Web Summit’s debut in MENA ends on high note

29 February 2024

The world’s largest tech event’s debut in the Middle East and Africa, Web Summit Qatar 2024, ended on a high note as Thursday saw a huge turnout from international tech giants, startups, industry experts and tech enthusiasts from all over the world.  

With the curtains closed on Doha’s inaugural edition, the event has now set several feats and records. Over four days, the summit, held at Doha Exhibition and Convention Center, hosted 15,453 attendees from 118 countries, who witnessed the tech innovations of 1,043 from 81 countries, 10 percent of which came from Qatar and 20 percent from Africa. The international audience the event drew featured 401 investors, 148 partners and 380 speakers. The record-breaking event continued to garner worldwide attention across channels and platforms, with around 900 tech journalists and media representatives covering the summit.  

Commenting on this occasion, Sheikh Jassim bin Mansour bin Jabor Al Thani, Director of the Government Communications Office (GCO) and Chairman of the Web Summit Qatar 2024 Organising Committee, said: “We are proud of Qatar’s achievements across all domains. The exceptional organisation of such a celebrated global event and the huge turnout we have recorded for a first-year edition showcases our country’s capacity to further its role as a leading destination for technology and innovation in the region and in launching initiatives that advance the digital and IT sector in Qatar and beyond.” 

He added: “Throughout its four-day run, we worked tirelessly to bring to our international audience a distinguished lineup of sessions, activities and engagements that build on Qatar’s track record of hosting global major events. As the summit’s inaugural edition in the region, we were excited to welcome thousands of startups, investors, and tech leaders, while opening doors to networking and growth opportunities for young and aspiring entrepreneurs in Qatar and the region. With AI and other emerging technologies and business development trends dominating discussions at the summit, the event has instantly proven its ability to serve as a platform that effectively contributes to Qatar’s digital transformation and accelerate the establishment of a knowledge-based economy.” 

For her part, Web Summit CEO Katherine Maher highlighted the event’s record-breaking numbers, which came to the fore against the backdrop of Qatar’s renowned hospitality. 

“This was an incredible event. We had record numbers of people. It was the most international star event ever in the region in terms of startups. We had the most international Web Summit first-year event we’ve ever done. I am so impressed by the Qatari hospitality, so excited to be able to come back year after year,” Maher said. 

“We want more people to come. We want more international startups. We want more connection to the region. We want the Qatari ecosystem to grow. More startups from here, more startups located here,” she said on her expectations for the event’s successive editions. 

On its final day, the inaugural Web Summit Qatar 2024 hosted a plethora of panel discussions, partnership agreements and presentations by the world’s most prominent tech companies including a session titled ‘Qatar’s plan for a digital future,’ in which HE Mohammed bin Ali Al Mannai, Minister of Communications and Information Technology discussed the latest developments in this domain and gave the audience an overview of the Digital Agenda 2030, which was launched by during the Web Summit week. 

HE explained the agenda’s six strategic pillars: Digital Infrastructure, Digital Government, Digital Technologies, Digital Innovation, Digital Economy and Digital Society.  

“The digital economy on its own is not for the government to drive. It’s mainly for the private sector to drive. So, our relationship is built around cooperating with the private sector. I think with the national digital agenda, we give them direction about where we are going so that they can support us on delivering that,” HE said. 

“So, success depends on the government, the private sector and also the individuals and the talents that will help us achieve the set target for the national digital agenda,” HE added. 

Highlighting the recently signed agreement between the Qatar Research, Development and Innovation (QRDI) Council and Alchemist Accelerator to launch Alchemist Doha, QRDI Council Secretary General Eng Omar Al Ansari said: “We aim to leverage Alchemist Doha to attract some of the best regional and global B2B startups to Qatar, under a high criterion. The region has many startups that are in a scaling and growth stage that we would be very interested in recruiting into Qatar. Once here, we plan to deploy other programs to integrate these startups into the wider economy to ensure that they are also benefiting from doing collaborative work with our large enterprises.” 

As part of the four-day program, Generation Amazing Foundation Executive Director Nasser Al Khori and football legend Claude Makélélé addressed how sports and community-based organisations can foster partnerships that power social change. As host of the first FIFA World Cup™ in the Middle East and Arab world, Al Khori said that the human and social legacy stands above all. 

“We are the legacy of the FIFA World Cup. It’s the foundation, it’s all these programs that we have. We are in 75 countries and counting. We are also looking at the next biggest sporting event, but not just football, now we are expanding to other sports. That is the idea, the legacy, that it does not stop, you pay it forward, just like our motto: pass it on,” Al Khori explained.  

The summit also featured the signing of 24 Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) between Qatari institutions and prominent tech ventures toward boosting the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems in Qatar and beyond, concluding with a number of agreements signed on the closing day, including an agreement between Qatar National Bank (QNB) and Web Summit to announce QNB’s sponsorship of Web Summit Qatar for the next four years. On the other hand, Ooredoo inked MoUs with Qatar Development Bank and other entities, while Malomatia signed an agreement with Jaggaer.  

For a final-day highlight, attendees flocked to the main stage where the pitch competition finalists shared the stories behind their startups and their vision for the future. The three finalists were Rhazes AI, an end-to-end AI assistant for doctors, IMAN, a super-app for halal finance and Breshna.io, a no-code game-builder, with the latter winning Qatar’s inaugural summit pitch competition. 

During its four-day run, representatives of global tech giants and rising startups took part in discussion and speaking sessions, including notable officials from Meta, Google, Microsoft, YouTube, Snapchat and Shell, who showcased their latest innovations in the world of tech. 

Hosting Web Summit comes in line with the Third National Development Strategy 2024-2030, which aims to launch initiatives to boost the country’s tech and business ecosystems, incentivise innovation and boost ICT capacity-building toward supporting economic diversification and achieving the Qatar National Vision 2030. With the feats and records set by the summit’s debut in Qatar, the event has showcased the country’s capacity as an ideal launchpad for entrepreneurs, startups and investors to bring their visions to fruition and establish their footprint within the wider region.