Overview of best prospect sectors, major infrastructure projects, significant government procurements and business opportunities.
The U.S. Commercial Service assesses that the best market opportunities for U.S. companies are in sectors such as infrastructure, ICT, food products, energy, healthcare, aviation, and defense. Government spending is largely focused on achieving long-term strategic and modernization goals set forth under the Qatar National Vision 2030, which include developing a knowledge-based economy and increasing the share of GDP derived from non-extractive industries. These initiatives are expected to move to the forefront once Qatar completes its hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Information and Communications Technology (ICT
The ICT sector has also been a key Qatari government focus since the 2017 announcement of a “Smart Nation” program, which allocated more than $1.5 billion for ICT solutions in the transport, logistics, health, spots, and environmental sectors and is aimed at transforming Qatar into one of the most digitally connected countries in the world. The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (formerly part of the Ministry of Transport and Communications, until the October 2021 Cabinet restructuring) has taken the lead on this program. Qatar has announced landmark deals with major U.S. companies, including with Microsoft on an Azure Data Center that opened in Qatar in August 2022, and with Google Cloud on its first Middle East data center region.
The Gulf Rift from 2017-2021 significantly complicated trade routes, with food being among the most urgent sectors impacted. Qatar imports over 90% of its food, and prior to the June 2017 blockade, Qatar received nearly 40% of its food shipments via Saudi Arabia. Major food suppliers to Qatar were forced to establish alternative trade routes and food security became and continues to be a top priority. The government of Qatar continues to aggressively invest in local food production and has notably improved its food security since 2017, both by importing food products from a more diverse set of trading partners and by investing heavily in building food industries from the ground up, which presents an array of opportunities for U.S. companies. The U.S. Commercial Service in Qatar regularly partners with the U.S. Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) Gulf regional office in Dubai to highlight U.S. food products in Qatar.
The energy sector, specifically oil & gas production in Qatar, continues to present some of the greatest opportunities for U.S. companies, especially with Qatar’s $29 billion North Field LNG Expansion (NFE) project. The project is set to increase natural gas production by 43% in 2026 — from 77.1 million tons per annum (mtpa) to 110 mtpa. Qatar expects to achieve 64% more LNG production at 126 mtpa by 2027. Qatar Energy (QE) (formerly Qatar Petroleum) plans to develop and operate a new petrochemical complex in Ras Laffan Industrial City, which will feature the region’s largest ethane cracker facility. In June 2022, QE announced NFE partnerships with ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and three European companies, marking a major milestone with global impact due to increased global demand. As Qatar expands its LNG production, it also is investing in renewables with its first-ever solar energy facility, which is scheduled to come online in 2022.
Climate Change and Sustainability
There has been a growing emphasis in Qatar (along with recent global commitments to net-zero emissions) to tackle climate change and address Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) concerns. This shift in focus benefits Qatar because of the importance of LNG as a lower-carbon transition fuel to replace coal as an energy source. In October 2021, Qatar released its Climate Change Strategy (CCS), which is focused on adaptation and mitigation, urban planning and development, and spatial land use. There will be business opportunities in the following areas:
1. Air Quality - The government is trying to improve the country’s air quality, maintain the quality of the seawater and preserve biodiversity, in addition to chemical and radiological safety and security. The long-term plan is to “become a society completely free of landfills.”
2. Urban Beautification - The government is also aiming at the “beautification of cities and increasing green spaces to promote sustainable urban health.” There are plans for improving the level and quality of green spaces and increase green areas.
3. Sustainability – The government is seeking better ways to manage natural resources, using less energy, and reducing carbon emissions.
4. Waste management - Qatar’s solid waste management market is expected to transform in the next five years. Municipal solid waste management is a major challenge faced by Qatar, due to urbanization, industrial growth, and economic expansion. The country has one of the highest per capita waste generation rates in the world, as high as 2 kg per day on average.
5. Clean technology - As a national priority, Qatar will dedicate resources to obtain the newest technology to meet the country’s needs. To that end, the U.S. Commercial Service is sponsoring a Middle East Clean Technology trade mission in March 2023, with a stop in Qatar on March 8-10. The trade mission includes a networking reception and business to business matchmaking meetings. For more information and to apply for the trade mission, contact the U.S. Commercial Service Office in Doha.
Defense, Aviation, Security
The strong and growing bilateral security partnership between Qatar and the United States is demonstrated by a series of major U.S. defense sales to Qatar. Qatar’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program forms the cornerstone of security cooperation between U.S. and Qatari forces, with a total case value of over $26 billion in sales since 2017 - the third highest in the world. Since 2014, the United States has also authorized the permanent export of billions in defense articles to Qatar via the Direct Commercial Sales (DCS) process. Qatar’s plan to expand and modernize its military will continue to provide opportunities for foreign military and direct commercial sales, especially training and capacity building programs across all branches of the Qatar Armed Forces. In addition to military modernization initiatives, Qatar’s significant demand for aviation technology is driven by the global expansion plan of the national commercial airline, Qatar Airways, as well as the expansion of Qatar’s sole commercial airport, Hamad International Airport. Lastly, security solutions are a top priority in the months ahead as Qatar prepares to host the FIFA Men’s World Cup in November-December 2022.
Qatar has set its sights on becoming the regional hub for sports entertainment beyond FIFA as host for the 2030 Asian Games, Formula 1, and other large-scale sporting events. This sector represents one part of Qatar’s diversification strategy away from hydrocarbons. Ever since Qatar won the bid for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the country has developed significant infrastructure (stadiums, lodging, transportation, highways, hospitals, etc.) to deal with the influx of spectators in the country. After the World Cup, infrastructure development and additional investments to support bids for future sporting events will continue. U.S. companies interested in doing business in Qatar in 2023 should link their product or service to advancing Qatar’s goal to become a major sports entertainment hub in conjunction with the Qatar National Vision 2030.
Qatar’s National Vision 2030 will weigh in heavily on the government’s investment decisions. It is anticipated that key sectors related to Qatar’s national strategy will heavily focus on education (developing and enabling the Qatari population and meeting the education needs of the large expatriate population), healthcare (developing state-of-the-art institutions and efficient systems that meet the needs of the population), and ICT (developing easy solutions for resident use/smart government). U.S. companies should connect their products and services to these overarching goals.