The Saudi economy: ‘With great challenges come great opportunities’

Julien Hawari, co-CEO of Mediaquest Corp.
Updated 10 April 2017
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The Saudi economy: ‘With great challenges come great opportunities’

JEDDAH: Few would dispute that Saudi Arabia’s economy has witnessed some tough times.
But as this week’s Top CEO Conference will hear, there are some golden opportunities amid the gloom that followed the oil-price crash.
Some of the burning issues facing corporations today will be discussed at the conference, which is being held for the first time in Saudi Arabia after previous editions in Dubai.
Held under the theme “Adapting to Disruption: New Roles, New Realities,” the event is organized by Dubai-based Trends magazine, an international publication on Arab affairs, in association with Insead business school.
Julien Hawari, co-CEO of Mediaquest Corp, the publisher of Trends, said that it is significant that this is the first time the event will be held in the Kingdom.
The country, grappling with significant economic challenges, last year laid out the ambitious Vision 2030 reform plan, which aims to wean it off its addiction to oil.
“With great challenges come great opportunities,” Hawari told Arab News.
“Hosting the Top CEO Conference and Awards in Saudi Arabia made sense, as Saudi (Arabia) is the giant economy of the region and it is fully taking on its role (as the) engine of growth for the region.
“Saudi Arabia is preparing itself (for) a transformation that will benefit society and create more jobs for our children. The issues are complex and the Top CEO Conference addresses many of those.”
The diversification of the economy is the underlying theme of Saudi Arabia’s reform plan — something that is common to strategies pursued by some other regional countries.
“Moving away from an oil economy has become a necessity for the entire GCC,” Hawari said.
“We believe that the Arab world has a lot to offer... (Members of) our new generation are bringing with them expertise and experience from the outside and a deep knowledge on how to take forward our societies.”
Key factors in this regional change include corporate governance and transparency, ensuring fair competition, and creating jobs — all issues that are set to be addressed at the Top CEO event.
The roller coaster ride in oil prices is not the only factor impacting the Arabian Gulf. New technology is also turning old business models upside down.
“One of the key issues Top CEO is focusing on this year is disruption,” said Hawari. “The full impact of the technology revolution is hitting the region. This makes the life of business leaders extremely challenging, as they need to have their eyes on 10 different things to take forward their organizations.
“A new norm is shaping and changing many status quos in regional business.”
The Top CEO event is set to be held on April 10-11 at King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) near Jeddah.
In its third edition in 2017, the accompanying awards will honor the top 100 chief executive officers after evaluating their companies’ listings on the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) stock exchanges.


Saudi Arabia has lion’s share of regional philanthropy

Updated 26 April 2018
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Saudi Arabia has lion’s share of regional philanthropy

  • Kingdom is home to three quarters of region's foundations
  • Combined asets of global foundations is $1.5 trillion

Nearly three quarters of philanthropic foundations in the Middle East are concentrated in Saudi Arabia, according to a new report.

The study, conducted by researchers at Harvard Kennedy School’s Hauser Institute with funding from Swiss bank UBS, also found that resources were highly concentrated in certain areas with education the most popular area for investment globally.

That trend was best illustrated in the Kingdom, where education ranked first among the target areas of local foundations.

While the combined assets of the world’s foundations are estimated at close to $1.5 trillion, half have no paid staff and small budgets of under $1 million. In fact, 90 percent of identified foundations have assets of less than $10 million, according to the Global Philanthropy Report. 

Developed over three years with inputs from twenty research teams across nineteen countries and Hong Kong, the report highlights the magnitude of global philanthropic investment.

A rapidly growing number of philanthropists are establishing foundations and institutions to focus, practice, and amplify these investments, said the report.

In recent years, philanthropy has witnessed a major shift. Wealthy individuals, families, and corporations are looking to give more, to give more strategically, and to increase the impact of their social investments.

Organizations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have become increasingly high profile — but at the same time, some governments, including India and China, have sought to limit the spread of cross-border philanthropy in certain sectors.

As the world is falling well short of raising the $ 5-7 trillion of annual investment needed to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, UBS sees the report findings as a call for philanthropists to work together to scale their impact.

Understanding this need for collaboration, UBS has established a global community where philanthropists can work together to drive sustainable impact.

Established in 2015 and with over 400 members, the Global Philanthropists Community hosted by UBS is the world’s largest private network exclusively for philanthropists and social investors, facilitating collaboration and sharing of best practices.

Josef Stadler, head of ultra high net worth wealth, UBS Global Management, said: “This report takes a much-needed step toward understanding global philanthropy so that, collectively, we might shape a more strategic and collaborative future, with philanthropists leading the way toward solving the great challenges of our time.”

This week Saudi Arabia said it would provide an additional $100 million of humanitarian aid in Syria, through the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center.

The UAE also this week said it had contributed $192 million to a housing project in Afghanistan through the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development.