The year 2021 was filled with a unique set of challenges as the global economy set out to mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite a taxing economic backdrop, QFC marked another successful year, expanding its growth portfolio and navigating the unprecedented conditions with commendable resilience and agility. In effect, QFC consolidated its unmatched role as one of the leading financial centres in the region.
With a focus on maximising opportunities for local and international organisations, QFC facilitated the integration of 281 new firms onto its platform in 2021, raising the number of QFC-registered firms to 1,283 by year-end and thereby exceeding its target of 1,000 companies by 2022.
Driven by Qatar National Vision 2030’s prescription on economic diversification, QFC helped set up operations for several home-grown companies as well as international firms hailing from over 60 countries, including Canada, France, Germany, India, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States, and working across a spectrum of fields within QFC-focus clusters: digital, sports, media, and financial services.
QFC maintained its commitment to digital transformation in 2021. Recognising the pivotal role of digitisation in withstanding the adverse effects of the global health crisis, QFC adopted innovative technologies to drive business continuity and enhance value for stakeholders.
With its uncompromising approach towards the development of Qatar’s thriving business ecosystem, QFC ratified as many as 20 Memoranda of Understanding with leading local and global organisations in 2021.Six of these agreements were inked with top-tier Russian firms during the 24th St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF 2021). QFC also established new collaborations with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, Rwanda Finance, and Malaysia’s Labuan International Business and Financial Centre.
QFC routinely helps prominent international entities navigate Qatar’s diverse economic landscape. Over the last year, QFC opened its doors to representative offices of the Presidency of the Republic of Turkey’s Finance and Investment section, and the French multinational bank Société Générale. QFC also welcomed the establishment of Qatar’s Ministry of Justice Real Estate and Authentication office within its facilities.
QFC moved into 2022 with strong growth momentum, stimulated by Qatar’s encouraging economic outlook and expanding business activity in light of the upcoming FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™. The country’s increasingly strong global network, competitive cost advantages, focus on innovation, and high-profile investments continue to cement its position as one of the MENA region’s most dynamic business destinations.
The Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) has concluded yet another year of record growth, owed to our dedication to Qatar’s economic diversification strategy as much as our aim to strengthen our role as a key gateway for global investors.
The growing number of firms registering under the QFC umbrella across key economic sectors represents one of the most demonstrable impacts of QFC’s contribution to Qatar’s financial ecosystem. This positive development was complemented by QFC’s renewed focus on mutually-beneficial partnerships with prominent international firms. We worked to fortify Qatar’s strategic economic ties with global partners by spearheading opportunities for dialogue, engagement, and joint ventures.
I congratulate everyone at QFC on their significant accomplishments in 2021 under the leadership of Yousuf Mohamed Al-Jaida, our Chief Executive Officer. I am certain that our exceptional success in mitigating the profound impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, together with QFC’s unshakeable drive to expand economic activity in Qatar, will move us closer towards a truly inclusive, resilient and sustainable economy.
Minister of Commerce and Industry, Acting Minister of Finance, and QFC Chairman
2021 was a phenomenal year. Despite the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, we also learnt about the power of undiscouraged determination in overcoming extraordinary circumstances.
Three factors were key in pushing Qatar’s post-pandemic economic recovery forward: the guidance of our wise leadership, the business environment’s ability to evolve, and our community’s readiness to acclimatise to a new way of life. Together, these elements have spurred the development of a more sustainable and inclusive economy.
On this encouraging note, I take immense pride in sharing QFC’s 2021 Annual Review with you, offering a window into our growth journey over the past year.
We entered 2021 with a moderately strong positive outlook. Yet, accelerated expansion of business activity following the easing of pandemic-related restrictions, coupled with new partnerships and collaborations with local and global stakeholders across key industries, helped us mark another year of record growth and tremendous success.
We simplified our incorporation procedures and enhanced our services, attracting a total of 136 global firms to our platform in the first half of the year alone. This number more than doubled with 281 firms joining QFC by year-end, effectively expanding our network of QFC-registered companies to 1,283 and allowing us to meet our target of 1,000 firms by 2022 well in advance.
