Qatar is now a major hub for international trade in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region; the relatively low political risk being one of the major benefits of doing business in Qatar compared with other countries in MENA. In order to boost international trade flows, the Qatari government has relaxed business regulations such as reducing trade cost and increasing cross border agency co-operation.
Qatar’s 2030 National Vision sets out the framework for the country’s economic, social, human and environmental development. Recognizing that the country’s hydrocarbon resource will eventually run out, the Qatari government has diversified its economy from oil and gas in other economic sectors such as renewable energy, construction, infrastructure, education and tourism. These sectors offer the most dynamic business environment for international trade.
There are significant opportunities for companies that offer product and services for renewable energy sector. With clear and sunny skies throughout the year, solar power is one of the top renewable energy sources to be exploited in Qatar. Renewable energy is Qatari’s priority. Achieving environmental sustainability is one of the key pillars of Qatar’s 2030 National Vision. Qatar also promises a carbon-neutral FIFA World Cup 2022. Henceforth, the government is investing heavily in renewable energy. The Qatari government’s commitments including Qatar’s aim to generate 16% of its electricity from solar power by 2018, the construction of an 1800MW solar power plant in early 2014 and 80% of Qatar’s total water desalination to be powered by solar energy.
Construction and infrastructure
There are plenty of opportunities for construction, engineering and design companies. As Qatar prepares for the FIFA World Cup, there will be increase in construction of hotels to supply enough rooms to cater to the large number of visitors during the event. In response to demand for increase in international passenger capacity to the region, Qatar is building a brand new airport to replace Doha International Airport. Qatar is also creating a new Doha Port, the world’s largest greenfield port construction project valued at QAR 27 billion (USD 7.4 billion). The new port project is inviting qualified companies for the port buildings and infrastructure. Qatar’s Public Works Authority recently awarded seven construction contracts valued at QR 10.181 billion. Another key infrastructure programme is the Inner Doha Re-sewerage Implementation Strategy (IDRIS) that provides vital drainage work for the southern part of Doha. The duration of this programme is 8 years (2012 to 2019) with an estimated cost of QR10 billion.
There are enormous potential for entrepreneurship in the education sector. The government hopes to broaden the skills base of Qataris so that more are able to compete with expatriates for jobs in the private sectors. While encouraging active participation of Qatari in the labour force, Qatar will continue to augment its labour force by attracting qualified expatriate workers in all fields. There will be opportunities for training institutions and universities that can provide high quality educational and training programmes. For example, eight branches of overseas universities, the country’s top high school and offices of al Jazeera’s children’s television channel are located in Doha’s Education City, in the outskirts of Doha.
Last year, Qatar’s hotel occupancy rose from an average of 58% to 67% while revenue at four and five-star hotels increased by QAR155.9 million, as a result of an increase in number of visitors from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Asia. The total number of hotels under construction increased from 110 properties at the end of 2012 to 121 in second quarter of 2013.
Qatar tourism is gaining momentum and the country is busy positioning itself as a transit hub, competing with two other aviation hubs in the region, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. With Qatar Airways’ expansion of route network to three continents including Africa, Asia and North America and travel retailers’ introduction of stopover packages to attract more tourists, this will create a large stopover market. Sports events such as FIFA World Cup are also a major magnet for leisure and business tourism.
With the Qatari government’s ambitious plan to transform this peninsula into a global hub for trade, finance, tourism and education, foreign established companies and start-ups that are interested in international opportunities would be wise to consider Qatar.