Australian envoy to Saudi Arabia hails successful presidency of G20 amid pandemic

Australian envoy to Saudi Arabia hails successful presidency of G20 amid pandemic
Australia’s battle with the coronavirus pandemic took a step closer to ending after the New South Wales state relaxed health restrictions. (AFP)
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Updated 08 November 2020

Australian envoy to Saudi Arabia hails successful presidency of G20 amid pandemic

Australian envoy to Saudi Arabia hails successful presidency of G20 amid pandemic
  • Balancing health measures and economic growth will be focus of November’s Riyadh Summit

LONDON: Australian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Ridwaan Jadwat congratulated Saudi Arabia on its presidency of the G20 during the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s been a very difficult year for everybody. We congratulate not only the authorities but all the frontline health care workers who have been doing their very best to keep people safe,” Jadwat told Arab News.

Jadwat remarked on how the meetings scheduled between working groups, engagement groups and ministers hardly skipped a beat this year and praised the decision of the Saudi presidency to continue the G20 meetings virtually.

“The decision for leaders to meet virtually in November was appropriate, given the logistical and health challenges in the current context,” he said. “We hope that the leaders will have another opportunity in the future to visit the Kingdom.

“The G20 is an institution that comes into its own when most needed; it is more a rough-weather friend than a fair-weather one.”

Under the Saudi Arabian presidency, the G20 is bringing members together to address response and recovery measures to COVID-19. “Leaders met earlier this year in March to discuss the crisis at the extraordinary G20 leaders’ summit … and COVID-19 continues to be the key focus leading into the summit in November.”

Jadwat stressed the importance of strong multilateral institutions, such as the G20, in a time of unprecedented global challenges.

“They’re vital to international stability. It is more important now than ever for leaders to have open lines of communication. And this is doubly true for the G20, which brings together the world’s biggest economies, given the significant economic impact of the pandemic.”

Jadwat said that the G20 has a key role in creating the conditions for future prosperity.

“Australia is focused on job creation through supply-side reforms and on restoring demand and enabling a private sector-led recovery, which is very important. The G20 has a key role in promoting the importance of the multilateral trading system and in providing political guidance and support for World Trade Organization reform.”

In commenting on the summit’s theme for this year, “Realizing Opportunities of the 21st Century For All,” the ambassador said that it has taken on a new meaning during the pandemic.

“Saving lives has to be our top priority. Australia is committed to equitable access to a vaccine once it’s developed and is actively engaged in international efforts to this end, through the Gavi-led COVAX facility. We need to support the health capacity of all vulnerable and low-income countries across regions, including the small states in our region closer to Australia,” he said.




Australian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Ridwaan Jadwat. (Supplied)

Jadwat emphasized prioritizing economic growth as part of the G20 agenda while also ensuring that the global financial safety net is adequate, well-resourced, and responsive, adding that women’s participation will be vital to an inclusive and sustainable economic recovery.

“This is a key priority for Australia across the G20. We want to hold the pandemic-induced backsliding and resume progress toward the Brisbane 25 by 25 goal,” he said, referring to the 2014 G20 initiative to reduce the gender gap in labor force participation by 25 percent by 2025.

Jadwat applauded the Women 20 (W20) engagement group for hosting a successful summit, which he said will feed strong outcomes into the leaders’ meeting.

“I had the great pleasure of meeting with W20 Sherpa Salma Al-Rashid and Chair Dr. Thoraya Obaid. We are very happy with the work they have been doing over the course of this year, including working with W20 representatives from Australia.”

Since Jadwat first assumed his position as ambassador to Saudi Arabia, strengthening relations between Australia and the Kingdom has been a priority. 

FASTFACT

Australia’s consumer price index for 2020 rose 1.6% this quarter.

“It’s been an important mission for me to help build bridges between our two peoples. Australia’s relations with Saudi Arabia have been consistently friendly and constructive, but we can do even more together.”

Jadwat said that although the two countries are relatively far away from each other geographically, both economies have strong complementarities. With similarly sized populations, large desert areas, and abundant natural resources, Jadwat pointed out that the cornerstone of Australia’s relations with Saudi Arabia is strong trade-economic ties.

“We have natural strengths in the energy sector, but we are not competitors. We both value technology and finding innovative ways to solve problems. We have much to offer Saudi Arabia in education mining, agriculture and tourism, especially as it diversifies its economy.”

Jadwat highlighted that a goal of Vision 2030 is to develop the tourism sector and that Australia has much experience in managing sustainable, environmentally friendly tourism projects, like in the Great Barrier Reef and other places throughout the country.

“I think we have a lot to offer in terms of our expertise in tourism and environmental management. Australia is a mining superpower that has helped make us the 13th largest economy in the world. I know there are a lot of unexplored natural resources in Saudi Arabia. So in terms of engineering and mineral exploration, Australia has a lot to offer.

“One of the things that I’m most proud of is the education relationship and the number of alumni from Australian universities who are here in Saudi Arabia. We also have thousands of Saudi students who continue to study every year in Australia. I think that’s a testament to the relationship between the two societies. I feel that those Saudi students who come back to the Kingdom become ambassadors for Australia as well,” he said.

 


UAE is an innovator in the management of food waste, experts say

UAE is an innovator in the management of food waste, experts say
Updated 29 July 2021

UAE is an innovator in the management of food waste, experts say

UAE is an innovator in the management of food waste, experts say
  • Average person in the UAE wastes 197kg of food a year, at a total annual cost to the country of $3.5 billion, said CEO of Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center
  • In 2015, 16,900 tons of food imported by Dubai was rejected and sent to landfill; in 2020 the total was just half a ton, according to food-trade expert said

LONDON: The UAE is embracing innovative new approaches to the challenges of sustainable food production and the management of food waste, according to experts.

