Google and MiSK Foundation to equip 100,000 Saudi students with digital skills

Matt Brittin, Google’s president for EMEA, at the launch of the Maharat min Google program. Courtesy Google
Updated 18 April 2018

Google and MiSK Foundation to equip 100,000 Saudi students with digital skills

  • Google launches Maharat min Google Arabic language digital skills program
  • Saudi training program targets 50 percent female participation

Google will provide digital skills training to 100,000 university students across Saudi Arabia under an agreement with Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Foundation (MiSK) Foundation.
The tie-up coincides with search company’s launch of the Maharat min Google program, aimed at helping the region’s Arabic speakers start online businesses and gain an advantage in the region’s increasingly competitive job market.
“We want the region to develop digital skills because we think they are essential in the future, and Saudi is one of the key markets in the region, that’s why we have partnership with MiSK Foundation,” Lino Cattaruzzi, Google's managing director for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), told Arab News.
MiSK Foundation’s implementation of the program targets a 50 percent female participation.
“When you look at what we are trying to achieve, it’s impossible for me not to (draw a connection) with Vision 2030,” he added.
Entrepreneurship, education and training and the empowerment of women are all core to Vision 2030, unveiled by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2016, which seeks to diversify and grow the country’s economy.
The Maharat min Google platform — Maharat means “skills” in Arabic — aims to enhance digital literacy among Arabic speakers in a region that is among the most youthful in the world.
The World Economic Forum estimates that by 2020, 21 percent of the core skills of required for jobs within the GCC will be different to the skills needed in 2015.
The platform offers a nine-hour long certified program that covers 100 lessons in Arabic across 26 core topics, including search engine marketing, social media, e-commerce and data analysis.
“We really believe in the world needing more entrepreneurs,” Matt Brittin, Google's president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), told Arab News.
“The barrier to becoming an entrepreneur that can scale has never been lower. And the opportunity to learn and be inspired by others has never been higher.”
Google at present has around 200 million users in the MENA region, a figure it hopes to double in the next few years. The company notes with interest the rise in e-commerce in the region, which it sees as benefiting its advertising business.
“In terms of Google’s business, typically is quite aligned with the growth in e-commerce because if people can buy things online then advertising online can make more and more sense,” Brittin said.
At the present time, the company is content to work with regional partners via its MENA hub in Dubai — which this year celebrates its 10th anniversary — with an increased on-the-ground presence a distant prospect.
“We are better off working across the region through partners, through the hub that we have here (…) and that is one of the joys of having a digital model,” he said, noting that the partnership model enables the company to offer customized services to countries in the region.
“For the next 10 years ... I’d love to see more local talents at Google and I would love to see more on the ground locations…but for the moment, it’s all about working in partnership.”

Investment and energy experts welcome ‘sensible’ Saudi Aramco IPO valuation

Updated 10 min 58 sec ago

Investment and energy experts welcome ‘sensible’ Saudi Aramco IPO valuation

  • Price regarded as a sensible compromise and that it will sell the IPO
  • Experts said the Aramco valuation was justified by the financial metrics

DUBAI: Investment professionals and energy experts delivered a mainly enthusiastic response to the pricing of shares in Saudi Aramco and the overall valuation of the biggest oil company in the world at between $1.6 trillion and $1.7 trillion.

Al Mal Capital, a Dubai-based investment bank, said that it was positive on the Aramco initial public offering (IPO) on that kind of valuation, which it said was justified by the financial metrics.

“We believe Aramco’s IPO is a central pillar of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030. In our view, the broader privatization of state assets will likely accelerate the flow of foreign capital into the Kingdom, improve liquidity and transparency as well as continue to help diversify its economy away from its dependency on oil. While many investors were skeptical about the ability of Saudi Arabia to roll out its ambitious agenda, they seem to be right on track.”

Tarek Fadhallah, chief executive officer of Nomura Asset Management in the Middle East, said via Twitter: “My first impression is that the price is a sensible compromise and that it will sell the IPO. Aramco should easily raise the $8.5bn from retail investors but the 29 global coordinators, managers and financial advisers will need to find the other $17 billion. A few billion from China would help.”

Robin Mills, chief executive of the Qamar Energy consultancy, said; “I think it’s a reasonable compromise. The price is well above most independent valuations but well below the aspirational price. It implies dividend yields a bit lower than the super-majors (the independent oil companies), but a similar price earnings ratio (the measure of the share price rated according to profits). Retail and local investors should be sufficient. We’ll have to see about the foreign investors.”

Ellen Wald, energy markets consultant and author of the book Saudi, Inc., said American investor would still be undecided on the IPO. 

“Remember, investors don’t put money in because they think the value is accurate. Smart investors put money in because they think the value will rise. It all depends on whether they see signs the price will rise during their time frame.”

American oil finance expert David Hodson, managing director of BluePearl Management, said: “This valuation seems to be more reasonable based on the fundamentals. Potential investors in Western markets will base their decision on cold hard facts like dividends and growth prospects. From what we now know, Aramco is offering them a compelling investment proposition to consider.”