UAE and Saudi Arabia emerging as regional ‘tech powerhouses’

36th Gitex Technology Week in Dubai World Trade Center: New Technology exhibition in Gulf and MENA Region at DWTC, Dubai. (Shutterstock)
Updated 19 March 2019
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UAE and Saudi Arabia emerging as regional ‘tech powerhouses’

  • UAE and Saudi Arabia still have work to be done in order to catch up with countries with cutting-edge skill sets in technology, business and data science
  • Ahead of private sector expansion, business will be a key area for improvement in the UAE and Saudi Arabia

DUBAI: The UAE and Saudi Arabia show the most promise in terms of skills in technology, according to the Coursera’s Global Skills Index, an in-depth report on skill trends and performance across 60 countries in the Middle East and around the world.

“The UAE shows the most promise in Technology (#40) compared to Business (#52) and Data Science (#38). This may be a reflection of the UAE government betting big on AI and fostering a testing ground for robotics,” the report stated.

“Saudi Arabia ranks higher in Technology (#50) compared to Business (#58) and Data Science (#58). Its strong performance in Human-Computer Interaction (92%) is likely a reflection of the government’s investment in digitization,” it added.

“Although there’s been a significant increase in education investment in recent decades, MEA students still aren’t graduating with the right skills, as the 31% youth unemployment rate indicates.”

While they are on the right track, and are regional powerhouses, results show that the UAE and Saudi Arabia still have work to be done in order to catch up with countries with cutting-edge skill sets in technology, business and data science such as Spain, Austria and Switzerland.

Ahead of private sector expansion, business will be a key area for improvement in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. The UAE’s lowest performing domain is business and it ranks #52 globally and #4 in the region. Saudi Arabia also ranks lower in business at #58 globally and second to last in the region. It lags the most in accounting and marketing (2%). Upskilling in business will be key areas to the region’s goals for private sector expansion.

“As the countries shift their industrial base away from natural resources, they must focus on building a knowledge-based economy that’s driven by a highly skilled workforce. The development of technology and data science skills, in particular, will continue to emerge with the adoption of new-age technologies such as Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence and blockchain, underpinned by the UAE Vision 2021 and Saudi Arabia Vision 2030, respectively,” the findings stated.

Finland, Switzerland and Austria round up the top three worldwide respectively in terms of business skill sets, which include accounting, marketing, finance, sales, management and communication. Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh and Egypt, however, sit as the bottom three respectively.

Argentina, Czech Republic and Austria sit as the top three worldwide respectively in terms of technology, while Kenya, Pakistan and Nigeria round up the bottom three. Technology skill sets studied include computer networking, operating systems, human computer interaction, databases, security engineering and software engineering.

In terms of data science worldwide, Israel, Switzerland and Belgium are rated as the top three worldwide respectively, with Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Nigeria sitting at the bottom three. Data science skills include math, statistics, machine learning, data management, statistical programming, and data visualization.

Coursera’s full Global Skills Index can be found below:


Non-Saudi Gulf companies get ready to joint list on Tadawul

Updated 25 April 2019
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Non-Saudi Gulf companies get ready to joint list on Tadawul

  • Two companies, from UAE and Bahrain, about to submit documentation, bourse CEO tells Arab News
  • Joint listings for other Gulf stocks would be an important step in Tadawul’s ambition to be the dominant stock market in the region

RIYADH: Tadawul, the Saudi Arabian stock exchange, is on the verge of announcing the first ever joint-listings of companies from other Gulf countries in a move that further illustrates the growing regional power of the market.

Khalid Al-Hussan, the exchange’s chief executive, told Arab News on the sidelines of the Financial Sector Conference in Riyadh that two companies — one from the UAE and one from Bahrain — are about to submit the necessary documentation to enable their listing in Riyadh. He declined to identify them.

“Two companies are in advanced discussions and are about to submit their files,” he said. The final decision on their listing rests with the regulator Capital Markets Authority, but Al-Hussan has made no secret of his desire to get non-Saudi companies from the Gulf Cooperation Council listed on the Riyadh market.

“We are an important regional platform and we can complement secure access to capital and the liquidity they lack in their home markets,” Al-Hussan said, adding that Tadawul was speaking to several other corporates in the region to gauge their interest.

Joint listings for other Gulf stocks would be an important step in Tadawul’s ambition to be the dominant stock market in the region. Al-Hussan is also planning Gulf-wide initiatives in other areas of securities trading, like settlement and clearing.

“Tadawul can play an important role in post-trade business, because of its size and liquidity. Running a clearing house is very expensive,” he said. Tadawul is already in talks with the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange and Bahrain Bourse about the possibility of them using Tadawul for clearance and settlement activities.

“They are assessing whether Saudi infrastructure is right for them,” Al-Hussan said. There have been no talks yet with Dubai.

We are an important regional platform and we can complement secure access to capital and the liquidity they lack in their home markets.

Khalid Al-Hussan

News of Tadawul’s growing regional ambitions comes as the Riyadh market continues to reap benefit from the ongoing upgrades to emerging markets status and inclusion in the main indices.

The next tranche of Saudi stocks get included in the FTSE-Russell index next week, while the first tranche under the MSCI upgrade takes place at the end of next month.

“We’re up 18 percent since the beginning of the year, and I don’t think you’ll find many emerging markets performing better than that,” Al-Hussan said of the Tadawul index’s performance.

He said that an influx of foreign investors was a very important reason for the strength of Saudi markets. “It is not just my feeling, it is the facts. Foreign investment is positive every day. Cash inflows are positive and increasing each week,” Al-Hussan said.

The market is also finessing preparations for the introduction of derivatives trading, which is likely to happen in the second half of the year. Al-Hussan said that all the necessary regulations were in place to allow trading in derivatives — securities based on future values of stocks — and that it was awaiting final regulatory approval.

 

 “We are still waiting on the readiness of market traders to actually trade derivatives, and on the readiness of local investors for them. They have to be well informed,” he said.

The Nasdaq Dubai exchange in the UAE already has a platform for derivatives trading in Saudi equities, but Al-Hussan said: “It is very hard for a regional exchange to compete with the domestic one, especially if it does not have much liquidity.”

In the course of the Financial Sector Conference, tech firm Al Moammar Information Systems Company began trading on Tadawul, and marketing is well underway for the forthcoming initial public offering of Arabian Centers by the Fawaz Alhokair Group.

Tadawul also announced a number of “enhancements” to the fee structure of the bond markets, including reducing commissions and waving others, to enhance the competitiveness of debt instruments on the exchange.

FACTOID

18.5%

Rise in the Tadawul All Share Index so far this year