The global supply chain system had already been a victim of the rising tide of economic nationalism and protectionism. The COVID-19 pandemic only added to the stress on the already suffering economy.

Speaking at the opening of the digital roundtable “Qatar at the Crossroads of the World” organized by The Business Year (TBY), H E Ahmad Al Sayed, Minister of State and Chairman of QFZA stated, “Qatar and the Qatar Free Zones Authority (QFZA) had a head start in dealing with the coronavirus crisis due to the country’s experience, and has greatly benefited from its diversified supply chain.”

He further added, “Cost-efficiency can no longer be the only guiding principle of the supply chain. And the world must now ensure that supply chains deliver value for money and have resilience built-in that they are resistant to their future disruption, so the global economy can keep moving.”

The need to accept the added complications by building resilience in the supply chain and maintaining the customers’ operational efficiency is the need for the hour.

The roundtable also featured many experts like the international trade leaders from the United Nations on Trade and Development and World Economic Forum and representatives from the Pharmaceutical, Food, and Beverages, and Logistics sector.

Al Sayed also emphasized that Qatar and QFZA had already diversified the supply chain to ensure the world and Qatar remain connected. For this, they have a tried and tested system that proved its worth during the pandemic. He pointed out the various opportunities available at QFZA included new infrastructures with tailor-made solutions, support for the Qatar 2020 Legacy Project, and the opportunity to partner with top Qatari companies like Qatar Airways and Qatar Petroleum.

As the pandemic leads to disruption and shift in the existing business models, it is ideal for increasing reliance on technology and innovation. This would only help accelerate Qatar’s diversification efforts, said Lim Meng Hui, CEO of QFZA.

Hence the Free Zones are now focusing on creating partnerships with non-oil sector companies. He further added, “We continue to study this development, and we hope to develop new policies and strategies. Post COVID-19, emerging technologies, and advanced industries sectors are expected to grow even more. We have already identified these as strategic areas for QFZA, and we will continue to identify innovative companies in these areas, such as IoT, electric vehicles, and more”.

Hui added that the QFZA plans to expand to new areas such as logistics, e-commerce, regional distribution, and small-scale production in certain value chains.

Ayse Valentin, CEO of TBY, who was present during the webinar, stressed the role of Free zones in attracting direct foreign investment to develop a balanced, diversified economy.

She also stated that global trade is currently facing a harsh period due to the COVID-19 pandemic and rising protectionism by the governments.