The hot areas Saudi entrepreneurs should be looking at

The hot areas Saudi entrepreneurs should be looking at
Historic AlUla is at the heart of Saudi Arabia’s plans to boost international visitor numbers. (Supplied)
Short Url
Updated 09 February 2020

The hot areas Saudi entrepreneurs should be looking at

The hot areas Saudi entrepreneurs should be looking at
  • Kingdom aiming for a 15 percent increase in GDP contribution from SMEs by 2030
  • Over 76.3 percent of young Saudi adults see business prospects within the country

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s economic development program aims to increase the gross domestic product (GDP) contribution of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from 20 percent at present to 35 percent by 2030.

Along the way, entrepreneurship opportunities will grow across a wide range of sectors, in what is by all accounts a significantly underserved market.

The Kingdom’s youth agree, with 76.3 percent of young adults seeing business prospects improving, according to a 2019 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report.

In technology alone, venture capital (VC) leaders STV project that annual aggregate investments could expand tenfold from $50 million in 2018 to $500 million in 2025. But what sectors should entrepreneurs be looking at?

Fintech

Riyadh Bank’s launch of a SR100 million ($26.65 million) fund to support Saudi Arabia’s financial technology (fintech) startups in October 2019 shows just how quickly the country has moved to create a cashless economy by 2030.

Key events include the launch of the supporting body Fintech Saudi, the addition of fintech to the commercial register, and the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority’s creation of a regulatory sandbox for local and international fintech startups to run tests in a supervised live environment.

Those in the space say established players are eager to collaborate with fintech startups to improve financial inclusion.

FlexxPay, a Dubai-based company that provides individuals with advances on their earned salary via deals, is relocating to the Kingdom.

“In (Saudi Arabia), there has been a huge shift over the past 12-18 months, where banks are eager to adopt new technologies and support fintech,” cofounder Michael Truschler said.




Flexxpay founders Charbel Nasr, left, and Michael Truschler. (Supplied)

Health care, life sciences

A fundamental shift is underway as the country of 35 million people moves from public-funded care toward a model that puts patients in charge of their own health.

As Saudi Arabia looks to combat obesity, heart disease and other chronic illnesses, the focus has shifted from hospitals and specialist settings to outpatient clinics. The market is growing at 12 percent a year, and is forecast to hit $160 billion by 2030.

Enterprise gaps exist in diagnostics and delivery, and manufacturing local alternatives to imported medical devices, about 9 percent of the market.

Recent investments indicate the sector’s strength. Medical records app Sihatech has raised $1.33 million, while diagnostics platform Nala won $1 million of funding.

Edtech

Saudi youth spend large amounts of time online in a country where mobile usage and Internet penetration are nearing 100 percent.

Add in the sector’s transition from a traditional teacher-centered approach to a learner-centered focus, and the country’s attraction for educational technology (edtech) startups is apparent: The market is estimated at $237.1 million by 2023.

The Saudi-born Noon Academy, which closed the largest-ever funding round by an edtech startup at $8.6 million last year, has expanded from two tutors and 30 students in 2013 to 1.6 million students in the country. It now expects to grow to 50 million students, partly by expanding into other markets.

Entertainment

The thousands of visitors attending music concerts as well as the first Japanese-themed anime expo testify to the market for entertainment in Saudi Arabia.

The Kingdom believes it can rank among the top 10 global entertainment destinations.

Plans for new entertainment facilities include 149 art galleries, 45 cinemas, 18 theaters, 27 electronic games venues, 16 family entertainment centers and an opera house.

The General Entertainment Authority (GEA) wants to attract investment of SR240 billion from local and global companies, and artists.

“SMEs, entrepreneurs and creative talents mainly fuel entertainment across many fields, hence this segment will benefit from the lion’s share of these investments,” said former GEA CEO, Amr Banaja, said. 

Travel and tourism

Saudi Arabia’s first tourist visas in September 2019 made headlines worldwide. It was only one aspect of a strategy to build 100 million international and domestic overnights annually by 2030, while creating a million jobs and contributing 10 percent to GDP.

The country needs about SR250 billion in new business investment and 500,000 new hotel rooms over the next decade.

