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Expats manage most of Saudi women’s businesses

The Ministry of Commerce has disclosed that expats have benefited most from partnerships in commercial ventures, particularly those for which licenses were held by Saudi women.
In a recent report, the ministry said 60 percent of such business partnerships with expats in the Kingdom were owned by Saudi women and that these cases surfaced following the announcement of the amnesty. In addition, many of these business ventures were being managed by illegal expats.
Saudi Arabia allows women to acquire commercial licenses and carry out business activity, but some businesswomen opt for expats to manage the show because of the restricted number of fields in which they can operate.
According to the report, some women depend on their husbands or relatives to manage their businesses, but most preferred expats to run the business.
Arab News spoke to a cross-section of Saudi women who owned businesses in Jeddah and Riyadh, and most of them blamed the trading system in the Kingdom for their dependance on expats.
Nuha Al-Shammari, who owns an abaya gallery in Riyadh, said her business was 10-years-old but she had taken over the management of the shop only recently.
“We have seen the limited opportunities available for Saudi businesswomen, which is evident from the fact that fewer number of Saudi women are seeking employment. Recently, we were honored when the king allowed Saudi women to work in retail sector, which is why I replaced the illegal expat workers who were managing my gallery,” she said.
Revealing her plans to expand her business, she said: “The increased opportunities available now for women, coupled with the amnesty period, is encouraging and we are looking to open new galleries in Jeddah and Dammam, which will be managed by Saudi women,” Al-Shammari said.
Another Saudi woman, who chose to remain anonymous, told Arab News that she has a business under her name but that it is managed by her husband.
“My husband works in the government sector and he is not allowed to get into business. Hence, he asked me to open a business and register it under my name. The business, which involves trading in raw material, is mostly managed by my husband. He put in the capital for the business and my role in confined to registering the establishment in my name.”
Manna Khalid, a Saudi owner of a restaurant and café in Jeddah, said she found expats to be the perfect people to manage the business that she owns.
“I started my business 17 years ago, when women were not allowed to work in restaurants. I turned to one of my close relatives to run the show, but he was dishonest and pilfered money. I shut down the business for six months, and reopened it later after I got new visas for workers from the Philippines,” she said.

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