Makkah forum takes steps to engage private sector in region’s development

The Makkah Economic Forum aims to unify the efforts of the public and private sectors under one umbrella. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 09 May 2018

Makkah forum takes steps to engage private sector in region’s development

  • The MEF aims to unify the efforts of the public and private sectors to attract the largest number of investors and businesspersons.
  • The investment cost of the sacrificial meat waste management factory is SR88 million ($23 million).

JEDDAH: The Makkah Economic Forum (MEF) has lined up a series of highly engaging activities spread across the entire year to involve the private sector as an active partner in the region’s development programs and help realize the objectives of Saudi Vision 2030. 

The comprehensive activities, which begin tomorrow, May 9, will help identify the current challenges and opportunities in the market and build on the momentum created by the recent two-day MEF 2018 event in Jeddah to encourage local and international business investments in the region’s development projects.

The engagements will primarily be focused on four of the 12 Vision realization programs: National Industrial Development and Logistics, Enriching the Hajj and Umrah Experience, Public Investment Fund and Tourism, and Improving the Quality of Life. 

“The year-long activities organized as part of the Makkah Economic Forum will create dialogues to encourage and facilitate effective collaboration to make the private sector an active partner in activating the vision realization programs,” said Dr. Lama Al-Sulaiman vice chairwoman and board member of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce.

Events organized as part of the year-long activities will cover some very interesting topics such as the importance of developing marketing skills to standout within today’s marketing noise and clutter, and surviving change in a rapidly evolving environment.

The Makkah Economic Forum aims to unify the efforts of the public and private sectors under one umbrella to attract the largest number of investors and businesspersons at all levels.

Investment opportunities

Eight investment opportunities in the Hajj and Umrah sector were launched by the Makkah Development Commission on Monday at the Makkah Economic Forum.

The opportunities are for a sacrificial meat waste management factory; a project to support services for people with special needs; the Miqat Qarn Al-Manazel development project; a food factory for pilgrims project; a Makkah-made products factory; a Makkah Gate development project; a downtown terminal project; and a Makkah and Madinah historical sites development project.

The investment cost of the sacrificial meat waste management factory is SR88 million ($23 million). The project aims to build a factory that can manage the huge amounts of waste resulting from sacrificial meat.

The project of support services for people with special needs will cost SR24 million and aims to provide high-quality services for the physically challenged and the elderly during the Hajj and Umrah seasons.

The Qarn Al-Manazel development project, which involves an investment of SR50 million, aims to renovate the areas near Qarn Al-Manazil Miqat, where shopping areas and washing facilities will be built.

The food factory for pilgrims project, costing SR90 million, will build and operate a food factory in the Muzdalifah area to provide high-quality food to pilgrims at affordable prices.

The Makkah-made product factory, costing SR175 million, will construct a commercial center to promote products made in Makkah and Madinah, including souvenirs, local food and other commodities.

The Makkah Gate development project, costing SR130 million, aims to build and operate the Makkah Gate as well as provide a parking area and commercial buildings for rent.

The downtown terminal project, costing SR85 million, will build and operate a downtown station accessible to all five-star hotels. It aims to reduce the pressure on local and international terminals and improve the visitor experience.

The Makkah and Madinah historical sites development project involves an investment of SR425 million to renovate four historical sites in Makkah and Madinah — Jabal Al-Noor, Jabal Thor, Jabal Al-Romat and Arwah Ibn Al-Zubair Palace.

Misk program gives a boost to young Saudis who mean business

Misk Innovation and 500 Startups help accelerate innovation and entrepreneurism by bringing Silicon Valley growth techniques to young regional companies, helping them scale and fundraise by imparting knowledge. (Supplied photo)
Updated 19 March 2019

Misk program gives a boost to young Saudis who mean business

  • The first batch includes 19 start-ups from across the region, specializing in various fields
  • The platform allows businesses to access quality candidates through a matching algorithm

DUBAI: Young Arabs are taking the region’s offline markets online, from fitness and recruitment to car repairs and chalet hire. 

Nineteen start-ups have been chosen so far to take part in the Misk 500 MENA Accelerator Program.

Anwaar Alrefae, a 26-year-old Kuwaiti, is one of them, with her Project 5 Miles (P5M) health and fitness app. 

Anwaar Alrefae of P5M

“We help people get fit and support them in staying fit,” she said. 

“What’s important for the community in the region is family, friends and work, and because fitness isn’t an integral part of these pillars in people’s lives, when things get stressful, the first thing to drop is a healthy lifestyle because it’s not an integral part of their lives.” 

Launched last year, the app’s name stems from pushing through the hardest first 5 miles. 

“In those first 5 miles, it’s a new experience and you’re trying to discover what works for you and what doesn’t,” Alrefae said. 

“Once you push through them, you know what works for you and how to fit it into your life, and it’s easier for you to get active.”