Ross McAuley, vice president of marketing at the travel-focused Seera Group, said that travel and tourism is a “key driver and beneficiary” of social change in the Kingdom.

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.


King Salman offers Ramadan wishes, orders best services for pilgrims

King Salman offers Ramadan wishes, orders best services for pilgrims
Updated 14 April 2021

King Salman offers Ramadan wishes, orders best services for pilgrims

King Salman offers Ramadan wishes, orders best services for pilgrims

RIYADH: King Salman on Tuesday offered his best wishes to the Muslim world on the first day of the fasting month of Ramadan. 
The comments came as the king chaired the weekly government meeting virtually. 
He also instructed that pilgrims be given the best possible services during the holy month, which for a second year will be observed under strict protocols to help curtail the spread of the coronavirus. 


Saudi Culture Ministry issues guide to acquiring national artworks

Saudi Culture Ministry issues guide to acquiring national artworks
Updated 14 April 2021

Saudi Culture Ministry issues guide to acquiring national artworks

Saudi Culture Ministry issues guide to acquiring national artworks
  • The guide consists of six main chapters, and also includes methods for maintaining and restoring art

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture has published a guide for government agencies and institutions wishing to acquire artworks created by Saudi artists.
The guide falls under the framework of a royal order directing government agencies to acquire national artworks and handicraft products for their headquarters, according to a directory prepared by the culture ministry.
Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan said the order, which was based on directives from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, provided the greatest support for the visual arts sector in the Kingdom, and for the nation’s artists.
He said the guide provides basic information, including the processes of procurement, acquisition, art collections, restoration, maintenance and preserving the integrity of artworks, in a way that guarantees the creation of a national art market and fosters relations between the artist and the buyer.
The guide consists of six main chapters, and also includes explanations on the importance of respecting intellectual property rights.


Nazaha oversees 176 arrests in Saudi corruption crackdown

Nazaha oversees 176 arrests in Saudi corruption crackdown
Nazaha has continued to ramp up crackdowns on corruption, fraud and bribery in Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
Updated 13 April 2021

Nazaha oversees 176 arrests in Saudi corruption crackdown

Nazaha oversees 176 arrests in Saudi corruption crackdown
  • The pair had opened commercial records and bank accounts before handing them to expatriates in return for a monthly fee

JEDDAH: Saudi authorities have arrested 176 citizens and expatriates, including government ministry employees, for alleged involvement in corruption.
In a statement, the Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority (Nazaha) said those arrested include employees of the defense, interior, national guard, finance, health, justice, municipal, rural affairs and housing, education, transport, information, and human resources and social development ministries, as well as workers from Saudi Customs, the General Authority of the Red Crescent and the National Water Co.
Charges leveled against the employees cover bribery, abuse of power and forgery charges. They were arrested in 971 inspection raids carried out by Nazaha teams in the last month.
Arrests were made following investigations into 700 people suspected of corruption. Nazaha said that legal procedures are being completed before the accused are referred to courts.
The authority called on Saudis to report suspicious activities involving financial or administrative corruption by contacting the toll free number 980, the email @nazaha.gov.sa or the fax number 0114420057.
Nazaha has continued to ramp up crackdowns on corruption, fraud and bribery in the Kingdom over the past year. Recent activities include the arrest of 65 Saudis and expats in February this year, 48 of whom were government employees from seven different ministries. Charges included bribery, abuse of influence and power, as well as fraud and forgery.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Arrests were made following investigations into 700 people suspected of corruption.

• Charges leveled against those arrested include bribery, abuse of power and forgery charges.

“Nazaha is standing up against financial and administrative corruption,” Majed Garoub, a lawyer, told Arab News. “The crackdown on corruption is a reality and we’re witnessing its success every time we hear the good news of these arrests.”
In March, two Saudi citizens were sentenced to 28 years in jail and fined up to $3.47 million after an investigation exposed their roles in an organized crime gang that laundered money overseas.
The pair had opened commercial records and bank accounts before handing them to expatriates in return for a monthly fee. They allowed expats to invest in their commercial unit, use their bank accounts, and deposit money they had obtained illegally and transfer it abroad.
In November last year, Nazaha arrested 22 people after seizing more than SR600 million ($160 million) in what was described as “the largest case of corruption in the Kingdom.”

