READIER THAN EVER

Oman 2020 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

Private Omani companies will be able to benefit greatly from the Fourth Industrial Revolution by enhancing their local value-added strategies and upskilling the workforce.

Qais bin Mohammed Al Yousef
BIOGRAPHY

Qais bin Mohamed Al Yousef is a businessperson who has been at the helm of nine different companies. He recently left the post of Chairman of Oman Chamber of Commerce & Industry to assume the role of Minister of Commerce and Industry and Investment Promotion. He formerly held the position of chairman for PICIC Commercial Bank Ltd. He received an undergraduate degree from Williams College and a graduate degree from Stanford Graduate School of Business.

How can the Omani private sector successfully embrace the technological revolution to stay ahead of the innovation curve, and what unique factors will enable and accelerate the attainment of the pillars of Industry 4.0?
Oman's private sector can successfully benefit from and remain at the forefront of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) being proactive and becoming early adopters of related technologies. Moreover, enhancing local value-added strategies—which includes encouraging innovation and technology transfer as well as training of the workforce—will help private Omani companies to move ahead into the 4IR swiftly. During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Omani companies have demonstrated their ability to innovate and use technologies in a meaningful and useful way. I would like to share three such examples: the evelopment of breathing equipment; contact tracing initiatives such as mobile phone contact tracing; and manufacturing healthcare-related items such as masks and sanitizers. I am proud to share that a majority of such companies were SMEs owned and operated by promising Omani entrepreneurs.

How do you expect demand from investors interested in establishing industrial assets in Oman to evolve, and what efforts are being undertaken to ensure the local market will benefit from the entry of new foreign players?
I expect FDI into the Sultanate to be high in the future owing to a number of enabling factors. Oman offers world class infrastructure and an attractive legislative framework for foreign investors in the form of a new Foreign Capital Investment Law, Public Private Partnership Law, and the Bankruptcy Law. The establishment a new commercial arbitration process will help investors get quicker resolution. Oman's strategic location, availability of skilled local talent, abundance of land, competitively priced sources of energy coupled with security, peaceful environment, and tolerant society makes it the preferred choice for foreign investors. If we add the fabled natural beauty of the country and the warmth of Omanis, it enhances the country's attractiveness as an investment destination.

What challenges will family businesses face in adopting to the new era of Oman's economy, and what contribution is expected from them to align with Vision 2040?
Some of the challenges facing family businesses include innovation and sustainability, increased costs and competition, dealing with automation and 4IR, enhanced demand for talent, and establishing a corporate governance framework and succession planning. I also believe the most important challenges that family businesses face are internal—from within the family—rather than external ones related to the market or competition. In terms of aligning with Oman's Vision 2040, most family businesses are agile, and that differentiates them from other companies. They have the ability to adapt swiftly to the changes in economic policy taking place in the country under the wise and able leadership of Sultan Haitham bin Tarik. Therefore, family companies in the Sultanate will be able to contribute to achieving the goals of Vision 2040 in terms of technology transfer as well as contribute to job creation for Omani nationals and developing local talent, in addition to contributing towards enhancing in-country value (ICV) in the Sultanate. This is the best time to invest in Oman; with our renewed renaissance, updated laws to promote investments, and new investment opportunities based on public-private partnerships, Oman is ready and open for business, more so now than ever before.