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Qatar’s Ambassador To Rwanda Discusses Bi-Lateral Relation, Aviation Hub Goals And FIFA World Cup 2022

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On November 15, 2019, Qatar’s Ambassador to Rwanda HE Abdullah bin Mohammed Al Sayed presented his credentials as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the State of Qatar to the President of Rwanda.

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Qatar is a peninsular Arab country whose capital is Doha. A city known for its futuristic skyscrapers and other ultramodern architecture inspired by ancient Islamic design, such as the limestone Museum of Islamic Art.

According to the United Nations, Qatar is classified as a country of very high human development, having the third-highest HDI (Human Development Index) in the Arab world after United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Qatar is a World Bank high-income economy, backed by the world’s third-largest natural gas reserves and oil reserves

The FIFA World Cup 2022 will be held in Qatar, making it the first Muslim and Arab country to host the event. Also, the 2030 Asian Games will be held in Qatar.

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Ambassador Abdullah bin Mohammed Al Sayed who has had an extensive diplomatic career spanning more than two decades sat down with Dolapo Aina in Kigali, Rwanda for an extensive interview which touched on Qatar-Rwanda bi-lateral relations, Qatar’s impressive economic transformation, strategic aviation hub drive of the Gulf country and preparations for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. Do read the excerpts.

How did your diplomatic career begin and how has your diplomatic journey been so far?

I commenced my diplomatic journey quite a long time ago. Before I joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Qatar, I worked in different sectors. I worked in the education sector and I also worked with UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). Then, I moved to the Foreign Affairs Ministry and I have had many stints in several countries in Asia. This is my first time to be stationed in Africa. I am really glad and blessed to be the first Ambassador to be designated from Qatar to Rwanda. And I am the first Ambassador to set up the embassy of the State of Qatar here in Rwanda.

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The bi-lateral cooperation between the two countries is very good and strong. And it is a friendly and mutual bi-lateral relation. There is an excellent and seamless cooperation between authorities in Qatar and authorities in Rwanda. We have signed many bi-lateral agreements bordering on taxation waivers, some are financial related, tourism related and transportation related agreements. Also, we have gone into investments here in Rwanda. We have sixty percent of investments at the Bugesera airport (new airport outside Kigali with ongoing construction). And as well, we have invested in RwandAir (forty nine percent of investments). And we are planning to invest more in Rwanda.

How has Qatar handled the corona virus pandemic and the vaccination in the country?

Qatar has been very active in the corona vaccination drive and scheme of things (internally and externally) and has been very concerned about the global pandemic. Furthermore, Qatar has given much intensive focus to the mitigation or the eradication of the virus in Qatar. The response and treatment have been the same and efficiently implemented. The vaccinations which are ready and available are being offered at hospitals and emergency hospitals.

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As you know, Qatar is gearing up and preparing to host the FIFA World Cup in 2022. And Qatar has a huge project regarding the infrastructure (building stadia, railways, roads etc). And since there are global corporations in Qatar; this fact necessitated and is one of the reasons new labour laws were legislated and enacted to protect workers and improve their wages.

In furtherance of this, Qatar covers the costs of their healthcare. As we know, covid has been a global problem and the whole world has been affected socially, economically, even to small matters like family gatherings. Just like other countries who implemented strict lockdown measures in the mitigation of corona virus, Qatar did likewise in the prevention and spread of the virus in Qatar. A lot of lockdown rules were passed even to the level of families. For instance, only a certain number of family members are allowed to congregate at a place and at a sitting.

What is the level of diplomatic and bilateral relation between Qatar and Rwanda?

The bi-lateral relation between Qatar and Rwanda is very promising. Qatar was one of the first countries to send covid vaccinations to Rwanda. There is cooperation in many sections like tourism, in the economic sector and other sectors. We have been having official meetings and official visits in order to promote this bi-lateral relation.

How has Qatar been able to transform her resources to become an economic power house in the Middle East and a global aviation hub? What lessons can be learnt?