Building on the indispensable role of meaningful collaborations, QFC joined forces with prominent entities across diverse business sectors in India, Malaysia, Turkey, Russia, Rwanda, and Qatar.
A key highlight of 2021 was our active participation in more than 70 local and international events, including the 24th St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPEIF 2021) which witnessed the signing of several agreements with leading organisations in Russia’s investment, innovation and technology fields.
Guided by our aim to attract investors to Qatar, we organised over 50 virtual, hybrid and in-person events in 2021, bringing together business leaders and innovators from across the globe to explore the country’s business opportunities while furthering a culture of knowledge-exchange.
Through a variety of agreements, we were able to strengthen our connections with national industry leaders such as Qatar Central Securities Depository, the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, Qatar Credit Bureau, Qatar Museums, Ooredoo Qatar, Qatar Development Bank, and Qatar Research and Development Institute. By joining hands with prominent partners, we can continue to build a more robust business environment.
With our growth momentum – spurred by our collective commitment to Qatar’s economic development and diversification – I am convinced we will scale new heights of success in 2022 and beyond.
Chief Executive Officer, Qatar Financial Centre
QFC offers a world-class business platform with its own legal, regulatory and tax environment and a wide range of benefits and services to companies that wish to establish operations in Qatar.
Governed by four independent bodies working together in harmony – the Qatar Financial Centre Authority, Qatar Financial Centre Regulatory Authority, Qatar International Court, and QFC Regulatory Tribunal, QFC is a business-friendly ecosystem that aligns with international best practice. It provides companies with optimal operational, regulatory and judicial support.
Two independent offices also extend assistance across different areas of business to QFC clients. Client Affairs supports firms with accessing all essential information on taxation, compliance, company registration, and employment standards, while the Employment Standards Office, which administers and enforces the QFC Employment Regulations, is dedicated to preventing and resolving disputes to create and maintain sound, balanced and constructive employment relations as the basis of any successful and vibrant business.
To give its firms a competitive advantage, QFC also offers up to 100 percent foreign ownership, 100 percent repatriation of profits, 10 percent corporate tax on locally-sourced profits, and an extensive double taxation treaty network with over 80 countries.
In 2022, QFC aims to attract $25 billion of foreign direct investment and to reach its target of 10,000 jobs by bringing in businesses in key sectors relevant to the Qatari market and growth plan, including sports, digital innovation and financial services.
QFC is looking to expand Qatar’s growing digital and fintech sectors, capitalising on the country’s unsaturated market and projected $9 billion worth of ICT spending by 2024. It will push the development of Islamic Finance, giving special attention to green and ESG Sukuk. To help streamline and stabilise this sector, a QFC initiative is introducing the Sustainable Sukuk and Bonds Framework, which ensures that these financial instruments meet their objectives.
QFC also intends to accelerate the local REITs market and has launched initiatives toward this goal with the establishment of the Ministry of Justice Real Estate Authentication and Registration office at the QFC to allow investors easy access to key services.
Another priority for QFC is to encourage the launch of open-trade finance platforms in Qatar, which would allow operators to take advantage of the country’s transport and logistics links and its growing status as an international trading hub.
Internally, QFC will continue to innovate and leverage emerging technologies to meet prevailing market demands, with the aim of offering the best service for its firms and staying on top of the competition.
As a customer-centric financial and business hub, QFC recognises digital transformation as a foundational change to provide continued value to its stakeholders and to building a more sustainable and inclusive economy. QFC has leveraged technology to create efficient and safe business processes, lower costs, elevate customer experiences, increase productivity, and ensure ease of doing business across sectors.
During the early periods of the COVID-19 pandemic, when movement restrictions were at their most stringent, digitalisation proved instrumental for QFC to continue business activities and provide seamless services to its firms. To maintain stakeholder engagement, QFC moved events to virtual platforms and adopted data protection technologies, all while operating under a remote work system. QFC’s digitalised registration and incorporation processes enabled business registrations to continue without the need for face-to-face meetings.
Digital transformation has improved many aspects of QFC’s business operations. Forums for cross-functional interactions, decision-making, and flexible digital learning platforms that support continued employee development were instrumental in raising operational efficiency. Likewise, software solutions, like policy management solution Staff Wiki, and QFCA KPIs dashboards, which give QFC clients and staff easy access to information, aided seamless operations.
