The US-Qatar Business Council (USQBC), the Silicon Valley Forum and the Embassy of the State of Qatar in Washington D.C. hosted a virtual event on December 8th, entitled Qatar in Focus: Smarter Countries & Thriving Communities in the Digital Age. The event provided US companies with an overview on how the State of Qatar is driving ambitious economic diversification by investing in smart cities technologies and digital innovation to build its smart nation.
Speakers from Qatar’s Ministry of Transport and Communications (MOTC) and one of its flagship initiatives, Qatar Financial Centre (QFC), Qatar Development Bank (QDB), Msheireb Properties, Silicon Valley Forum, and USQBC discussed the strength of the existing US-Qatar relationship in the smart cities sector and laid out the value proposition for US companies looking to invest.
“The Smart Qatar (TASMU) Program is looking to collaborate with global smart cities players and technology partners to bring the Smart Qatar vision to life. Qatar’s digital transformation into a smart country will be supported by a multitude of top-notch global companies all working in collaboration with TASMU,” said Her Excellency Mrs. Reem Al-Mansoori, Assistant Undersecretary of Digital Society Development at MOTC. “We invite US companies to explore the various investment opportunities available to them now in Qatar, as we are actively looking for global innovators in smart city technologies that can bring valuable experience and best practices to the table.”
The Qatar National Vision 2030 development plan will ensure that the country creates a knowledge-based economy and TASMU, launched by the MOTC is the digital response to accelerate the realization of this vision. TASMU harnesses advanced technology and innovation to deliver smart solutions and applications across five priority sectors: Transportation, Healthcare, Logistics, Environment, and Sports.
Furthermore, in 2019, MOTC established TASMU Digital Valley as an innovation cluster to support digital solution providers around the world to solidify investment opportunities in Qatar. Whether its assistance in setting up a business in Qatar, sourcing vendors for services, or business matchmaking; the TASMU Digital Valley has a platform that facilitates every aspect of the innovation journey.
The Qatar-US business relationship has grown steadily and is now worth more than $200 billion overall,” said Mr. Fahad Al-Dosari, Qatar’s Commercial Attaché to the US. “But this total, while impressive, represents just a fraction of the potential of our relationship as Qatar’s economy is rapidly growing and diversifying. Qatar’s Smart Nation development efforts offers a wealth of new business opportunities. US technology is deeply respected in Qatar, and US firms are well positioned to succeed in this tremendous emerging market.”
Over the past five years, the US and Qatar’s commercial relationship continues to exceed expectations, with Qatar importing more than $23 billion worth of goods from the US over the last five years. Today, the total economic value of the partnership between the two countries exceeds $200 billion, and Qatar stands as one of the few countries in which the US runs a trade surplus. Qatar aims to invest over $300 billion in upcoming projects in the near term, including Infrastructure at $250+ billion , $4.4 billion in ICT, and $6.2 billion in Health Care & Life Sciences with 50+ new facilities planned .
“Qatar offers US tech companies unparalleled commercial opportunities in the SMART city space, which include the world’s sole single-company controlled 100+ building development with an integrated data backbone. Along with appealing prospects for data scientists to explore, Qatar also offers strong incentives for qualified US tech companies and a business-friendly tax system, which according to a joint report by the World Bank and PwC is ranked third best in the world,” said Mr. Thaddeus Malesa, Senior Economic Advisor, Qatar Financial Centre. “QFC, QDB, and MOTC work together and offer programming, such as incubator and accelerator programs to create a business-friendly ecosystem in Qatar, which aims to support American companies pursuing these Smart Cities opportunities.”
Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) is focused on being a leading hub for SMART city investors and those looking to expand into the wider Middle East and surrounding region. The QFC is already a leading platform to firms in the space – having licensed 122 digital firms in recent years. Many of the licensed digital firms have initially come to capitalize on promising domestic opportunities. However, as a major licensing platform in the Middle East, QFC actively works to advance the international opportunity set for its service firms in partner jurisdictions such as Kuwait, Pakistan, and Turkey.”
“Owing to their lean practices and innovation-based ethos, Small and Medium Size Enterprises (SMEs) are at the heart of Qatar’s economic diversification and smart infrastructure development,” said Mr. Bassam Al Mannai, Executive Director of the Real Estate Directorate at QDB. “By offering them a 360-degree financial, advisory, and logistical support system, QDB is constantly working alongside partner institutions to further develop a competitive, business-friendly environment for innovative local startups and international companies, while providing them with a platform through which they can proactively contribute to Qatar’s economic and digital transformation and help turn Doha into a smart city where a knowledge-based economy can flourish.”
