ABDULAZIZ N. AL-KHALIFA

Qatar 2020 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

As the SME landscape grows ever more intricate, QDB is turning its attention to strategic partnerships to further empower local entrepreneurs.

Abdulaziz N. Al-Khalifa
BIOGRAPHY

In addition to his role as CEO at QDB, Abdulaziz N. Al-Khalifa is chairman of the board of directors at Elan, a member of the board of directors at Qatar Science Technology Park, and chairman of the Qatar Business Incubator Center and the Bedaya Center for Entrepreneurship and Career Development. With over 15 years of experience, Al-Khalifa has a large and diversified exposure in the SME and private sectors. He played a leading role in the launch of several flagship development initiatives, including Al Dhameen Partial Guarantee Program, the Tasdeer Qatar Export Development Agency, the Housing Loan Program for Qatari citizens, the Moushtarayat Exhibition & Congress, and Al Fikra National Competition. He holds an MBA from Qatar University, a bachelor's in electrical engineering from the University of California, and has received several specialized diplomas from Harvard and Insead.

The objective of QDB is to develop and empower Qatari entrepreneurs and innovators to contribute to the diversification of the Qatari economy. What have been the main milestones and areas of activity of QDB in recent years?
QDB was founded with the main objective of growing Qatar's private sector and diversifying its economy. Since our establishment in 1997, we have been at the forefront of these efforts by working with thousands of Qatari entrepreneurs and enterprises. We have provided investment and guidance to entrepreneurs, start-ups, and well-established corporations, and have built a reputation for identifying promising investment opportunities. To promote the local private sector, we extend wide-ranging financial and non-financial support to entrepreneurs across myriad industries, including a series of initiatives to promote an entrepreneurial spirit and create start-ups. Our development schemes, such as the eco-friendly Jahiz I and Jahiz II initiatives, have empowered local SMEs operating across a diverse range of industries, including chemicals, electronics, plastics, wood materials, as well as food and beverage. As the SME landscape grows ever more intricate and complex, we turned our attention to strategic partnerships to further support and empower local entrepreneurs. Our focus is on the market gaps: access to training and information, funding, and markets. In 2010, we introduced Al Dhameen program, our partial loan guarantee scheme in which we guarantee up to 85% of loans through our partner banks. The following year we launched Tasdeer, the Qatar Export Development Agency, to level the playing field for exporters. When we merged with Enterprise Qatar in 2014, our goal was to create a one-stop-shop for entrepreneurs and SMEs. Today, our scope extends from ideation to market launch and export support. In 2018, we provided training for 3,000 beneficiaries, supported the development of more than 50 feasibility studies, and incubated over 200 companies. We have also supported 13 companies to start exporting, as well as engaged 26 companies in trade missions, identified more than 500 business opportunities for customers, and achieved QAR3.6 million in signed deals. Through Al Dhameen service, we have also helped 310 clients obtain guarantees and achieved QAR955 million in outstanding guarantees. We have also extended direct lending support amounting to QAR6.2 billion to more than 540 customers.

QDB is working on the launch of business incubators specializing in sports and fintech. How do these sectors complement the diversification of the Qatari economy?
The new incubation centers are dedicated to fintech and sports technology (sportstech) and provide support in every way possible to budding Qatari entrepreneurs who aspire to participate in transforming Qatar into a knowledge-based society. Powered by StartupBootcamp, the world's largest network of innovation programs, the Qatar SportsTech Accelerator hosted its first QST Demo Day in May 2019. This celebrated the graduation of the first batch of 10 international sportstechs that were accelerated in the three-month program. In 2019, the start-ups will be presenting solutions for the benefit of the sports industry using the most advanced technology available. The need for a robust sportstech industry is only going to increase as we approach the 2022 FIFA World Cup and will continue well beyond. Thus, the creation of Qatar SportsTech Accelerator will play an increasingly essential role both locally and globally in taking the sports industry to the next level. QDB is also planning to invest more in venture capital initiatives. In May 2018, we signed deals with six international venture capital firms providing QAR100 million worth of funding for Qatari SMEs.