Executive Focus: Hazem Al Sharif, General Manager, Qatari German Medical Devices
How have the recent political changes in the region impacted trade in medical goods?
AL SHARIF: For sure at the beginning there was a slight effect on trade because there was uncertainty and instability in the market. Eventually, since the medical device industry and the pharmaceutical industry depend only on the population, not on the economic or political status, demand has returned to normal. In my opinion, the current political changes in the region will benefit trade because if we look at things in the long-term, there will be more freedom, more political stability, less corruption, and increased accountability, stability, and corporate governance. This will for sure impact the global trade and economic trade in the region.What growth opportunities in health care do you see going forward?
AL SHARIF: The growth in the region is increasing since there is a large growth of population. On average, population growth is 5-6% in the region, which will increase the demand on medical devices as well as medical services. This is also backed up by the lack of saturation of service providers. If we talk about the numbers, this region is in the lower bottom in terms of beds per thousand capita and doctors per thousand capita. This is definitely not saturated in terms of investment in hospitals and service providers. So the coming increase of services, the increase of awareness, and the increase in economic support for investment in the health care industry will boost demand for medical services in general and medical devices specifically.What specific challenges do medical manufacturers currently face?
AL SHARIF: If we talk about the regulatory affairs in the region, they're not well defined. Therefore, this could create a time consuming process to register products with hospitals or the health care providers, which certainly creates a bit of a challenge. Additionally, there is a lack of standardization; there is no economic or governmental standards for what sort of quality can be imported or produced. If we talk about the manufacturers, they are well controlled, tested, accredited, and evaluated frequently. Whereas the traders, they just push boxes and bring in quantity, regardless of quality, which brings the market down. This also creates certain challenges. But, with the help of awareness campaigns and with proper investment in education and health care service providers in general, we can create the awareness and therefore, the quality buyers will buy the quality products.As the private sector's role in the healthcare sector continues to increase, how well are public- and private-sector institutions working together to deliver healthcare?
AL SHARIF: Initiatives have been taken on a high level in Qatar. There are a lot of initiatives and developments in terms of cooperation between the private and public sector. There are several initiatives from the Qatar Development Bank initiatives, such as Tusdeer and Dhameen. There are a lot of local initiatives to boost the industrial sector that will for sure bring in investors. The government is investing in free-zones and moving forward with legislation. The private sector is developing its skills, its qualifications, and its accreditation, in order to be open to the next coming events; and these are not just events, they are deadlines, such as the 2022 World Cup, which is just a cutoff date for Qatar 2030. The high level indicators expected for Qatar 2030 are much bigger than for 2022. The huge economic development in Qatar will require enhanced cooperation between the government and the private sector. As the private sector, we have to do a lot. As the industrial sector, there is also a lot be done. We're talking about development of land, development of know-how, development of breakthroughs in intellectual property and research and development, such as the initiatives done by QSTP, Qatar Science and Technology Park, which on the downstream will create certain breakthroughs on the technological level. Eventually, the realization of such breakthroughs will depend on the private sector's ability and entrepreneurship to invest in such new technology.How active is the private sector in terms of investment in manufacturing and industry?
AL SHARIF: The private sector is now developing in a large cycle to improve resources, abilities, and capital. We are talking here about the package development, from the banking sector, to educational services, to healthcare providers. This will create resources for entrepreneurs to invest in the industrial sector. We're also talking about QSTP's scientific breakthroughs. If you look at it from a bigger picture, there is a lot of brainstorming activities happening here in the private sector, which up until now has been watching and only involving itself in an early stage in these activities. But for sure, once the development matures, the private sector will seized the moment and take the opportunity and invest in large-scale manufacturing. The incentives available in Qatar for the manufacturing sector are very lucrative for any investor; from land, which is given free of charge to investors; to energy, which is the cheapest in the world; to taxation laws and legislation, which is to say there is no taxation in the region; to geographical location; availability of resources; and availability of capital. Those ingredients are the best recipe for a success story on the industrial level. We have to wait and see how the private sector will seize the opportunities and invest in the industrial sector on a large scale.