Her objective is to combine fitness and socializing, as her app allows members to book classes in multiple gyms with friends and family. 

“It allows people to be social in an active way, and it’s less likely for them to drop being active because they can be social with friends and family while being active, which brings in the element of entertainment,” she said. 

“The practice of anything is finding a routine without boredom, so by being able to find that flexibility in such activities, people won’t get bored. 

“It’s human nature, and we want to keep people on their toes and engaged.”

Having grown up in Kuwait and studied in Boston, Alrefae hopes to dispel the misconception that the region is generally “lazy,” being extremely active herself. 

“By adding this physical component to people’s lives, they’ll really be able to have a sense of independence and confidence, and set a goal and achieve it ... Besides the health aspect, it will also have a huge mental effect.”

Mohamed Ibrahim, a Sudanese who was raised in Riyadh, is one of Alrefae’s classmates in the Misk program. 

Mohamed Ibrahim of Sabbar

He created Sabbar earlier this year as a recruitment solution that focuses on jobs in the retail and service industry. 

It provides businesses in Saudi Arabia with a platform that automates their recruitment process, halving their recruitment time and cost. 

It also offers potential workers a mobile app that allows them to find nearby jobs.

The start-up is timely, with a recent labor law in the Kingdom pushing businesses to hire more Saudis. 

“It’s a unique offering where we find jobs in a geographical way,” Ibrahim said. 

Sabbar helps Saudis find nearby jobs in the retail and service industry, while also helping automate businesses’ recruitment process. (Supplied photo)

“There’s no platform for Saudis to find retail jobs, like baristas or cashiers, so this helps businesses in their challenge today to hire faster and easier.”

The platform allows businesses to access quality candidates through a matching algorithm built on jobseekers’ personality and desire, and to ensure that potential hires are retained longer.

“There’s a high turnover in Saudi Arabia in this (retail and service) industry — up to 70 percent — compared to the global average of 24 percent,” he said. 

“You have businesses today that are struggling to meet the demand of filling vacancies quickly due to the hire turnover, and there’s a struggle to grow because of it, so when the labor law came out I saw retailers go through a lot of challenges, so it’s a niche market I can definitely grow.”

Abdullah Shamlan of Speero

For Abdullah Shamlan, a 29-year-old Yemeni who was born and raised in Riyadh, the Misk program has provided him with invaluable mentorship to grow his business Speero. 

“You learn from the best, and the quality of the network of founders you’re exposed to is great,” he said. 

“It’s the largest in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region, which definitely helps.”

Speero is an online marketplace that helps businesses and individuals find spare parts for cars in a more convenient way. 

“We connect spare-parts stores with customers. It helps organize some complicated industries, like spare parts,” Shamlan said.

“There’s no single solution that tells you about spare-parts prices and their validation in the market, so we’re doing the tough job for the government on the ground.”

With more than 8,000 suppliers in the Kingdom, Speero has started helping 150 of them manage their inventory while providing almost instant quotations to customers on the search, before delivering the parts to their doorstep. 

“We serve more than 5,000 people in Saudi Arabia, and we’re taking a totally offline market online,” Shamlan said. 

“There’s a need for this because it’s a daily struggle, and we already crossed $1 million in sales in less than 18 months.”

Renting chalets in the Kingdom is another practice that has been made easier, thanks to Latifah Altamimi, a 30-year-old Saudi from Riyadh who created GatherN in November 2016. 

“It’s a platform that helps people search and book chalets in Saudi Arabia,” she said. 

“We also help chalet owners list their properties and manage them, so it’s like a combination of a Saudi Airbnb and”

Latifah Altaimi of GatherN

The start-up stemmed from Altamimi’s own experience as a regular customer, spending every weekend in a chalet in Riyadh for social and family gatherings. 

In one year alone, the app’s customer base grew 500 percent.  

“There’s demand for it. We have more than 6.2 million transactions every year in this market, but 99.99 percent are done manually, for walk-in customers or calling the reception of the (chalet),” she said. 

“It’s a concept developed in Saudi Arabia, with more than 100,000 resorts in the Kingdom. 

“We now have more than 1,000 chalets, with huge room for improvement.” 

Altamimi said the Misk program has been extremely beneficial, adding: “We already know a lot, but there’s a huge difference between knowing and doing. It’s a great opportunity to expand, and we’re working on our growth. We already grew 40 percent in the seven weeks we’ve been with them (the program).” 

One of the challenges she is working on is converting her leads into bookings. 

“We now have more than 15 employees, 8 percent of whom are Saudis, and we’re planning to reach 25 employees,” she said. 

“I was an employee for seven years and I’m a proactive person. I like to try different things and experiment. I worked in an international company where I didn’t have the space to be creative and do more than what I was expected to, so having my own company gives me huge space to experiment, be creative and contribute to the country’s economy.”

The Misk program began on Jan. 27, 2019.

It will conclude with a demo day on May 13 in Riyadh.