QDB helps fund, establish, and grow startups and SMEs across tech-focused sectors in Qatar through a full suite of support services, initiatives, and platforms including the Qatar Business Incubation Center, Qatar SportsTech Accelerator, and the Qatar FinTech Hub Incubator and Accelerator programs.
“Qatar has demonstrated an incredible synergy across entities in their integrated approach to attracting Smart Cities investors,” said Mrs. Lana Khalaf, Country Manager, Microsoft Qatar. “Technology has driven systematic shifts across industries spanning every facet, including Smart Cities, where Microsoft forecasts rapid transformation in Qatar’s smart city developments, and this is how Microsoft Cloud can enable smart cities utilizing AI, IOT, and enabling ecosystem to fuel smart city innovation through partners and SMEs. Microsoft announced bringing the first Global Hyperscale Cloud to enable Qatar and establish it as the knowledge and innovation hub for smart cities.”
Microsoft Qatar has been a partner in the growth of Qatar for over 15 years focused on enabling every person, industry, and organization in the country to achieve more. Microsoft announced the launch of the first global hyperscale in Qatar which will power digital transformation in the country with a focus on enabling the ecosystem and skilling and reskilling people for future jobs. Microsoft is also investing in enabling startups with some major partnerships such as QDB on the Qatar Fintech Hub, and Qatar-based tech venture firm 360-Nautica announced a strategic collaboration to foster technology-based entrepreneurship in the country with its ‘Microsoft for Startups’ program that delivers access to technology, go-to-market benefits, and community support, along with workshops and training sessions.
Qatar’s commitment to smart infrastructure is vividly illustrated in one of its newest urban development projects. “Msheireb Downtown Doha is one of the world’s smartest and most sustainable fully built city districts, adhering to the highest standards in green building, smart city technology, and connectivity,” said Mr. Clark Williams, Director of Marketing at Msheireb Properties. “With several hundred thousand sensors and connected devices, integrated city operations and digital services, we’ve created an intelligent infrastructure that international companies can leverage to create and launch their most innovative services yet.”
Msheireb Downtown Doha, developed by Msheireb Properties, is an award-winning, $5.5 billion mixed-used urban development spread across a 31-hectare site that represents the historic commercial heart of Doha. For the business community, this smart city district comprises 17 offices buildings all within walking distance from hotels and commercial and retail amenities. Autonomous buildings, automated waste collection, smart meters, and the ability to pair end-user devices with the city district’s data, are just some of the features that distinguish this forward-looking community.
“Qatar represents one of the best opportunities in the world for US tech companies to invest,” said Mr. Nick Sramek, Director, International Relations Silicon Valley Forum. “This event will help connect people and organizations to the knowledge, networks, and companies in Silicon Valley to seize on the tremendous partnership opportunities that exist in Qatar.''
Silicon Valley is one the premiere tech-hubs globally and Qatar is developing a similar culture of innovation across many sectors. Already home to some of the largest US tech investors like Microsoft, Honeywell, and Cisco, Qatar is one of the top countries internationally for digital competitiveness and the first country in the world for the use of 5G technologies. Sustainability, logistics, mobility, and health care are some of the areas where US tech firms can expand their business.
“The 850 US companies operating in Qatar, including 120 wholly-owned US companies and $300 Billion in new projects in the pipeline, are solid indicators of the confidence US investors have in our growing commercial partnership,” said Mr. Mohammed Barakat, Managing Director of USQBC. “With Qatar’s relentless pace of growth and innovation, every day that passes provides US firms with even greater opportunities for investment and partnerships.”
The US-Qatar Business Council is the premier entity to facilitate trade and investment between the two countries and hosts many events to build business relationships. USQBC looks forward to collaborating with interested smart cities investors as they establish themselves in Qatar.
The Embassy of Qatar in Washington, D.C. houses Qatar's diplomatic mission to the United States. The primary purposes of the Embassy of Qatar are to highlight Qatar’s policies on regional issues, strengthen Qatar-U.S. bilateral relations and to assist Qatari citizens who travel or live in the U.S. The current Ambassador of the State of Qatar to the United States of America is His Excellency Sheikh Meshal Bin Hamad Al-Thani.
The US-Qatar Business Council is the premier entity to facilitate trade and investment between the two countries and provides advisory and consulting services, issues reports and publications, and hosts events to build business relationships between the US and Qatar. USQBC is dedicated to helping its American and Qatari members expand their business and encourage foreign investment and trade.
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