Princess Reema: It’s time to focus on Saudi women’s capabilities, not their clothes

In this file photo, Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud speaks at the Atlantic Council in Washington,DC. (AFP)
Updated 10 March 2018
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Princess Reema: It’s time to focus on Saudi women’s capabilities, not their clothes

LONDON: Saudi Arabia is counting on the power of sport to help drive its nation to economic victory, according to Princess Reema bint Bandar.
“I am building an entire sports ecosystem: From the athletes, to the female ushers, and security guards, we’re going from the micro to the macro to the triple macro. Every sector in the country requires a down chain,” the princess told the Chatham House think-tank in London. 
“Sport impacts every industry sector across the board and it will draw in crowds globally.”
Since last October, the Princess has headed the Saudi Federation for Community Sports (SFCS) and is the vice president for Development and Planning at the Saudi Arabian General Sports Authority. Princess Reema is the first woman in Saudi Arabia to head such a federation. As chief of SFCS she has the task of developing a sports ecosystem in the Kingdom, largely from scratch. 
She said: “From the staff who clean the machines, to the trainers, to the doctors, to the athletes, everything to do with sports must be included in the future planning of the country — that’s my job.”
This year has already seen significant sports advances in the Kingdom as restrictions on women watching and playing sport have been lifted. Females can now attend football matches, pump iron in gyms, partake in sports themselves, and girls can take physical education classes in school.
Since Princess Reema took up her role, she has played a part in helping to mobilize women’s sport. “I’ve encouraged women to go out on the streets and into the public parks to exercise. I’ve been telling women they don’t need permission to exercise in public, they don’t need permission to activate their own sports programs. And more and more they are doing it.”
Some National Transformation Program (NTP) 2020 initiatives under Princess Reema’s extensive remit are: The promotion of sports and physical activities; improved return on investment in sports clubs and facilities; and enabling Saudi elite athletes to achieve high performance on a sustainable basis in different sports.
As well as targeting significantly improved performance at international sporting games, there is a heavy emphasis in the NTP initiatives on improving sports infrastructure and grassroots facilities through the addition of women’s sports facilities, and through local communities, where previously investment has been very limited generally.
Princess Reema said: “The choices that women have today are greater than yesterday and every day they will grow more.” 
She said she is working on licensing women’s gyms throughout the Kingdom. “The gyms have always been there but they were grey market and unregulated. We’ve created the formal structure for the licensing of women gyms and by putting them into the light we can regulate them,” she said.
The princess said the Kingdom now has 47 live gyms and she is targeting the licensing of 500 medium-sized gyms by June. She estimates that each gym will directly employ around eight people. “That’s already 4,000 jobs for women,” she said. “Then when you add the indirect jobs, such as trainers, the number goes up further.”
Wes Schwalje, COO of research firm Tahseen Consulting, agrees that the cultivation of Saudi Arabia’s sports will help boost jobs and grow the Kingdom’s economy. “Saudi Arabia has budgeted almost $600 million to build the foundations for a sports ecosystem by 2030. While this figure does not include infrastructure spending and just covers the next two years, it gives a sense of the magnitude of spending that is planned for sport,” he said.
“It is likely that $3 billion to $5 billion will be spent on developing a sports ecosystem by 2030. The sport will have a significant, positive impact on the Kingdom’s economy through its contribution to growth and jobs,” Schwalje added.
The COO said in the EU, for example, the sports sector (narrowly defined) makes up 1.13 percent of gross value add and 1.5 percent of employment on average. “If Saudi Arabia were to achieve a similar share of sport-related value add, that could mean an incremental $7 billion per year added to the gross domestic product and approximately 100,000 jobs,” he said. 
Schwalje said several other sport-related industries will also benefit from the growth of sports in the Kingdom, as part of a “multiplier effect.” 
“We would expect to see sizeable indirect impact in the food and hospitality sectors, construction, and media sectors,” he added.


On track for 2030? Movers and shakers in KSA look ahead

Kingdom tower in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Shutterstock)
Updated 41 min 16 sec ago
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On track for 2030? Movers and shakers in KSA look ahead

  • “The comprehensiveness of Vision 2030 and the wider horizons it addresses positively transform the Saudi citizen’s life to become more integrative and enjoy new prosperity," says Dr. Saad Saleh Al-Rwaita.
  • Cybersecurity has a crucial role to play in accomplishing Vision 2030 objectives, explained Dr. Areej Alhogail.