QFC’s paperless initiatives, such as the use of an electronic signature and letter correspondence system, as well as its automated vendor registration and tendering process and enhanced client eServices portal, saved QFC and its clients time and resources, helping to reduce their overall carbon footprint.
QFC’s ongoing digital transformation elevates its service and performance, enabling the Centre to make a more impactful contribution to Qatar’s business ecosystem and sustainable economy.
In 2019, QFC set an ambitious goal to register 1,000 firms by 2022. After welcoming 281 more firms in 2021, QFC has not only hit this objective but also exceeded its target a year ahead of its marked date with 1,283 firms operating on its platform. With close to 1,300 companies registered on its platform, QFC’s contribution to Qatar’s economic growth and diversification is considerable, helping the country move closer to its realisation of Qatar National Vision 2030
The newly registered firms come from over 60 countries, with a majority coming from India, Lebanon, Jordan, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Turkey, and Qatar. The new firms represent several key sectors, including QFC’s focus clusters – digital, sports, media, and financial services.
Most considerable growth was recorded in the digital sector with 196 new firms in 2021, an increase of over 100 percent compared to the previous year. Financial services came in second with 150 new firms on the platform.
This significant increase reflects QFC’s efforts to stimulate market activities, boosted by the much-anticipated FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022TM.
QFC has signed 20 Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) and 1 letter of intent with key entities in Qatar and in other leading economies worldwide to create new investment and partnership gateways for local and global companies to tap into these markets.
Memoranda of Understanding – Local Entities
Memoranda of Understanding – International Entities
This in-person business networking event was organised to welcome firms licensed on the QFC platform during the fourth quarter of 2021 and to create an opportunity for them to engage with key members of Qatar's business community.
Organised in collaboration with the Qatari-Russian Center for Cooperation, this webinar introduced Qatar’s digital market, opportunities, and some of the advanced technologies it has adopted.
This webinar discussed the latest developments in Qatar’s digital ecosystem and explored opportunities for Kyrgz investors and firms to join the country’s digital sector.
This Tech Talk tackled various factors that hinder SME access to credit from traditional financial institutions and how decentralised finance addresses these challenges. It also touched on the conditions necessary for a decentralised platform to become a viable alternative to traditional financial services in Qatar.
This event offered insights into the latest developments in the digital workforce landscape in Qatar and globally, discussing implications for the local labour market.
This virtual event discussed recovery strategies during and post-COVID-19, covering Qatar’s economic performance during the global crisis and how firms can capitalise on opportunities in the local market.
In this webinar, Nibras Hadi, Vice President of Sustainable Banking Middle East & Africa at Crédit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank, discussed how sustainability works from a financial perspective and how it will impact Qatar’s future economy.
This webinar looked into the challenges and opportunities for a transition to a post-oil future, focusing on structural reforms to achieve long-term fiscal sustainability and fair inter-generational wealth transfers.
In this webinar, leading tax experts tackled the challenges ushered in by the endorsement of a global minimum tax of (at least) 15%, its impact on decision-making, and how the QFC can help provide an opportunity to bring some of the structures back home.
This event discussed the recently enacted QFC Real Estate Ownership Regulations, which provide a legal framework for the ownership of real estate by QFC entities in line with the real estate ownership laws in the State of Qatar.
QFC joined over 50 leading Qatari public and private sector entities as part of the State of Qatar’s delegation as a Guest Country in the 24th edition of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF). Represented by a high-level delegation, QFC signed six Memorandums of Understanding and one Letter of Intent with leading organisations from Russia’s investment, technology, and innovation ecosystem, aimed at promoting investment in Qatar’s wider business environment.
QFC joined an international delegation of more than 200 heads of state, international investors, chief executives, and influential voices across culture, sports, and entertainment, at the inaugural instalment of the Qatar Economic Forum. During the event, Yousuf Mohamed Al-Jaida, CEO of QFC, participated in a roundtable discussion on “Pandemic Investment Resilience: Traditional versus Emerging Markets”. Before the event, the CEO filmed a video with Bloomberg, highlighting how Qatar’s business community has fared during the COVID-19 pandemic.
