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Qatar opens floodgates for entrepreneurs

Saudi has opened its air and land borders with Qatar after three years. The closure followed imposition of sanctions on the emirate. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt pulled the plug on Qatar in 2017 alleging it supported terrorism. Qatar has all along outrightly denied the charge. Saudi said Riyadh and its three Arab allies would restore full ties with Doha soon. The development holds much more importance to the entrepreneur community. The business world has reasons to cheer given the fact that it’s time to reemerge after the pandemic wreaked havoc.

The blockade impacted Qatar’s export sector. It dipped 9.5% compared to the previous year, in 2017. Imports also dropped by 39.9%. Non-Oil economy shrank to 4.6%. Foreign trade plummeted to 49.4%. But Qatar wasted no time to turn the tables. Before sanctions, a major chunk of imports, especially 60% of food products, reached the nation through the territories of friend-turned-foes. So, immediately after the embargo, Qatar had to make arrangements for rerouting the arrivals through Turkey and Iran. In order to enhance domestic production and ensure milk supply, thousands of cows were flown in from abroad. The bovines eventually became the face of Qatar’s unwavering fighting spirit.

In fact, the isolation helped Qatar do away with the middlemen and establish direct contact with the suppliers. The tiny peninsula left the world in wonder when they started to make maximum use of offshore gas reserves.

Qatar’s economy is one of the richest in the world based on GDP per capita. It was among the top ten richest countries on world rankings for 2015 & 2016.

$7.4 billion Hamad port was opened when the nation was three months into the boycott. The new facility enabled the country to host large cargo ships. Laws relating to labor, privatisation, special economic zones and foreign ownership limits were amended to woo foreign investors. “Boycott united the people and readied them to work resolutely for the progress of the country. It created enthusiasm and self-reliance,” said Khalid al-Mohannadi, an entrepreneur. Today, food products from any part of the world can be found on the hypermarkets shelves here. Khalid says the embargo taught citizens how to have trust in themselves.

Many successful new ventures and businesses sprang up in Qatar as a result of investor-friendly policies. The nation offers wholehearted support for startups. Amazing is the fact that more than 30 percent of entrepreneurs are women.

Abdul Aziz bin Nasser Al Khalifa, CEO, Qatar Development Bank, proudly says women are at the helm of leading startups and organisations in his country. Qatar has also launched a contest for entrepreneurs to turn ideas related to sports technology into projects.

Today, the emirate is gearing up to host the FIFA 2022 World Cup. Work on Al Rayyan stadium, the fourth venue for the football championship, was completed last month. Four more are in the making. As Qatar re enters mainstream business, great opportunities are beckoning the entrepreneurs.

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