700 future-gazers talk robots and revolutions at World Economic Forum in Dubai

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Participants attend the session ‘People and Mobility in 2030’ at the World Economic Forum meeting in Dubai on Saturday. (WEF/ Benedikt von Loebell)
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Mohammed Abdulla Al-Gergawi, UAE Minister of Cabinet Affairs and the Future, said that disruptive technologies could be a force for good despite the challenges they sometimes represent. (Photo courtesy social media)
Updated 22 January 2018
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700 future-gazers talk robots and revolutions at World Economic Forum in Dubai

DUBAI: More than 700 “experts of the future’ will lay out their vision of what the world may look like in 2030 today, as a key World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting begins in Dubai.
The annual meeting of the global future councils sets the agenda for the big WEF gathering that takes place in the Swiss town of Davos in January.
It comes as Gulf economies, including the UAE and Saudi Arabia, race to invest in disruptive technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence and blockchain, to position themselves in anticipation of what WEF-goers know as the coming “fourth industrial revolution.”
“We are looking for the answers to the question of the future,” said Mohammed Abdulla Al-Gergawi, UAE Minister of Cabinet Affairs and the Future, at the opening of the event, which he also co-chairs.
Gulf states are seeking to add high value jobs in new technologies as they emerge from decades of dependence on generating income from selling oil.
Such revenues are increasingly under threat – both from cheaper sources of shale oil and gas that have become easier to extract – as well as investments in new forms of renewable energy that is weighing on demand for heating oil and gasoline worldwide.
The region is also grappling with the paradox of finding work for a rapidly growing and youthful population – whose job prospects are being threatened by many of the disruptive technologies in which some Gulf economies have become key investors.
Al-Gergawi told the opening of the meeting in Dubai today that such changes could be a force for good despite the challenges they sometimes represent.
“Amid the changes that are taking place, changes that affect us all as global citizens, we should be able to turn them into opportunities,” he said.
“Successful countries have been able to transform that to positive change in vital areas.”
The event is taking place against a backdrop of mounting regional tension, with a political crisis unfolding in Lebanon, an ongoing boycott of Qatar by four of its regional neighbors and a crackdown on corruption in Saudi Arabia that has seen the arrest of several prominent businesspeople.
The WEF gathering in Dubai will compile work from more than 30 individual working groups that will be thrashed out at the group’s Davos meeting – the theme of which will be “Creating a shared future in a fractured world.”


Saudi stocks receive landmark emerging markets upgrade from MSCI

Updated 21 June 2018
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Saudi stocks receive landmark emerging markets upgrade from MSCI

  • Market authorities in Saudi Arabia have introduced a series of reforms in the past 18 months
  • MSCI’s Emerging Market index is tracked by about $2 trillion in active and global funds

LONDON: Saudi Arabian equites are poised to attract up to $40 billion worth of foreign inflows, following a landmark decision by index provider MSCI to include the Kingdom’s stocks in its widely tracked Emerging Markets index.

"MSCI will include the MSCI Saudi Arabia Index in the MSCI Emerging Markets Index, representing on a pro forma basis a weight of approximately 2.6% of the index with 32 securities, following a two-step inclusion process," the MSCI said in a statement late on Wednesday night Riyadh time.

“Saudi Arabia’s inclusion in MSCI’s EM Index is a milestone achievement and will likely bring with it significant levels of foreign investment,” Salah Shamma, head of investment for MENA at Franklin Templeton Emerging Markets Equity, told Arab News. 

“It is a recognition of the progress Saudi Arabia has made in implementing its ambitious capital markets transformation agenda. The halo effect of such a move will be felt across the stock exchanges of the entire Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).”

Market authorities in Saudi Arabia have introduced a series of reforms in the past 18 months to bring local capital markets more in line with international norms, including lower restrictions on international investors, and the introduction of short-selling and T+2 settlement cycles.

Such reforms prompted index provider FTSE Russell to upgrade the Kingdom to emerging market status in March, opening the country’s stocks up to billions worth of passive and active inflows from foreign investors.

MSCI’s Emerging Market index is tracked by about $2 trillion in active and global funds. The inclusion of Saudi stocks in the index, alongside FTSE Russell’s upgrade, is forecast to attract as much as $45 billion of foreign inflows from passive and active investors, according to estimates from Egyptian investment bank EFG Hermes. 

The upgrade announcement was widely expected by the region’s investment community, following a similar emerging markets upgrade announcement by fellow index provider FTSE Russell in March. 

“MSCI index inclusion will be a historic milestone for the Saudi market as it will allow for sticky institutional money to make an entry in 2019 which will help deepen the market,” said John Sfakianakis, director of economic research at the Gulf Research Center in Riyadh.