QFC participated in the International Conference of Islamic Finance (ICIF) 2021 entitled “Sustainability & the Fourth Industrial Revolution: Implications for Islamic Finance and Economy in Post Pandemic Era”. The third edition of the conference explored the barriers and opportunities for sustainable economic development under the "new normal" in the context of Islamic finance and economy. Yousuf Mohamed Al-Jaida, Chief Executive Officer of QFC, gave the keynote address at the event’s opening ceremony.
SWITCH is a global platform for collaboration that encourages meaningful exchange across different fields. During the event, QFC delivered a session on Qatar’s digital landscape, presenting the country as the ideal springboard into the MENA region.
QFC sponsored an editorial session titled, ‘What’s Next for Global Wealth & Investing’, held as part of the larger Invest Global summit. Organised by Bloomberg, the session focused on global wealth, latest investor trends, key investment strategies and tactics that help achieve market-beating growth and long-term wealth security. As part of the event, Yousuf Mohamed Al-Jaida, CEO, QFC, delivered the opening remarks, as well as other high-level speakers who joined the discussion: Nuno Matos, Chief Executive, Wealth and Personal Banking, HSBC; Mark Delaney, Deputy Chief Executive and Chief Investment Officer, Australian Super and Omar Aguilar, Managing Director and Chief Investment Officer, Schwab Asset Management.
In another collaboration with Bloomberg, QFC sponsored the virtual event, ‘Bloomberg Financial Innovation Summit’, which examined the next generation of fintech and what it means for institutions, clients and society. The virtual event convened the most innovative minds in financial innovation, banking, finance, and regulation and focused on ESG, Stablecoins, Bitcoins, financial inclusion, decentralised finance and more.
QFC has utilised the power of media and social media platforms to share insights and valuable perspectives on pertinent economic and industry issues with the business community. This year’s thought leadership articles by QFC’s industry experts covered various topics. Some of the titles include:
Increased collaboration among international financial centres continues to strengthen economic recovery by Yousuf Mohamed Al-Jaida, CEO, QFC, and Dr Jochen Biedermann, Managing Director, World Alliance of International Financial Centers
Digital transformation in Qatar: a top priority for continued business resilience by Abdulla Mohamed Alhajri, Chief Operating Officer, QFC
Engagement, performance and productivity, the big post-COVID questions by Luigia Ingianni, Commissioner of the Employment Standards Office, QFC
Gulf Competition Ramps Up: Qatar’s Venture More in Tune with Global Greening Trends by Thaddeus Malesa, Senior Advisor for Economics and Research, QFC Authority
The Qatar Financial Centre – A Compelling Destination for Aircraft Leasing Companies by Thaddeus Malesa, Senior Advisor for Economics and Research, QFC Authority
These regulations, drafted by the QFC, introduce a legal framework for real estate ownership in Qatar by QFC entities in line with the State’s ownership law. The new regulations pave the way for foreign nationals to invest in the country’s real estate market while fully utilising QFC’s benefits.
QFC's social investment programme orbits three focus areas - Financial Literacy & Youth Empowerment, Sustainability and Social Engagement. In 2021, QFC continued to mobilise its CSR programme to create a positive impact, focusing on financial literacy.
Mitigating the spread of COVID-19 is a mammoth task that needs more than the efforts of governments. To complement the measures being taken by Qatar and the business community in containing this public health crisis, QFC partnered with Qatar Charity to distribute personal protection kits to workers in the Industrial Area. These kits contained supplies such as face masks, hand sanitisers and hygiene products, which help protect the users from spreading and contracting the virus. By donating personal health protection kits to workers, QFC has reinforced the preventive measures implemented by Qatar to curb the spread of COVID-19.
In line with the Youth Empowerment and Social Engagement pillars of QFC’s CSR programme, the summer camp saw the participation of more than 1,000 students and offered youth aged 15 to 24 years old the opportunity to participate in online workshops focusing on entrepreneurship, financial literacy, and work-readiness skills.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions and social distancing guidelines, the programmes were held online via Zoom, delivered by expert volunteers and INJAZ staff. Key programmes included the ‘Innovation Camp’, where students worked in teams to address a business challenge judged by a panel of professionals from QFC and the Ministry of Education; ‘Maharat Min Google’, a programme developed and sponsored by Google that focused on digital marketing tools and online strategies; and two ‘Head Start’ programmes tailored to CV writing and job interview skills. The participants received a “Certificate of Participation” from Junior Achievement Worldwide/INJAZ Qatar.
