by Dana Halawi
BEIRUT, March 7 (Xinhua) -- Minister of State for Information Technology Adel Afiouni said that Lebanon is looking forward to benefitting from the Chinese expertise in the IT sector.
Afiouni said that one of the main projects that his ministry will be working on is the digital transformation of the government in addition to building a successful technological ecosystem.
"Chinese companies can play a very big role in our ambitious projects ... we are keen on partnering with Chinese companies to bring their expertise to Lebanon and leverage the talents and skills that we would like to have on the ground," Afiouni told Xinhua in an exclusive interview.
Afiouni said that his ministry will have a dialogue with China to identify areas where the country can benefit from the Chinese expertise.
The young minister added that he has a lot of ideas on how his ministry can develop relations with other countries in the knowledge economy sector.
"We want to create a set of measures and incentives to help our companies export services as well as to help and support companies from abroad that want to set offices or develop some sort of expertise or capabilities in Lebanon," he explained.
Afiouni said that he has started working this initiative because it is very important to export Lebanon's products and services and also to import talent and expertise for Lebanon's workforce.
"We have to sit down with China in particular to discuss directly where the areas of cooperation are and what are the measures or incentives that we need to put in place to increase the flow of business between the two countries," he said.
Afiouni noted that Lebanon also intends to cooperate with China in developing the technology hub for Tripoli's Special Economic Zone (TSEZ) which is the first project of its kind in Lebanon to develop a multi-use economic zone complete with all required infrastructure and utilities.
Lebanon will witness in the coming years the implementation of projects in different sectors with the participation of foreign countries.
These projects will take place within the framework of CEDRE which pledged billions of dollars for Lebanon in a bid to revamp its ailing infrastructure and bolster its economy.
Many of these projects will be related to the IT sector, prompting the new Lebanese government to form, for the first time in Lebanon's history, the Ministry of State for Information Technology.
"No economic strategy can be built without strong focus on the knowledge economy. That's why I believe it was a very progressive step to establish this new ministry," Afiouni said, adding that this shows a priority in IT sector in order to create economic growth and jobs for the youths.
He said his ministry will partner with other stakeholders in the public sector for the digital transformation of the government which will help in the fight against corruption while making sure that the government is run in an efficient manner.
Afiouni also plans to turn Lebanon into a regional hub for knowledge economy in a bid to create economic growth and jobs.
"The role of the ministry will be to improve the business environment and create a friendly atmosphere for entrepreneurs which will attract capital and talent which can grow beyond our borders," he said.
Afiouni thought Lebanon needs to improve its infrastructure by having strong internet connectivity.
Another mission, according to Afiouni, is to work on updating and upgrading legislations.
"There is a large effort that we will be leading from the ministry in partnership with other ministries to update our laws and make them more business friendly, especially more adapted to the tech ecosystem," he said.
Afiouni cited the Private Equity Law as an example saying that this law is already in the pipeline and will facilitate companies to raise money and invest in the tech ecosystem.
"We cannot develop businesses or companies without an easy and efficient access to capital," he added.