 


Worshippers flock to Grand Mosque in Makkah as dawn breaks on Ramadan

Worshippers flock to Grand Mosque in Makkah as dawn breaks on Ramadan
Updated 14 April 2021

Worshippers flock to Grand Mosque in Makkah as dawn breaks on Ramadan

Worshippers flock to Grand Mosque in Makkah as dawn breaks on Ramadan
  • Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic fails to dampen the true spirit of the holy month

JEDDAH: The holy month of Ramadan is a favorite of Muslims as they focus on their inner well-being, faith and connect with their roots, religion and family.

Around the world, people prepare for the month with great passion. The most common preparation begins with grocery shopping, subtle decorations in homes and quiet corners designated for prayers, among other things.
Muslim residents of Saudi Arabia highlight their joy by sharing meals with friends and family. However, because of coronavirus health restrictions, they will not be able to enjoy its full effect this year.
Taking lessons learned from an isolated Ramadan last year, people in Saudi Arabia are instead focusing on self-care before to achieve the holy month’s main purpose: Growing closer to God through prayer and devotion.
However, people do miss the usual festivities during the month due to the pandemic. Under normal circumstances, this month generally witnesses hustle and bustle not only in markets and eateries but mosques also become full of worshippers who want to utilize this month effectively for their spiritual growth.   

Ramadan makes social distancing a bit harder to bear since it’s the month in which we feel like sharing meals the most.

Hamna Khan

This is the second Ramadan since the beginning of the pandemic. Due to the health precautions, the situation is no longer the same, as people have to be very careful.  
Hamna Khan, a Pakistani expat living in Jeddah, told Arab News: “Ramadan makes social distancing a bit harder to bear since it’s the month in which we feel like sharing meals the most.”
Palestinian student Rahaf Burchalli saw the humor of the situation, saying that her family will be putting hand sanitizer on the dining table as an appropriate addition.
For many Muslims, the month of Ramadan means going back to religious habits, such as praying on time, dedicating a part of the day to reciting the Qur’an and doing as many good deeds as possible.
Although the experience in 2021 will be different, given the nationwide curfew in place this time last year, restrictions still remain to curb the spread of coronavirus, leaving many people with more time on their hands.

It is important to organize oneself, as the routine in Ramadan is different than the rest of the year.

Rahaf Burchalli

People are planning different activities and chores to use this spare time efficiently by engaging in productive activities.
For Khan, the extra time will be spent decluttering her house for Ramadan so that it becomes easier to clean for Eid. “Since the month means a lot of time spent with food, I make sure that preparations are done ahead of time before Ramadan.”
Burchalli, on the other hand, said that her pre-Ramadan preparations are psychological, rather than physical. “The heart begins to get ready and feels reassured for the beginning of my favorite month of the year. The decoration comes after that and I think that it is essential to enter the atmosphere of Ramadan.”
She added that her preparations also involve spiritual practices such as “organizing my sleep, eating and worship times.
“It is important to organize oneself, as the routine in Ramadan is different than the rest of the year,” she said.


Saudi Arabia’s first philosophy journal breaks new ground

Saudi Arabia’s first philosophy journal breaks new ground
The Saudi Journal of Philosophical Studies (SJPS) was launched by the cultural platform Mana, which was set up two years ago. (Supplied)
Updated 14 April 2021

Saudi Arabia’s first philosophy journal breaks new ground

Saudi Arabia’s first philosophy journal breaks new ground
  • Philosophers from outside the Arab world contributed to the first issue, specifically from Germany and the US

