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Abdulaziz Al-Khalifa

QATAR - Finance

A Chance For All

CEO, Qatar Development Bank (QDB)

Bio

Abdulaziz Al-Khalifa holds the position of CEO of Qatar Development Bank (QDB). He previously held leadership positions at QDB, where he was the Executive Director of Strategy and Business Development. Prior to joining QDB, he worked at Qatar Shell as Business Development Manager and held positions at the Qatar General Electricity and Water Corporation (KAHRAMAA). He holds an MBA from Qatar University, a Bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering from the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA), and has received several specialized diplomas from Harvard University and INSEAD.

What have been QDB’s most important achievements over the last year when it comes to promoting and supporting local SMEs? We know in Qatar, as everyone else does, that we […]

What have been QDB’s most important achievements over the last year when it comes to promoting and supporting local SMEs?

We know in Qatar, as everyone else does, that we are heavily dependent on oil and gas. The way we are building our diversification plan is by increasing the contribution of non-oil and gas productivity to our GDP. At QDB, it is not only about approving loans to SMEs, it’s about giving a chance to those who are starting up. Our Al-Dahmeen program gives us that unique opportunity to see a business from its seeds to its yields. In 2013, Al-Dhameen was recognized by the Banker Middle East Product Awards for the Best SME Finance Scheme due to its effectiveness in building an ideal environment for the growth of entrepreneurship in the State of Qatar. The program has disbursed several hundred million riyal in guarantees, helping a record number of over 120 SMEs in Qatar. For us though, these guarantees are only as good as the support that comes with them for our partner banks and, therefore, their customers. What distinguishes QDB from like-minded development entities is the reputation it has earned from those it serves and the view it takes internally of its work. QDB is seen less as a bank and more as a strategic partner with the means and expertise to make a difference, providing the capital, advice, and skills needed to support Qatari businesses or individuals each step of the way.

As a financial supporter to entrepreneurs, how do you partner with SME to ensure a return on the loan?

I like to think of QDB as an overall business partner for SMEs, entrepreneurs, and Qatari exporters. Financing is only a part of that partnership, albeit a very important one. Through our partnership with clients and other key stakeholders we provide advice and training to enable the distribution of loans and support business. Our doors are always open for all clients and our advisors are happy to help with financing or any other issues they might have.

What role does QDB have in encouraging foreign investment in Qatar?

Qatar is a highly attractive market for foreign investors. Our exponential economic growth in line with the Qatar National Vision 2030 and accelerated preparations for the 2022 FIFA World Cup have generated a huge investment interest and QDB is very clear in its mission to support foreign investors. QDB is ready to welcome and assist companies, both foreign and local, that wish to expand or establish a business venture in Qatar. We help to link them to other government agencies and private sector organizations in order to help businesses make an informed decision regarding their investment prospects in Qatar. At the same time, we are keen to connect foreign investors with successful local SMEs and support healthy and fruitful partnerships.

How do you assess the current ecosystem of SMEs and what challenges do you foresee emerging in the coming years?

We are delighted to witness a consistent growth in the SME sector and great enthusiasm for entrepreneurship among Qataris. In September 2014, in partnership with the Social Development Center, we launched the Qatar Business Incubation Center (QBIC), a 20,000 sqm, mixed-use business incubator in Qatar and the largest in the Middle East and North Africa. In addition to funding the construction of the incubator, we allocated $7.4 million to support incubated projects, including 21 projects from the incubator’s flagship Lean Startup program. A milestone of national importance, QBIC’s launch means SMEs in Qatar are receiving integrated, world-class support through the provision of office space, workshops, laboratories, production services, technical and administrative support, and mentoring programs.

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