Great will of China wows Kingdom

Updated 21 January 2016
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Great will of China wows Kingdom

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and China signed 14 agreements here Tuesday focused on energy, culture and industrial cooperation, and pledged to build a strategic partnership for better bilateral ties, common development and peace and security in the world.
The pledge came during wide-ranging talks between Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and Chinese President Xi Jinping here at Al-Yamamah Palace.
Hailing China as a special partner, King Salman said in his welcome speech that the challenges facing the world, particularly terrorism, require the international community to unite in countering it.
“The international community should emphasize the principles established by the UN charter, particularly the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of states to ensure security and peace regionally and globally. I am confident that our discussions today will be in the interest of our two countries, and will enhance efforts being made to bring peace to the region,” said King Salman, who also hosted a luncheon banquet in honor of Xi.
The king said the bilateral ties have grown in the past 25 years since the establishment of diplomatic ties. “I recall my visit to your country (China) in March 2014, when I had fruitful meetings that reflect on joint cooperation in various fields,” said the king.
“The Kingdom and China are seeking together stability, peace and security in the world,” said the king, who also praised Xi’s efforts in this regard.
On Wednesday, Xi is scheduled to join King Salman for a ceremony to inaugurate the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center on energy economics and policy in Riyadh. They will also open, remotely from Riyadh, the Yanbu Aramco Sinopec Refining Company Ltd. on the Kingdom’s Gulf coast.
The refinery is a joint venture between state-owned Saudi Aramco and China Petrochemical Corp. (Sinopec).
In his speech, the Chinese president thanked King Salman for his hospitality and stressed Beijing’s commitment to the partnership between the two countries. Xi also commended the measures taken by the king to stimulate development in the Kingdom.
“A total of 14 agreements including memorandums of understanding were also signed between the Kingdom and China at the palace,” said Fu Lihua, a spokeswoman of the Chinese embassy, while speaking to Arab News on Tuesday evening.
Asked about the details of the agreements, Fu said they were mainly in the fields of energy, culture and industrial cooperation. “The signing of the agreements was witnessed by King Salman and Xi together in a very candid and cordial atmosphere,” she said.
“Major pacts inked by the two sides also include an energy cooperation agreement and an accord to work together on the Silk Road Economic Belt Initiative to achieve goals of development within the framework of the initiative,” said Fu, in reference to China launching the initiative of jointly building the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (the Belt and Road Initiative).
“We hope and trust that Saudi Arabia, located at the west crossroads of the Belt and Road, will become an important participant of, contributor to and beneficiary of this initiative,” said a diplomat. Specific projects under this initiative could range from a greater role for Chinese oil-services companies in the Kingdom and other countries in the Middle East, to public works such as water and sewage treatment projects.
Saudi Arabia has been interested in increasing its investments in Chinese oil refining and other downstream assets to cater to the growing Chinese consumption of gasoline and other oil products.
The two leaders also held talks on a range of bilateral, regional and international issues including Middle East conflicts, terrorism, security cooperation, energy ties and trade and investment with the GCC as a bloc.
Asked about the other pacts endorsed by the two sides, Yao Yu, energy attaché at the Chinese Embassy, said “a strategic framework agreement was also signed between Saudi Aramco and China’s Sinopec.”
Yao said the two countries were moving ahead to work closely in the nuclear field. Saudi Arabia is China’s biggest global supplier of crude oil and its biggest regional trading partner. “In fact, a memorandum of understanding was also signed to boost cooperation in the renewable energy sector,” said Yao.