RIYADH: Saudi Vision 2030 kicked off with the aim of boosting non-oil revenues through capitalizing on current assets, utilizing resources, and starting up new industries.

In order to reach the objectives outlined in the plan, government bodies have launched many initiatives, which have proceeded with the support of the private sector as firms have cooperated through developing their strategic plans, and overcome many challenges. 

The 88th Saudi National Day provides an opportunity not only to celebrate unification, but also to look back on the achievements of Vision 2030 and take stock of how it is paving the way to economic reforms while carving out enhanced influence for its citizens on the world stage.

Here both public and private sector leaders who contribute to the economic transition plan share their thoughts on Vision 2030. 

Homam Hashem, Chief Executive Officer at Kafalah Fund, a financing guarantee program for small- and medium-sized enterprises, commented: ”One of the main objectives of Vision 2030 is to increase the contribution of the SME private sector to 35% of GDP. Small and medium enterprises have a significant impact on raising growth rates by raising financing opportunities and providing ways of success for the advancement of the sector. The program has contributed by raising the ceiling of guarantees for regular guarantees and developing specialized programs for the sectors (tourism, working capital support, and emerging enterprises). It has also attracted new sectors such as businesswomen and promising regions by providing additional incentives and developing many incentives that contribute to support raising local lending rates for small and medium enterprises up to 20% by 2030. The focus was on supporting the sectors that are compatible with the Kingdom's vision 2030 and diversifying the means of support.” 

Dr. Fahad Al-Shathri, Deputy Governor of Supervision at the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA), said: “In view of the demographic challenges, Saudi Arabia cannot solely rely on the same economic model as during the past five decades, namely oil. Twelve years from now, I would expect the economy to be more dynamic and to have multiple sectors driving growth and job creation, including tourism and logistics. Entrepreneurship will be the central focus for young people in future, inspired by the great accomplishments of their peers. These will be the new drivers of the economy that Vision 2030 is aiming at, and we hope that everyone will strive to contribute to its success.”

As education will play a crucial role in the development of human capital in the Kingdom, we asked Alfaisal University president Dr. Mohammed Al-Hayaza for his take. The former Shoura Council member said: “The Ministry of Education has taken unprecedented measures to ensure that our institutes of higher education are both the best in the region and top-ranked internationally. Vision 2030 has developed job specifications for each field of education, and by utilizing these specifications Alfaisal University is closing the gap between the learning outcomes of higher education and that of the demands of the job market through continued targeted alignment.”

Dr. Saad Saleh Al-Rwaita, Vice-Rector for administrative and financial affairs at Prince Sultan University in Riyadh, commented: “The comprehensiveness of Vision 2030 and the wider horizons it addresses positively transform the Saudi citizen’s life to become more integrative and enjoy new prosperity. 

The Vision will safeguard the Kingdom against dependence on circumstantial changes of the natural resources market and being influenced by external factors that are beyond our control, while empowering the Kingdom to create change and exert influence that surpass the local reality to direct the international compass and take the initiative, particularly in the economic field, in order to guarantee a bright future for the future generations.”

Looking to the real estate sector, Ehab Al Dabbagh, CEO of real estate development firm Ijmal, said the industry was likely to see big changes in future: “Firstly, the demand for housing products would be met. Technology and industrial progression will play a major role in building a variety of eco-friendly housing products. Houses could be ordered through an online application and fabricated in weeks.”

Another vital contributor in Vision 2030 is the food industry. Engineer Abdul-Mohsen Al-Yahya, who founded the chain of fast food restaurants Kudo, and currently an investor in supply and support at the food sector, said: “From my own experience in food services for more than 30 years in Saudi Arabia, I believe that in future the food service sector will continue to grow with more investments, products diversity and quality will increase, while continuing to become an extension of economic growth in Saudi Arabia and a key industry generating employment opportunities.”

Cybersecurity has a crucial role to play in accomplishing Vision 2030 objectives, explained Dr. Areej Alhogail, assistant professor in the Department of Information Systems at Imam Muhammad bin Saud Islamic University in Riyadh, who sits on the Saudi group of information security, said: “The Kingdom has taken pioneering steps, such as establishing the National Cybersecurity Authority, the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, and allocating scholarships in the field of information security. (These initiatives) will enable the Kingdom to be at the forefront of countries in the field of cybersecurity by 2030, and will protect the local economy, perhaps attracting foreign investments in various fields of information to be the ideal environment of trained local professionals and advanced laboratories and legislation protection.”