SHEIKH ALI ALWALEED AL-THANI

Qatar 2021 | ECONOMY | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Sheikh Ali Alwaleed Al-Thani, CEO of Investment Promotion Agency Qatar (IPA Qatar), about the “Invest Qatar" brand, fintech, and working with international investors.

How has the launch of IPA Qatar and the Invest Qatar brand impacted the investment ecosystem in the country?

The Investment Promotion Agency Qatar (IPA Qatar) was established in July 2019, and its mandate is to support high-value inward FDI into the country. This is both to help achieve the 2030 National Vision and to aid in Qatar's economic diversification strategy. The recently launched Invest Qatar brand leverages our integrated ecosystem, including all national licensing platforms such as the Qatar Financial Centre, the Qatar Free Zones Authority, the Qatar Science and Technology Park, as well as the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. IPA Qatar works firstly to coordinate the brand as a value proposition directed at investors, highlighting its purpose, direction, and methods. We act as a long-term partner for investors throughout their journey in Qatar, from their discovery of this market up to considering the establishment here and their subsequent growth. IPA Qatar also has a policy advisory function that greatly improves the ease of doing business in the country. We do a continuous review of laws and regulations applicable to FDI. We also regularly advise and publish reports to improve the investment climate and help address any issues that investors might face.

Are there any specific geographical locations or sectors IPA Qatar targets for inbound FDI?

In terms of geography, the IPA's mandate is generally neutral. We look at the value and economic diversification angle of any FDI project. We also look at talent and high-skilled labor. When it comes to sector preferences, there is a focus on innovative sectors and areas the market dynamics point to, especially in the post-COVID-19 era. One example is fintech and more partnerships between financial and non-financial institutions. Qatar is poised to boost its role as a global fintech hub. Other sectors of interest include advanced manufacturing, where Qatar is actively promoting Industry 4.0, and healthcare, especially due to the spike in demand for medical supplies and health-connected businesses such as tertiary medicine and virtual care. Logistics is another sector of interest. There are massive disruptions in the global supply chain due to COVID-19, and Qatar has a specific logistics play in motion. Virtual education, ICT, and AI in general, are other focuses that are key in terms of Qatar's ongoing economic diversification plan.

Would you tell us about IPA Qatar's collaboration with international partner organizations?

We understand the importance of multilateral collaboration with our partners to exchange best practices and contribute to a more sustainable global business ecosystem. This integrative approach has become even more important with the recent pandemic. IPA Qatar is an active member of key international organizations, such as the World Association of Investment Promotion Agencies and the World Economic Forum's Platform on “Shaping the Future of Investing". We have also signed several agreements with bilateral partner organizations, including Malaysia's Investment Development Agency and the Investment Office under the Presidency of Turkey. Business France is another partner organization we work closely with. Our partnership with our Russian counterparts has advanced to the point that Qatar will participate in the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in 2021 as a guest country. We have hosted a significant number of events with our partners in 2020 and will continue to leverage these partnerships through a range of continued activities in 2021, whether in terms of events, business coordination and facilitation, or institution-to-institution collaboration.

Qatar has been given a stable outlook and continues to enjoy high global rankings despite the recent crisis. How did IPA Qatar complement the country's efforts amid Covid-19?

COVID-19 has impacted the global economy, and the IMF has estimated there will be a large impact on FDI. However, Qatar is well-positioned and retained its strong credit rating and stable outlook in 2020, owing to the economy's resilience. Despite the difficulties in the global economy posed by the pandemic, Qatar's economy is projected to grow 2.7% in 2021 in real terms . In terms of IPA's specific role, we adapted our communications strategy and services to a digital environment. We have moved events to an online format, and most of our facilitation services are provided virtually. We are looking to establish an investor connection platform to connect foreign investors and local companies, as well as to present all opportunities, tenders, and key projects. We have published a COVID-19 advisory section on our website and via other communication tools. IPA's investor relations team has been proactive in reaching out to investors. We published a report on the impacts of COVID-19 and where investors, particularly foreign investors, felt an effect on their operations. We helped address these impacts and facilitated a great deal of the feedback in terms of the government's general response. A government stimulus package of around QAR75 billion was disbursed to the local economy. There has been an exchange of ideas and best practices with our international partners and organizations. We understand the importance of having multilateral stakeholder engagement in terms of recovery, and we have been leveraging all these partnerships to achieve that.

What role does the local legal system, particularly Qatar's new PPP Law, play in the attractiveness of the country as an FDI destination?

The new PPP Law and regulations are a kind of centerpiece in terms of our offering to foreign investors. Enhancing private-sector participation in government projects, like public schools, water treatment plants, and other projects currently in the pipeline is a great added value to the local economy. This creates a more competitive business context and adds a comparative advantage to new projects with a strong private-sector participation. Qatar's PPP Law applies to various types of asset classes, one of which is education. There is a new QAR1-billion project for around 25 schools. Other relevant sectors are transportation, ICT, energy, healthcare, and tourism, and this is only the beginning. We expect to see many more such partnerships in the coming months and hope international investors will take advantage of these opportunities. IPA Qatar looks at these as anchor projects to market and have international companies come and participate here.

How will IPA Qatar engage with international investors and partners in 2021 and beyond to attract FDI into these new projects that the government will launch?

Looking ahead, IPA Qatar will continue to pursue its mandate by engaging with both investors and partner organizations to bring progress to the FDI arena. Qatar will strengthen its global footprint with new partnerships that help advance the business ecosystem and our improved value proposition due to the new regulatory and legal changes. As IPA Qatar, we look forward to several upcoming international events scheduled for 2021, such as the Qatar-US Roadshow and the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, with Qatar as a guest country. We are currently achieving the full agenda of the organization and are committed to achieve Qatar's economic diversification goals together with our national business and licensing platforms.