Crown prince set to begin strategic China visit Thursday

Updated 17 March 2014
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Crown prince set to begin strategic China visit Thursday

Crown Prince Salman, deputy premier and minister of defense, will begin a four-day state visit to China from Thursday as the guest of Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao, said Chinese Ambassador Li Chengwen on Monday.
It will be the first visit of the crown prince to China, where he will hold wide-ranging talks with high-ranking Chinese officials on a range of bilateral, regional and international issues.
“The two sides will also seize the opportunity to further boost friendship as well as deepen pragmatic cooperation in all sectors,” said Ambassador Chengwen, while referring to this high-profile visit. He also commended the existing bilateral ties, fruitful economic and trade cooperation as well as close coordination in international and regional affairs between the Kingdom and Beijing.
The crown prince will hold talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who also holds the positions of General Secretary of the Communist Party of China and Chairman of the Central Military Commission.
The Crown Prince is also likely to meet Chinese Premier Li Keqiang as well as Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Chang Wanquan for an intensive discussion on bilateral relations.
Chengwen said: “We in China regard this visit as very important and of high interest for us that would boost strategic relations,” and added: “I am confident that such visits will push our relations to new highs.”
He said a joint move to boost “strategic ties” will top the agenda of talks between Crown Prince Salman and senior Chinese officials.
China will also express its desire and readiness to take part in Saudi Arabia’s strategy for economic diversification and deepen cooperation in various fields, he said.
“China attaches great importance to the development of its strategic friendly relations with Saudi Arabia and always gives priority to bilateral ties with this country in the region, said the Chinese ambassador, who held talks with Prince Muqrin, second deputy premier, on Sino-Saudi relations here Monday.
The visit of Crown Prince Salman will also provide an opportunity for China to push forward free trade talks with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, keep close communication in international and regional affairs, and enhance coordination within the United Nations, the Group of Twenty (G20) and other multilateral organizations, said a report released on this occasion.
In January 2006, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah was the first ever Saudi head of state to visit China. His visit was reciprocated by Chinese President Hu Jintao on April 22 of the same year, as part of a world tour. In February 2009, Hu visited Saudi Arabia a second time to “exchange views on international and regional issues of common concern” with King Abdullah.

• (Ghazanfar Ali Khan and Abdul Hannan Tago contributed to this report)


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.”