Saudi Arabia seeks to build robust defense industry

The latest developments in military products and technology are on display at the Armed Forces Exhibition for Diversity of Requirements and Capabilities (AFED 2018), on Sunday in Riyadh. (AN photo)
Updated 25 February 2018

Saudi Arabia seeks to build robust defense industry

RIYADH: Gen. Abdul Rahman bin Saleh Al-Bunyan, chief of staff of the Saudi armed forces, inaugurated a major defense exhibition on Sunday on behalf of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
On behalf of Turkey, the guest-of-honor country at the Armed Forces Exhibition for Diversity of Requirements and Capabilities (AFED 2018), Prof. Ismail Demir, chief of the Turkish defense industry, participated in the inaugural ceremony.
The exhibition is an important government initiative. “Spread over seven days, AFED 2018 is showcasing the latest developments in military products and technology,” said Maj. Gen. Attiya Al-Maliki, an AFED spokesman. “This fourth edition of AFED shows an increase in the number of exhibitors and displayed products.”
Referring to the participation and achievements of the Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI), the state-owned Saudi defense company, Dr. Andreas Schwer, SAMI chief executive, said: “Saudi Arabia is one of the top five countries in the world in terms of military spending, and the establishment of SAMI was an ambitious step as part of the country’s strategy to localize and globalize its military manufacturing industry.”
Schwer said: “SAMI’s participation will open up doors for future long-term partnerships, laying the cornerstone for SAMI to localize 50 percent of government military spending, and become one of the top 25 military industry companies in the world.
“With a strategic framework in place, SAMI aims to contribute around SR14 billion ($3.73 billion) directly to Saudi Arabia’s gross domestic product (GDP), increase the value of national exports by about SR5 billion, invest over SR6 billion for research and development, and create over 40,000 direct jobs locally, by the year 2030.”
Referring to the Turkish participation in AFED and the possibilities of a tie-up with Saudi companies, especially SAMI, Prof. Demir said: “Saudi Arabia announced that Turkey is the first guest-of-honor country at the AFED, making it an international exhibition, which has been held at the national level before. This decision reflects the deep historical relations and close cooperation between Turkey and Saudi Arabia,” he said, referring to the participation of 25 top-notch Turkish companies in the exhibition.
He added: “Within this framework, it is a pleasure for the leading Turkish defense industry firms, which have developed significant capabilities at designing and producing major defense platforms and systems in line with the procurement projects and needs of the Turkish armed forces, to demonstrate their products and capabilities at AFED 2018. The aims of AFED are to gather Turkish defense industry companies with their Saudi counterparts in order to seek and explore joint production opportunities and deepen the already strong cooperation between the two countries within the framework of Vision 2030.”
Prof. Demir said that the high participation and strong interest of the Turkish defense industry firms in the exhibition demonstrated their sincere will and importance attached to cooperation with Saudi Arabia. As a result of large investments in the defense industry of Turkey, the number of the country’s defense projects has reached 600 at a size of $60 billion, and the defense industry has reached a production capacity of more than $6 billion per year and an export capacity of $2 billion as of today.
Several ministers and diplomats including Minister of Labor and Social Development Ali Al-Ghafis, Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdullah A. Al-Sawahah; and Turkish Ambassador Erdogan Kok attended the inaugural ceremony.

A catering firm in Saudi Arabia tackles obesity from school level

Updated 19 October 2019

A catering firm in Saudi Arabia tackles obesity from school level

  • Rihab Hasanain set up Blooming Bs to provide schoolchildren with healthy meals
  • Blooming Bs strives to raise awareness of the obesity problem in the Kingdom

CAIRO: One Saudi woman was so concerned about her children’s unhealthy school-canteen meals that she decided to improve not only her family’s diet but also the eating habits of the entire nation.

Rihab Hasanain, spurred by the Kingdom’s growing obesity epidemic, set up the catering firm Blooming Bs to provide children with healthy lunch boxes and offer them advice on the importance of eating healthy food and being active.

The company’s name originates from the three Bs: Brain, body and box. The healthy boxes are provided to students and children aged two and above at schools, canteens, childcare centers and indoor playground centers.

Saudi Arabia has the Middle East’s second-highest obesity level after Kuwait with a 35.4 percent rating,  according to the CIA World Factbook.

Hasanain said that she wants to raise awareness of the region’s obesity problem, particularly among children.

“Childhood obesity is one of the greatest challenges facing health care systems worldwide,” she said.

“A number of factors have contributed to the problem, such as lack of childhood physical activities, and a low awareness around the prevalence of obesity and non-communicable diseases.”

Hasanain said that Blooming Bs’ mission is to combat childhood obesity in Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries by promoting healthy eating habits.

Rihab Hasanain

This includes educating children and parents about the importance of healthy food and lifestyles, providing youngsters with healthy food choices, and creating a community of future healthy eaters.

In Saudi Arabia, a major contributing factor to the obesity crisis is the widespread availability of unhealthy food in school canteens, she said.

In 2016, the ambitious mother of two took matters into her own hands by establishing her commercial kitchen in the Kingdom’s capital Riyadh.

Using her personal savings, Hasanain hired a team of 10 multidisciplinary women, including public relations and administration staff, social-work specialists, early childhood educators and drivers.

She also leveraged her international connections to help secure support and endorsement from a number of prominent mentors.

“They are extraordinary individuals with an outstanding track record in social entrepreneurship, hospitality and, most importantly, health promotion and healthy school canteens,” Hasanain said.

Blooming Bs has since grown to cater to more than 20 day-care units and schools, as well as hundreds of individual families. The firm has now sold more than 45,000 items and served over 10,000 lunch meals since its launch.

Hasanain said that the company’s contracts and deliveries vary according to customer categories.

“Our products range from morning, lunch and afternoon meals for children to freshly squeezed juices and individual food items that can be sold individually at school canteens,” she said.

“We take the stress away for parents. Our clients are assured that our products are healthy because the meals are created based on the consultation of our in-house nutritionist.”

While Hasanain is well on her way to transforming the diets of children in Riyadh, she has her eye on the bigger picture.

The Blooming Bs entrepreneur also aims to solve childhood obesity in neighboring countries, such as the UAE, Kuwait and Qatar.

“During Blooming Bs’ expansion, I have tried to develop a holistic viewpoint on children’s nutrition, leading to improved operation processes and ideas,” Hasanain said.

“Blooming Bs also wants to empower Saudi and Arab women by creating more job opportunities,” she added.

“Ultimately, I see my company becoming an upscale international brand, trusted by parents, schools and governments.”


• This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region.