Saudi Arabia’s participation in the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos last month was a remarkable one, with special sessions on the Saudi vision and receptions hosted by Saudi Aramco, the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA), the Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz Foundation (Misk) and others. In my opinion, Saudi Vision 2030 was the most recognized brand during the forum.
This year, the Saudi government contingent included over 50 senior officials and hundreds from the private sector. The branding had its positive impact as well, between SAGIA slogans at different sites to Saudi female chefs catering Misk Foundation gala dinner guests. Also, Saudi women in the government and in the private sector had their own share of showcasing the change and transformation the country is going through since the launch of its vision.
Over the years, the WEF grew in a very interesting fashion. It invited only politicians for the first time in 1974 as European Commission leaders sought a way to chew over new ideas of integrating Europe’s economies and the world struggled with regional conflicts. In 1976, it extended memberships to CEOs and business executives of the top 1,000 companies worldwide.
Now, the global power brokers spend the week mulling over major world challenges and how to solve them. On the sidelines, they meet, greet and make deals. In my experience, the meetings and networking with other participants are more beneficial than attending the agenda sessions.
As an example, the multiple meetings BMG Financial Group have arranged between key Saudi senior government officials and the senior management of Deutsche Post DHL (DPDHL) Group have reinforcement the decision made by DPDHL to invest in Saudi and its vision. Obviously, logistics is considered as the backbone of any fast-growing economy. With Saudi Arabia, its Vision 2030 roadmap gives it a high priority considering the size and unique location of the country.
As Saudi Arabia is hosting the G20 meetings this year, in partnership with the G20 Secretariat, the WEF will host a “special meeting” on the Middle in the Fourth Industrial Revolution in Riyadh next April. It will highlight the complex technological change and the attendant need for industry, government, and civil society to work together.
This year could be the most important and busiest 12 months leading to Vision 2030. Apart from hosting the G20 in November and its different related meetings throughout the year covering business, youth, labor, and other areas, coupled with the Future Investment Forum in October, the next WEF meeting in April in Riyadh will be a quantum leap in the history of WEF. Saudi Arabia’s new role at the pinnacle of the Group of 20 leading global economies is a result of reforms that have been in the works for years.
Basil M.K. Al-Ghalayini is the Chairman and CEO of BMG Financial Group.