Qatar Financial Centre (QFC), which serves as a beacon of investments and an enabler of economic growth in the country, seeks to enhance Qatar's position as an attractive and rewarding destination for companies looking to expand their operations in the Middle East.

QFC aims to inject even more investments and foreign capital into the Qatari economy, according to Sheikha Alanoud bint Hamad al-Thani, managing director of Business Development in QFC.

“We recently announced a new strategy which includes a renewed focus on specific service industries including digital, media, sports, and financial services, apart from further developing partnerships as part of a New Emerging Belt Initiative (NEBI), an economic corridor that focuses on building strategic alliances with markets such as Kuwait, Oman, Turkey, Pakistan, and India," she told QNA in an exclusive interview.

These new emerging markets have been identified because they possess a large potential for future growth, especially considering that their combined GDP is estimated to be approximately $2.1tn, with total global foreign direct investment (FDI) exceeding $150bn.

QFC is home to about 670 companies that operate across different sectors including financial services, media, technology, sports, and consultancies. They range from corporate banks, and holding companies, to professional service companies and special purpose companies.

The total assets under the management of the businesses registered on the QFC platform have exceeded $20bn. Companies registered on QFCs platform come from around the world including Qatar, the US, the UK, India, France, Switzerland, China and many others.

QFC has already signed numerous partnerships with key stakeholders in each of its new focus clusters. For example, it signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Aspire Zone Foundation to establish Sports Accelerator Qatar Business District, a first for the region, to attract multinational sports companies. For the digital sector, MoUs were signed with the Ministry of Transport and Communications, the Communications Regulatory Authority, as well as Ooredoo.

"We work closely with a number of leading international stakeholders to fulfill our objectives and we recently signed MoUs with two French organizations Paris EUROPLACE and Finance Innovation, to support the growth of Qatar’s digital and financial services industries. Paris EUROPLACE is responsible for promoting and developing the Paris financial marketplace. Finance Innovation was launched by the French Ministry for the Economy and Finance in 2007 to stimulate the Paris financial center and encompasses 480 member organizations and companies."

"We recently partnered with European Fintech platform B-Hive, to work closely together to develop the Fintech industry in Qatar. These are but a few examples of the ways in which we have already started working towards achieving our strategic objectives, with many more in the pipeline for the near future," she added.

In addition to promoting investment and supporting economic growth in Qatar, QFC also plays an important role in supporting Qatar's efforts to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup and strengthening partnerships with other institutions.

The sports industry is one of the QFC's strategic focus clusters. The estimated size of the global sports industry surpassed the $1tn mark in 2017, while the market size of the sports sector in Qatar is expected to reach $20bn by 2023. Thus, there are many opportunities and sizeable potential for investments that QFC wish to fully utilize through these collaborative partnerships.

In February 2019, the QFC welcomed the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 LLC to its platform. The joint venture will be responsible for key aspects of the 2022 edition, such as planning and delivery of operations and services for the tournament and is one of many such companies involved directly and indirectly in World Cup preparations.

Sheikha Alanoud also highlighted Qatar Sportstech, a leading accelerator program for innovative companies in the sports industry, as another sports entity that has been incorporated on the QFC platform. She emphasized how QFC provides an unparalleled platform for start-ups to proactively scale up their business and demonstrate their product to leading corporations, leading sporting events and the ever-growing sports community. QFC also licensed several other businesses in the sports services industry such as MCA City Advertising, SBC Sports Tech, Bootcamp and many others.

“QFC also believes in nurturing a world-class professional workforce, and as such we have established the Qatar Finance and Business Academy (QFBA) to develop the skills and experience of professionals in the finance industry. The QFBA has partnered with Northumbria University, which is one of the largest and oldest public research universities in the UK, to offer its students specialized courses."

Despite the regional challenges Qatar faced recently and the unjust blockade imposed on it by neighboring countries, it retained its position as an economic hub as seen by its top position globally for paying taxes according to the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business 2018 rankings. In August 2018 Qatar also ranked first in the Arab world in the Global Entrepreneurship Index, a key indicator of innovation, growth, and a healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem. More recently, Qatar ranked as the second-most competitive economy in the region for the second time in a row, and 30th globally, according to the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report 2018. Qatar has also been consistently ranked as the safest country in the Middle East and the World in 2017 and 2018.

Sheikha Alanoud bint Hamad al-Thani confirmed that QFC has also witnessed tremendous growth during this period, despite the regional challenges that remain to this day. For example, 2017 was the fastest growth period in the QFC's 13-year history since its establishment in 2005. In 2018 there was an increase of 31% in the number of firms registered on its platform.

The official spoke about the characteristics and mechanisms that differentiated QFC and contributed to its mission of co-operating with international companies. She said: "Ever since its inception in 2005, the QFC's platform has offered a world-class legal and tax framework for businesses looking to establish their presence in Qatar and the region. In fact, we offer companies a transparent, accessible and reliable operating environment based on English common law as well as providing businesses with access to an independent judiciary, the Qatar International Court."

Additionally, she pointed out that Qatar and QFC offer a compelling tax environment combining efficiency and attractiveness with alignment to international standards and best practices. Hence, only a 10% corporate tax on locally sourced profits is levied, while most expenses are tax deductible which results in lowering the taxable profits. Companies established on the QFC's platform also benefit from an efficient double tax agreements network with 81 countries around the world.