security. The objective is the same: OAPFD is part of the government's efforts to diversify the economy. The authority uses the offset tool to align itself with the five key sectors of the Tanfeedh initiative. Translating that into actions, OAPFD has three clear goals to contribute toward diversifying the economy: enhance defense and security, invest in human capital, and work on projects to strengthen the private sector. In 2016 and 2017, OAPFD managed to translate these obligations into projects. Currently, OAPFD has six operational projects and more than 15 projects in different stages of development, of differing magnitude and type.

What do the OAPFD's current operational projects consist of?

Our current projects include the Oman Marine Biotechnology Center, which was established in 2017 as an R&D company in the marine biotechnology field. The main objective of this project is to explore the untapped potential of the Omani oceans and set parallel applications to the industry. Another project is related to young people, whereby OAPFD created a youth skills development program. There is also the Oman Aviation Academy (OAA), a JV with Airbus Helicopter, TANMIA, Al Hosn Investment Company, and the Ministry of Defense Pension Fund. The academy will provide Oman Air with commercial pilot training and will also open up to other civil airlines. The intention is to include basic military screening training in the second phase. Furthermore, Sohar is undergoing a major development phase, which is an opportunity for OAPFD to contribute to the Sohar community and create jobs.

What does the PFD-ICV Online Monitoring & Reporting system consist of, and what benefits will it bring?

Within the scope of the PFD-ICV Online Monitoring & Reporting system is industrial mapping and local market capability. In addition to general information on a given company, it will include company capabilities, staff, machinery, certification, and export capacity. It will give fair opportunities and a platform for the Omani manufacturing sector, mainly in industrial and special economic zones Also, large original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) will also have access to the system and will be able to see local companies available in a particular industry, the self-assessed local company's strengths, and the OEM's assessment of local companies' skills, capabilities, and capacity against the large OEM's PFD project scope of work and requirements. The OEM will carry out audits on the local company and come up with a development plan mutually agreed with OAPFD.

What are the OAPFD's main objectives for 2018?

We have been working on OAPFD's business plan with a focus to further align ourselves with Tanfeedh. We see the latter as an anchor, and there are already projects the authority is considering in the fisheries and ICT domains. There are also a number of projects in the capabilities development and government leadership training domains. In regards to manufacturing investment promotion, we look to materialize at least four international foreign direct investments through JVs in Oman, in defense and other sectors. These are projects that we hope to see implemented in 2018, and we are optimistic with the various reforms, reviews, and overall momentum that is picking up on a daily basis. Although our objective is economic diversification, job creation is at the heart of everything we do, whether directly through JVs or indirectly through training programs that increase employability.