Young Saudis optimistic about future, Arab Youth Survey shows

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About 80 percent consider Saudi Arabia as an ally in the political sphere, with the US polling second highest as an enemy (59 percent), behind only Iran (67 percent). (File/Shutterstock)
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Updated 01 May 2019

Young Saudis optimistic about future, Arab Youth Survey shows

  • Approval ratings higher than the average in the MENA region, according to 11th annual poll
  • Interviews with 3,300 young Arabs reveals that they want their governments to help them secure decent and affordable lives

DUBAI: The 2019 edition of the Arab Youth Survey by Asda’a BCW offers a snapshot of 200 million aspirational young adults tackling the opportunities and challenges of modernity, but also seeking the reassurance of traditional structures and overwhelmingly concerned with their own well-being.

Perhaps the most eye-catching of the Dubai’s PR consultancy’s findings, released on Tuesday, is that while most young people across the Gulf, North Africa and the Levant want to see reform of their traditional religious institutions, which most see as “holding them back” in the modern world, they also want their governments to remain providers of most of their basic requirements — not just essentials such as security, education and health care, but also subsidized energy housing and even financial handouts.

Above all, they are concerned with securing a decent and affordable life for themselves and their families in an era of high unemployment and dwindling job opportunities in the traditional government sector.

The 11th annual survey is based on 3,300 interviews with Arabs between the ages of 18-24, split equally between men and women, in January this year. Asda’a BCW also offered Arab News a look at Saudi responses   specifically.

Young Saudis share the concerns of many of their age-peers across the region, but they expressed a new-found spirit of optimism in light of the Vision 2030 strategy, which Sunil John, president of Asda’a BCW, said was “transforming the economy and creating job opportunities.”

About 93 percent of young Saudis said they thought the Kingdom is headed in the right direction, with 83 percent believing the economy is on the right track. Notably, three-quarters (75 percent) told the pollsters that they expect to have a better life than their parents.

Approval ratings among Saudi youth for their government’s policies were higher than the average in the MENA region. A huge 89 percent said they believed Vision 2030 would succeed in securing the economic future, while 83 percent said government policies were right for them and their peer group, a good 30 points higher than the positive feeling toward governments across the region.

Saudi youth were outliers in some other respects, too, apparently more willing to stand on their own feet. Another feature of the survey was that despite the drive of governments to cultivate entrepreneurial young people, many still believe it is the state’s job to provide cheap energy, jobs, housing and even debt relief.

If there is one cause we should focus on, it is youth unemployment

 

A detailed look at the country breakdowns showed that young people in the Kingdom were less likely than those in other Arab countries to expect these services to be officially provided to all citizens.

Another feature of the survey, as in past years, was some fairly dramatic differences in opinion by young people in three main sub-regions within MENA. In education, for example, only 20 percent of Gulf youngsters were unsatisfied with the quality provided by the country’s educational system. This level of dissatisfaction rose to 53 percent in North Africa and 73 percent in the war-torn Levant. Not surprisingly, many more Levant youngsters would rather be educated in the West than their peers in the Gulf.

Saudi Arabia figured prominently in the survey in other ways, too. When young Arabs were asked which countries had grown in prominence in regional and international affairs, 37 percent named the Kingdom as the biggest gainer in influence this year.

A majority of them consider Saudi Arabia as an ally in the political sphere. Iran is seen as an enemy by an overwhelming majority (67 percent).

Only a tiny minority in the region believed that the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi would have any long-term negative impact for the Kingdom in Arab or international eyes.

If young Saudis were not Saudi, they would probably want to live in the UAE, the pollsters found. For the eighth year running, the Emirates topped the ratings for the preferred place of residence, chosen by 44 percent of those polled, followed by Canada and the US.

Reasons for the UAE’s popularity hark back to the basic self-interest of young Arabs: They like the range of work opportunities in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the UAE is safe and secure, and it offers generous salary packages.

Jihad Azour, the International Monetary Fund’s regional head for the Middle East, hit the nail on the head when he delivered the keynote address at the survey launch. “If there is one cause we should focus on, it is youth unemployment. All economic policies fail if they cannot deliver on unemployment,” he said.


Saudi investors share expertise on Saudi corporate VC opportunities

Updated 27 November 2020

Saudi investors share expertise on Saudi corporate VC opportunities

JEDDAH: The two-day Step Saudi 2020 event featured two prominent Saudi figures in the field of investment on the second day.
Hashim Al-Awadi, CEO of Tech Invest, and Salman Jaffery, chief investment officer at Saudi Aramco Entrepreneurship Ventures, both shared their expertise, with the latter saying it is more beneficial for corporations to start a venture capital (VC) arm than invest from their current mergers and acquisitions arm (M&A).
Managing partner at Class 5 Global, Zach Finkelstein, who moderated the session on the second day of the event, said the San Francisco-based venture fund invested in a number of companies in the Middle East.
“The Middle East is particularly interesting to us, and in the past, our partners have invested in such regional companies as Careem. We’re excited to explore the development of the corporate VC space and how it can impact places like Saudi Arabia,” he added.
When asked why a corporation should start a VC arm instead of investing from an M&A team, and why have a separate corporate Venture Capital arm in the first place, Jaffery answered that “it brings faster results.”
“I think the easiest answer to that is just speed and agility,” he said. “Getting that response quickly to the market. VC deals can take weeks or months whereas an M&A transaction can take up to a year or longer, and also similarly, if you’re trying to then come out of it, it’s harder to come out of a joint venture agreement or an M&A as opposed to a VC.”
Al-Awadi explained his opinion a traditional VC perspective, and said: “We like the fact that corporations can invest from both their M&A arms and their VC arms if they have them.”
He highlighted that VC arms can invest in a greater variety of companies. “You have the intelligence, you know the market and if you’re looking at specific technology where we don’t have a lot of expertise we trust that you (other venture capitalists) know the market and you can evaluate that technology better to see if it has the capability and potential for growth or not.
“Eventually, you do have an M&A arm that will provide an exit for us, for an incentive for this company to work hard to grasp the intention after having been invested in by the VC arm of this big corporate to maybe look into making a partial agreement or complete acquisition, which really adds an incentive for the company to grow and attracts other investors and also attracts talent to join the company and help it grow even more.”
He said both the VC and M&A arm are important for company growth. “We tend to look at corporate investors through both arms as complementary to what we do when we have both of them around.”
The Kingdom has obtained a high reputation among investors internationally through the years, especially after the economic and social reforms of Saudi Vision 2030.
Step Saudi is home to the Kingdom’s best entrepreneurs, investors, creatives and digital enthusiasts. The last edition of Step Saudi featured four content tracks, more than 100 startups and over 1,500 attendees.