Employment and Labour Standards Administration (ELSA)
ESO dealt with 30 complaints in 2021, with only four cases requiring adjudication and the others resolved through conciliation. This datum is significant, as it reveals that 87 per cent of complaints were resolved without the need of referring them to the Court, significantly reducing the Court’s burden as well as costs for the QFC.
The ESO is committed to contributing to the local and international community and regularly conducts a series of initiatives with key stakeholders to elevate labour standards and promote the QFC globally. Among the most significant initiatives:
Through its affiliation to GHAEA, the ESO Commissioner became a member of the WHO World of Work Dialogue which fosters private and public cooperation on the health and safety of people in the workplace.
The Commissioner also conducted workshops and seminars on alternative dispute resolution methods, negotiation techniques, discrimination in the workplace, and gender and leadership topics for various universities, including Hamad Bin Khalifa University, Carnegie Mellon University Qatar, University of Parma, European University of Rome, and others.
The ESO also organised masterclasses on leadership development in cooperation with HEC Paris and was appointed by the International Labour Organisation training centre to discuss the future of work in the ILO Academy on gender, inclusion, and the future of work. It discussed on the same topic in a seminar on digital labour platforms, where the Commissioner analysed the evolution of the world of work and the impact of the 4th industrial revolution and artificial intelligence on the future world of work.
In addition, the ESO Commissioner published articles on organisational behaviours and management of the workforce in the post pandemic period, conducted a seminar with the London Business School and supported the Career Guidance Stakeholder Platform with the Qatar Career Development Centre.
Memoranda of Understanding (MoU)
FSO signed MoUs with the following entities:
Drafted the MOU with key organisations including:
Memoranda of Understanding (MoU)
BD signed MoUs with the following entities:
Business Development has taken part in many outreach activities such as hosting events, hosting delegations and ambassadors, accepting speaking engagements, initiating stakeholder engagements and arranging strategic partnership workshops to ensure that QFC remains at the forefront.
BD’s sports initiative helps reaffirm the QFC as an international hub for sports services and lays the foundations in the growing and highly lucrative sports industry that ultimately supports the achievement of the QFC’s 5-year strategy. The initiative focuses on a number of areas that are considered key foundation stages toward setting the QFC apart as an international hub for sports.
New permitted activities were approved by the QFCA Board in December 2020 to accommodate and license more companies in sports services. Overall, a total of 35 firms have been licensed since the initiative started.
The digital initiative helps position the QFC as an ‘Incorporation Hub for Digital Service Companies’ and lays the foundations in the growing and highly lucrative digital services industry to ultimately support the achievement of QFC’s 5-year strategy. The initiative focuses on a number of areas that are considered key foundation stages toward setting the QFC apart as an incorporation hub for digital service companies. New permitted activities were approved by the QFCA Board in December 2020 to accommodate and license more companies in digital services. Overall, a total of 204 firms have been licensed since the initiative started.
Key Highlights of 2021
- QFCA Code of Conduct
- Anti-Bullying and Harassment
- Anti-Bribery and Corruption
- Gifts and Hospitality
- Conflict of Interest
Services to the Investment Promotion Agency (IPA)
Memoranda of Understanding (MoU)
Legal signed MoUs with the following entities:
The Data Protection Office (DPO) was formed in July 2021. Despite being a new entity, DPO has attained significant accomplishments during the year, including:
DPO also released newsletters and issued guidelines to enhance the knowledge of QFC firms on specific areas of the Data Protection Regulations, which include:
The Tech Circle (formerly Fintech Circle) is a co-working space established to build a tech community within the QFC. The Tech Circle supports qualified tech startups by offering them free space. The initiative evolved in 2021 from supporting solely fintech startups to involving a broader range of tech companies. Tech Circle currently hosts over 60 companies and monthly tech talks with topics covering different sectors, featuring expert speakers in the industry.