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I would give you a snapshot by saying that Qatar used to import everything but currently, it has built the capacity to export goods, commodities and services. Also, Qatar has been able to position herself between the big-league countries. In Qatar, from the leadership to the citizenship, they did the impossible. A case in point was that during the blockade, Qatar dealt with it perfectly. From the leadership with His Highness, the Emir and from top to bottom; it was a holistic effort. And we have learnt how to utilise and maximise our resources in the right way. Qatar’s resources are quite obvious; petroleum, gas and investments. We could and we have to transform these resources and possibilities for the advancement of the Qatari nation. If you saw Qatar a few years ago, you would be amazed by the present-day transformation. It is not the Qatar of 2021. The Father Emir of Qatar (Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa bin Hamad bin Abdullah bin Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani is a member of the ruling Al Thani Qatari royal family. He was the ruling Emir of Qatar from 1995 to 2013. The Qatari government now refers to him as the Father Emir) had the vision to create the economic transformation and prosperity. His son (Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani is the Emir of Qatar. He is the fourth son of the previous Emir and he has held a variety of government posts within Qatar and has been at the forefront of efforts to promote sports and healthy living within the country.) has continued on that path and vision.

Visionary leadership. So, there has been a transformation cum transfer of visionary thinking from the first Emir who was a visionary leader to his son His Royal Highness who is also a visionary leader?

Yes, very correct. You spoke about the aviation sector. You see, before Qatar Airways, there was Gulf Air and all Gulf countries were members of Gulf Air. But it was not ambitious and did not have the vision Qatar envisioned and yearned for. And the countries decided to invest in their own airlines. The Saudis, The Qataris, The Omanis, The Emiratis; all went their separate ways. The competition is needed so as to develop the aviation sector in the region. That is why the countries are competing to develop their airlines and aviation sectors in order to make the sector world class. That is why Qatar has invested enormous resources in the national carrier and aviation sector and also improve the airline’s capacity. And as most people have and still attest to, they are always satisfied with the services. We (in this context, I mean Qatar Airways) are also discussing with people and clients for feedback; for we welcome all sorts of suggestions and feedback ranging from technical, logistics and operational in order to improve the quality of services rendered.

From the establishment of Qatar Airways to when it commenced operations; was the economic progress and transformation; rapid? Did it take quite a bit of time?

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Nothing good comes immediately as everything good takes a process and has to be studied from the stage of an idea to the stage of a process, and it has to have inclusive studies which would include the obstacles, possibilities and probabilities. Basically put, a well-researched feasibility study. After this, everything would and in Qatar’s example, did fall into place. And the future is very promising. To your question, a country needs to be fast but in the right track.

There have been reports of numerous tragic deaths of migrant construction workers at construction sites of stadia in Qatar. What are the authorities doing to mitigate the tragic occurrences?

As a country, Qatar spoke about this issue and presented evidence of the construction which had such incidents. Regarding companies and construction sites, the government signed contracts with the labourers providing all the comfort needed. The most important thing is the safety issue. Qatar has used her capacity to protect the migrant workers who are working in Qatar. Residency buildings for migrant workers with medical facilities have been built. Also, working hours have been defined and set according to the location, environment and weather. As you know, Qatar is a very hot country and during the hot season, the construction work and workers stop. Also, laws and decrees were issued to protect the workers. There is also a new resolution for the increment of the minimum wage.

Qatar would be organising and hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2022. How are preparations ongoing and what should the world expect?
Since Qatar won the rights to host the World Cup, Qatar has worked tirelessly and not leaving a moment unutilised or any stone unturned; building new infrastructure, new and safe traditionally-themed and designed stadia with eco-friendly advanced facilities; built high quality roads and international standard hotels, brand new railway systems. If you take a look at the official World Cup website, you would discover that most of the stadia are ready.

Most of the stadia are ready; a year before the FIFA World Cup in Qatar?

Yes, they are ready.

What is the title of the book you are currently reading?

Currently, I am reading several novels and books on history. I am usually amazed by books which focus on countries’ transformation and achievements. Usually, I allot specific time to read some of these books during free and spare time.

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