Last updated: 9 December, 2011

Qatar creates fund for French suburb start-ups

Qatar has set up a 50-million-euro ($67-million) fund for entrepreneurs from France’s often-deprived suburbs to set up businesses, the Gulf nation’s ambassador to Paris said Friday.

“Qatar is not just words. We must act. The emir (Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani) decided to create a 50-million-euro fund to work with you,” said ambassador Mohamed Jahan al-Kuwari.

“The fund can be increased,” Kuwari told a group of 10 French elected local officials, all of North African origin.

The French officials, five men and five women, travelled to Qatar last month to improve economic ties between the wealthy Arab state and France’s often-disadvantaged suburbs, where they were received by the emir.

“Everyone was happy to see you: the emir, the prime minister, the minister of finance,” Kuwari said.

“You represented France in a very modern way. You gave a very good impression of French people of Arab origin,” Kuwari said.

The ambassador noted that the fund was “neither aid nor charity”.

“There must be serious projects in all fields, reasonable, solid, long-term projects,” he said.

A team of experts has been set up in the Qatari embassy to receive entrepreneurs and assess their projects.

Kuwari said that France was a strategic and important country for Qatar.

“French people of Arab origin can help us in our partnership with France,” he said.

Gas-rich Qatar is a traditional French ally and provided vital Arab support to French and British-led efforts to get a UN mandate for military action to protect civilians during the eight-month uprising in Libya.

Qatar provided military support to NATO-led operations in Libya, including deploying troops on the ground.