Qatar’s transition to a Knowledge-Based Economy
Qatar is a country blessed with natural resources, including petroleum, natural gas and foodstuffs and the country has been fortunate to thrive off these natural resources. Oil and natural gas account for 55% of the country’s gross domestic product and petroleum has made Qatar one of the world’s fastest-growing and highest per-capita income countries.
The digital rise from the desert dust has not bypassed Qatar. In a move away from reliance on hydrocarbons and toward a knowledge-based economy, the overriding goal of the Qatar National Vision of 2030 is to support and grow small and medium-sized enterprises and encourage entrepreneurship among young people.
Today the country is already beginning to diversify its economy and like much of the MENA region, there has been an explosion in digital entrepreneurs. Qatari founders have access to entrepreneurship initiatives, government support and the Qatar Business Incubation Centre (QBIC). Initiatives such as the Roudha Centre are identifying, supporting and promoting female entrepreneurs and innovators in Qatar and QBIC is helping entrepreneurs with an idea to start their business or those who want to grow an existing business. However, education and training will play the key role in developing a new enterprise culture.
A highly interesting aspect of the Qatari economy is e-commerce and fashion. The oil rich gulf states buy more haute couture than anywhere else in the world, and Qatar has emerged as the region’s fashion epicentre. Mayhoola for Investments – a fund which owns Valentino and recently acquired French fashion house Balmain for €500 million – is closely linked to the Qatari royal family. The Qatar Luxury Group which builds luxury brands across the fashion hospitality and lifestyle sectors also seeks to support and grow homegrown designers.
Although the entrepreneurial environment has a long way to go, startup support systems are starting to form and the government are taking the transition seriously. The Qatar 2030 Vision has put the development of a diversified economy at the centre of its mission and industries like e-commerce are going to be the ones which allow Qatar to compete in a global market.