International Work: Qatar

Training Entrepreneurs in Qatar

In early 2009, I was invited by the U.S. State Department to train business owners in Qatar in entrepreneurial growth, in cooperation with Qatar’s government economic initiatives to support SMEs (small and medium enterprises).

There were three high points of the two-day conference:

  • We were joined on stage by the Minister of Trade, who announced a new $10B Qatari Riyal ($U.S. 250M) fund to support small businesses. Supporting this announcement was the U.S. Ambassador to Qatar, the Deputy Minister of Trade (who explained the details), and a gathering of the leading businessmen and bankers of the country.
  • The training of the entrepreneurs (both men and women) included 3 sessions, each nearly 3 hours long. My session, “10 Steps to Growing Your Business,” received some of the warmest responses by email:
    • “I wanted to express my deep appreciation for the value you delivered on that day. It was a marvellous lecture! The way you conveyed profound meaning in the simplest of words was indeed impressive! Having been in the field for 22 years, I quickly tire of clichés and vague advices given by many speakers. Your talk was obviously distilled from rich experience and what’s more, you have given advice to us in very actionable terms.”
    • “You were really inspiring… I felt I can ask anything and get an impressi[ve] answer instead of wasting my time researching. I have a live online encyclopedia of 35 years…”
  • The day before the conference, we toured the leading banks, businesses, educational centers and foundations to understand the truly visionary mission of the Emir and her Highness to create a self-sustaining, creative country by 2030.

Visionary Leadership

The current Amir HAMAD bin Khalifa al-Thani has ruled since 1995. The Emir and Her Highness, Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned, are visionary leaders. They understand that their reserves of oil and natural gas are not ultimately sustainable sources of wealth. From this position, they are moving to build a new dimension of their society that includes excellent education from K-12 through post-graduate university degrees, stimulus for entrepreneurism and small business development, and job development for youths. Their initial goals are set for 2030.

The country

Qatar is a beautiful peninsula in the Gulf, bordering Saudi Arabia, with an area of 4,416 square miles (about the size of Connecticut). Its population is 907,229, of which 25% are Qatari nationals, and 75% are foreign guest workers (both professional ex-patriots and imported labor from S.E. Asia, the Philippines and other Arab countries). The capital city, Doha, in shining white stone and blue glass high rises matching the sea and sky, and under continuous construction, is home to more than 415,000 of the population.Qatar is a kingdom ruled by the al-Thani family since the mid-1800s. Qatari nationals control the wealth in the country, which as of 2007 has the highest per capita income in the world. The country’s wealth is based in oil and in extensive reserves of natural gas. Many Qatari nationals, particularly in the government, are members or close associates of the ruling family. Qatari nationals, for the most part, hold well-paying government positions, which include full health-care, house and furnishings, and a car and driver.

Small business development: government initiatives

In addition, Qatari nationals may build their own companies, or participate in partnerships with expatriates’ companies. The law requires all expatriate companies to be partnered with a Qatari national, who owns 51% of the business. Partnership agreements may specify control and share of profits, but the 51% ownership rule is the law for any company built by an expatriate.The Emir encourages Qatari nationals to participate in small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), in an effort to create a growing economy, with less dependence on government employment.

Education for everyone: Qatar Foundation’s Education City

The Emir has also created the Qatar Foundation (est. 1995) to stimulate education of the population from early childhood education to post-graduate study. Its flagship project, Education City, a 14-million square meter campus, is home to six leading universities, all fully accredited and issuing degrees identical to those awarded in the US. Each university has its own curriculum, its own building, and its own roster of expatriate professors. Education City includes Carnegie Mellon and Texas A&M, its own Science & Technology Park, and the Rand-Qatar Policy Institute.

Economic opportunity for youths: Silatech

Silatech is another innovative initiative of the Emir, chaired by Her Highness, focused on creating economic opportunities for young people across the MENA (Middle-East and North Africa) region. Silatech is a foundation endowed with $5 U.S. billion for the development of 100 million jobs for youths across the region.

Land reclamation/development: the Pearl-Qatar

The Pearl-Qatar is a multi-billion-dollar (in U.S. dollars) man-made island covering 985 acres of reclaimed land offshore Qatar, approximately 20 kilometers north of the central business district of the Qatari capital, Doha.The Pearl-Qatar is the country’s first international urban development venture, its largest urban development and the first to offer international investors freehold. It is a four-phase mixed-use development comprising 10 distinct, themed districts to be developed over five years, housing beachfront villas, elegant town homes, luxury apartments, exclusive penthouses, 5 star hotels, marinas, and schools as well as upscale retail and restaurant offerings. It is planned as a destination in its own right – a lavish, secure and exclusive island retreat with a Riviera-style community.

Qatari Businesswomen’s Forum

Launched in December 2007 under the auspices of Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al Misnad, the QBWF recognizes the contributions of business and professional women in Qatar to their society and economy, and offers role models for future generations. For further information on the February 2009 conference, visit www.ameinfo.com/185066.html.


This project was funded, in part, through the Department of State, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, Office of Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) under Cooperative Agreement number S-NEAPI-07-CA-250. The opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed herein are those of the Author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of State. MEPI is a Presidential initiative founded to support economic, political, and educational reform efforts in the Middle East and expand opportunity for all people of the region, especially women and youth. More information about MEPI can be found at: www.mepi.state.gov