How Saudi women are getting ahead of men as STEM graduates

Dr. Fatima Alakeel, cybersecurity expert. (AN photo)
Updated 20 March 2019
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How Saudi women are getting ahead of men as STEM graduates

  • ‘Securing a job after the degree remains the challenge,’ says Dr. Fatema Alakeel of King Saud University in Riyadh
  • ‘Saudi women are ambitious,’ says one graduate. ‘We are acquiring high degrees and seeking successful careers’

DUBAI: More and more girls in Saudi Arabia are opting for an education in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), and now the challenge is finding them employment, said Dr. Fatima Alakeel, a cybersecurity expert and faculty member at King Saud University (KSU) in Riyadh.
“In the Kingdom, STEM-related jobs are limited at the moment, as the economy is primarily oil-based and there are few technical jobs available,” said Alakeel, who is also the founder and CEO of the non-profit Confidentiality, Integrity & Availability Group (CIAG), which focuses on information security training and research in Riyadh.
According to a government report on the labor market situation in the third quarter of 2018, more than 30 percent of Saudi women aged between 15 and 65 are unemployed.
Among them, the highest rate of unemployment is among 20-24-year-olds (more than 70 percent) and among 25-29-year-olds (55 percent).
According to the report, there are 923,504 Saudi jobseekers, of whom 765,378 are women (82.2 percent).
“We have more girls in STEM education compared to Western countries,” said Alakeel, who completed her doctoral degree in computer science in the UK at the University of Southampton in 2017.
According to a report prepared by the Saudi Education Ministry, girls accounted for 57 percent of undergraduates for the year 2015-2016 in the Kingdom.
That same year, women outnumbered men in graduating with a bachelor’s in biology, information technology (IT), mathematics and statistics, and physics.
According to a survey Alakeel recently conducted on social media, “almost 80 percent of (Saudi) girls were keen to study STEM, but securing a job after the degree remains the challenge,” she said.
Maha Al-Taleb, 22, graduated earlier this year with a degree in technology from KSU, specializing in IT networks and security.
“It’s common for girls in the Kingdom to opt for STEM education,” said Al-Taleb, who now works in a public sector company in Riyadh as a junior information security analyst.
“Saudi women are ambitious. We’re acquiring high degrees and seeking successful careers. I don’t know why the world assumes that Saudi women are a backward tribal species who have no say in these matters. This entire perception is flawed.”
Al-Taleb got a job offer immediately after university, but realizes that not all her peers are as fortunate. Women “are facing problems in securing jobs, not because companies don’t want to hire us, but because employment for Saudi youths is a major challenge,” she said.
“In today’s Saudi Arabia, parents are encouraging their daughters to get a degree not just in the Kingdom; they also want them to go to Western universities. It has become a common phenomenon. Things have changed. Women are a crucial part of the nation’s development process.”
Not all women graduating in the Kingdom are as lucky, among them Razan Al-Qahtani. “It has been several months since I graduated, yet I haven’t been able to find a job. It has been a struggle so far,” said the 25-year-old IT graduate. “We have more talented and qualified girls, especially in the field of technology, but there are few jobs available. It’s a difficult situation, but we’re hopeful things will change very soon.”
Al-Qahtani expressed confidence that the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan will bring opportunities for qualified Saudis.
As part of Vision 2030, the government has committed to raise employment among Saudi women.
Alakeel said the government is working hard to find a solution, and it is only a matter of time until more such jobs are on offer.
“As per Vision 2030, there will be more jobs, including technical jobs, available in the country. Once we have more jobs, women will eventually get their due share,” she added. According to Alakeel, female empowerment and promotion to leading roles have made huge progress in Saudi Arabia, and this may affect existing STEM job opportunities.
“We’re glad to see Her Royal Highness Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud becoming the first female ambassador of the country. It only suggests change is on the way,” Alakeel said.
Al-Taleb expressed pride in the way her parents have supported her, saying: “My father isn’t educated and my mother has basic literacy, but both provided me with the education I desired. They want their daughters to be as successful as their sons.”
Like women in any country, the transition from university to the workplace is not always easy, even for young Saudi women with technology degrees. Yet they are not losing hope.
“We realize these are difficult times in terms of employment, especially in technology-related fields, but things will change,” Al-Taleb said. “Saudi women will soon be ruling the fields of STEM all over the country.”