Africa Oil & Power spoke to Hamad Salem Mejegheer, Executive Director, Qatar Development Bank (QDB) about how the bank is facilitating increased penetration in African sectors.
Please provide insight into QDB’s Enterprise Europe Network membership? How does this initiative help SMEs achieve their international objectives?
Enterprise Europe Network (EEN), a European Commission initiative, is the world’s largest support network for SMEs with international ambitions covering over 60 countries worldwide and 600-member organizations. In 2017, QDB’s export development agency (Tasdeer) represented Qatar as the first and only nation in the region to become a member of this leading initiative. This has opened the doors for Qatari entrepreneurs to innovate and grow on an international scale through a full suite of services that grants them access to suppliers, distributors, and importers across sectors and member countries.
The dynamic platform also provides patronage to hundreds of both traditional and virtual matchmaking events in a wide range of verticals, in addition to helping them cultivate long-term relations with synergistic companies and organizations, establish manufacturing and trade agreements with potential partners, gain a stronger competitive footing in various markets, as well as reach over 500 million direct consumers. Tasdeer’s EEN membership also contributes to enhancing the business climate between SMEs across the EU and Qatar.
QDB believes that Africa is the future of international trade due to its location and potential for growth across the various economies. So, we believe that the different activities that we do through Tasdeer, and the matchmaking events that we hold, we are building a bridge between Qatari SMEs and their international counterparts.
Your Tasdeer Development service provides exporters with a thorough knowledge of world markets and potential opportunities. How can this service advance Qatar’s penetration in African markets?
Tasdeer’s structure comprises two main activities: development and promotion. Through these services we help SMEs identify sustainable export opportunities and tap into regional and global markets. Such services include specialized workshops to learn more about export opportunities and key policy topics, the Export Readiness program, which boosts the potential for non-exporting SMEs to become export-ready, and a range of fruitful engagements through participating in exhibitions, matchmaking activities.
One of the primary markets where we have identified multiple synergies is the African continent, with a special focus on South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Uganda. To ensure that Qatari SMEs develop mutually beneficial engagements and partnerships in Africa, we utilize a focused range of market studies conducted in the destination country, where in-depth research is conducted to identify relevant and synergistic business opportunities for Qatari Exporters that can act as a powerful catalyst for socio-economic development in both countries. QDB is data-oriented and so when we conduct a market study, we analyze the range of opportunities, the challenges for exporters entering the market, who the interested exporters would be and who the suppliers are in the market.
With regards to capacity building of exporters, what workshop and training initiatives does QDB offer to enhance the export activities of SMEs?
The first step in changing action is to change mindset, and this is done by gaining knowledge. In order to provide Qatari SMEs with high-quality training that can be translated into tangible and impactful growth, QDB partners with reputable international organizations and academic institutions capable of enriching their knowledge on export-related topics and developments while instilling in them an export-oriented mindset. Our partner organizations include the International Trade Center, HEC Paris, Singapore Management University, among others. Our workshops and practical training courses cover such aspects of international trade as e-commerce, logistics and supply chain management, trade barriers, innovation in international business, and other related developments in the field.
What support does QDB offer to SMEs aiming to not only regrow, but expand after the COVID-19 pandemic?
QDB strongly believes that every challenge comes with its own set of opportunities. With this in mind, an agile strategy was put in place at QDB to address three areas of focus for entrepreneurs: surviving the pandemic, reviving their businesses amid ongoing challenges, and thriving in the new economy. Our first initiative was the delay of loan repayments for SMEs without interest fees or charges throughout the initial phase of the crisis.
We then launched the QAR 3 billion National Guarantee Program to ensure that companies can finance their employee wage bills and pay rental fees. The program’s ceiling was later raised to QAR 5 billion and has, to date, issued guarantees to more than 3,500 companies. QDB also introduced an entire suite of virtual consultation services and training for SMEs to help them better navigate this uncharted business environment. This included relaunching our Situation Room, which deals with managing supply chain disruptions as well as providing the necessary technical support to help SMEs ensure business continuity, as well as establishing the Revive program to support SMEs with all the tools they need to overcome business challenges while turning crises into opportunities and a platform for growth and development.
What is the Qatar Development Banks 2021 outlook with regards to the increase in market penetration within Africa’s sectors?
QDB considers Africa as one of its priority destinations to further explore, identify and create opportunities for Qatari Companies, while contributing to the growth of partner companies and the development of African economies. In this regard, one of the significant developments coming up in 2021 is the appointment of an official Tasdeer Agent in East Africa – namely to Uganda, Rwanda, and Tanzania. The main goal of the Agent will be to identify potential buyers for Qatari companies, strengthening ties with compatible companies and organizations, and drastically increasing export volumes to these countries by securing more deals with partners in the region. Once this initiative proves to be successful, a similar format will be applied to other countries in Africa as well.
How can the QDB help facilitate partnerships between Qatar and African companies?
With export development being a major area of focus as we transition into the new economy, and with Africa’s growing status as an emerging economy with several large-scale projects being initiated across sectors and domains, QDB will continue to identify win-win business opportunities for Qatari SMEs and their African counterparts, against the backdrop of the growing economic and commercial ties between the State of Qatar and African countries. Those opportunities are being identified based on our in-depth research, market intelligence data, and a growing regional network of partner organizations. Together, those elements create a strong foundation for developing sustainable and mutually profitable relationships among our nations as well as the companies and institutions that collectively power our economies.