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s first philosophy journal has been issued, with its editor-in-chief saying that the country was witnessing a “tangible philosophical renaissance.”
The Saudi Journal of Philosophical Studies (SJPS) was launched by the cultural platform Mana, which was set up two years ago.
According to its editor in chief, Sarah Al-Rajhi, the principal aim of the journal was to help researchers in the Kingdom, the Arab world and the West to publish their work without any financial cost and in line with accurate scientific standards.
“Philosophy indicates the position of knowledge within any culture,” she told Arab News. “It is no secret that Saudi Arabia is currently witnessing a tangible philosophical renaissance that should have culminated in the launch of a refereed academic philosophical journal. At Mana, we aim to train researchers in philosophical writing and create a kind of accumulation in this regard. We do this on our online platform, and more systematically in our peer-reviewed journal.”
She said that the SJPS advisory board included 12 leading thinkers and philosophers from the Arab world and the West, and that this number was appropriate because each member represented an orientation and school of thought.
The scholars were chosen on the basis of precise criteria, the most important of which were their research, their recognition by the scientific research community, their “abundant philosophical production” and their geographical distribution.
The advisory board includes members from Saudi Arabia, the US, Australia, the UK, Senegal, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Algeria.
Al-Rajhi said that the SJPS had received a large number of research papers in different languages from many countries since its launch.
“We subjected this research to close referees as the journal has a list of highly qualified referees. We apologized to some researchers whose research did not meet the required publishing standards, and we provided them with the referees’ reports that include important notes and instructions in order to help them address the deficiencies in their research and develop them.”

FASTFACTS

• The Saudi Journal of Philosophical Studies (SJPS) was launched by the cultural platform Mana, which was set up two years ago.

• The SJPS advisory board includes 12 leading thinkers and philosophers from the Arab world and the West.

• Among the open access articles are a paper from the US-Lebanese philosopher Raja Halwani.

• Another article is from Mohamed Mohamed Madian, philosophy professor at the University of Cairo.

Philosophers from outside the Arab world contributed to the first issue, specifically from Germany and the US.
The first edition of the SJPS was applauded by elite cultural figures and entities, including Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan. He tweeted the issue announcement, adding: “Such a great step to enrich Saudi philosophical content.”

Such a great step to enrich Saudi philosophical content. Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan
Saudi culture minister

Al-Rajhi, in turn, expressed her gratitude for the support that the Saudi cultural community received from the ministry.
“With your continuing encouragement and support to the knowledge and cultural movement in Saudi Arabia, the future will even be brighter with more and more steps,” she replied.
She said that some of the journal’s articles were free to access for readers on the Mana platform and that issues would also be sent to Saudi and Arab universities.
Al-Rajhi, who is the co-founder of Mana, said the journal could contribute to strengthening the Kingdom’s philosophical movement and that the encouragement of academic publishing in the field of philosophy was the pinnacle of this movement.
“To write a philosophical paper in a systematic way that adheres to the accuracy and academic standards in writing, and for the scientific community to read what you write, is a great thing and a beginning that can be both built and expanded upon. Moreover, we believe that the international character of the SJPS allows Saudi researchers to learn about the research output of their colleagues around the world.”
Al-Rajhi explained what distinguished the SJPS from other Arab and international refereed journals. It did not just present research papers, but a variety of content.
“This content included an introductory essay on a philosophical topic, an introductory essay about a philosopher, an introduction to a research project, translations of two valuable texts from English into Arabic, and finally a statistical analysis of the publications of the most important international publishing houses in the second half of 2020.”
She said there was a clear philosophical activity in Saudi Arabia that nobody could ignore and that it was part of the country’s general cultural activity, adding that had it not been for the “official institutions’ support of this activity, it would not have appeared this way.”
The next desired step within the Saudi philosophy community was to teach the subject in the country’s universities as an independent academic discipline, she said.
“We have tried to create a kind of intersection between philosophy and academia, and we are hopeful that it will be a step that paves the way toward establishing the first departments of philosophical studies in Saudi universities.”
Among the open access articles are a paper from the US-Lebanese philosopher Raja Halwani, who is a philosophy professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
In his abstract for the “Virtue of Integrity,” Halwani writes there is a powerful argument that integrity is not a virtue because it would be a redundant virtue, or what he calls the “redundancy objection.”
He said that integrity was usually tested when the agent was under pressure or tempted to act against their values. A virtuous person was someone who had virtues, including wisdom, and was able to act properly whenever the situation called for it.
Another article is from Mohamed Mohamed Madian, philosophy professor at the University of Cairo’s Faculty of Art.
He discusses Cornel Ronald West, a prominent left-wing African-American thinker, and his writing focuses on three levels expressing the West’s philosophy: Prophetic pragmatism, the philosopher’s concept of democracy, and the problem of racial discrimination.