Food security and waste have been important global issues for some time. But the concerns have taken on a renewed urgency in the past year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, as a result of which global food-supply chains have been disrupted and crop yields have suffered, said Lord Udny-Lister, co-chairman of the UAE-UK Business Council.

He was speaking during a webinar hosted by the council to discuss ways to manage food and food waste across the supply chain and prevent the global food industry from damaging the environment.

“Technology and innovation will undoubtedly be the solution to addressing the food-waste challenge, as well as boosting food security so that nearly 1 billion people who currently go very hungry have a more reliable supply of food in the future,” he said.

Najla Al-Midfa, CEO of the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center, said: “In the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region, reports show that we waste up to 250 kilograms of food a year per capita. And when it comes to the UAE, food waste sets us back an average of $3.5 billion every year, with an average person wasting about 197 kilograms of food per year,” she said

The UAE Food Bank, which was launched in 2017 to provide food to those in need and eliminate food waste, works with local authorities and local and international charities to create a comprehensive ecosystem to efficiently store, package and distribute excess fresh food discarded by hotels, restaurants and supermarkets.

“The UAE’s hospitality sector, which contributes more than 30 percent of all food waste, is stepping up its efforts, with the key players in the industry taking up the UAE Food Waste Pledge to fight food waste in their kitchens,” Al-Midfa said.

The Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center is also partnering with Etihad Airways on a pilot program to introduce in-flight meal trays that use smart technology to collect data on how much food passengers waste when they fly.

“Recording food preferences helps the airline industry reduce food waste, an issue that costs the industry about $3.9 billion every year,” Al-Midfa added.

Lord Benyon, parliamentary under-secretary of state at the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said there is the potential for a great amount of synergy between UAE and the UK in the global food industry, and that authorities in Britain aim to reduce food waste by 20 percent by 2025.

Trade between the countries was worth more than £15 billion ($20.9 billion) last year, £3 billion less than 2019 as a result of disruption caused by the pandemic.

Essam Sharaf Al-Hashimi, the head of Dubai Municipality’s Food Trade Control Section, said the city is completely dependent on imported food, with almost 8 million tons shipped in each year.

In 2015, almost 16,900 tons of imported food was rejected and ended up in landfill. By 2016, this had been reduced to 13,586 tons, and by 2020 to a little over half a ton.

Claire Hughes, director of products and innovation at British supermarket chain Sainsbury’s, said UK authorities have set a target to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2040, while also reducing water use, increasing recycling, and reducing food waste by 50 percent by 2030.

She said Sainsbury’s is working on developing electronic price labels on shelves and a digital system that will automatically reduce prices on food items close to their expiration dates, something that currently has to be done manually.

Martin Wickham, a food and drink investment specialist at the UK Department of International Trade, said 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted worldwide each year, which costs the global economy about $1 trillion.

However, food waste contains numerous chemicals that have a wide range of potential commercial applications, he added, and there are many small startup businesses making real inroads in this area.

He predicted that we will see the development of a very different environment for the consumption, production and transport of food and the ways in which we deal with its waste.

Khalid Al-Huraimal, the CEO of Emirati environmental-management company Bee’ah, said up to 38 percent of food is wasted in the UAE, and this figure rises to 60 percent during Ramadan.

“Today we have achieved a diversion rate away from landfill of 76 percent, which is the highest in the Middle East, and once our waste-to-energy plant is commissioned later this year, we will be close to hitting zero waste going to landfill,” he said.

He added that one of the UN’s sustainability goals is to reduce food waste by 50 percent by 2030, and the UAE is committed to achieving that target. Bee’ah has also launched programs to educate communities on the importance of segregating waste. The company is also planning to implement its strategies in Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Al-Huraimal said the pandemic has made people more aware of the challenges relating to sustainability and climate change.

Ignacio Ramirez, the managing director of Winnow, a company that helps businesses reduce food waste, said wasted food is three times worse for the environment than single-use plastics in terms of carbon emissions but the issue is considered taboo.

He said Winnow helps its clients save $42 million a year in food waste, equivalent to 36 million meals, and about 10 percent of that is in the UAE.

Sean Dennis, the CEO of UAE-based online marketplace Seafood Souq, said almost half of all caught seafood is wasted in developing countries and about 25 percent in developed countries.

“It’s probably the most highly valuable highly perishable item that’s traded globally that we consume,” and one of the most important sources of income and health he said.


Saudi delivery startup raises $2.4m to expand outside KSA

Ahmad Ramahi (left), founder and CEO of WeDeliver, and co-founder Nasser Al-Maawi. (Supplied)
Ahmad Ramahi (left), founder and CEO of WeDeliver, and co-founder Nasser Al-Maawi. (Supplied)
Updated 28 min 20 sec ago

Saudi delivery startup raises $2.4m to expand outside KSA

Ahmad Ramahi (left), founder and CEO of WeDeliver, and co-founder Nasser Al-Maawi. (Supplied)
  • The startup uses artificial intelligence and a mobile application to partner companies

JEDDAH: WeDeliver, a parcel delivery startup headquartered in Riyadh, has secured SR9 million ($2.4 million) as part of its first pre-seed investment round, it was announced on Wednesday.

The startup uses artificial intelligence and a mobile application to partner companies that have parcels to be delivered with a network of freelance drivers close by.

The company launched its operations in the Kingdom in April last year, just weeks after the pandemic took hold. Starting first in Riyadh, it has since expanded to Jeddah and the Eastern Province.

Ahmad Ramahi, co-founder and CEO of WeDeliver, said in a press statement: “WeDeliver is a MENA startup with a global vision, driven by an experienced team. We have ambitious plans to enrich our growth in the Saudi market and look forward to expanding to new regional markets.

“We believe that our asset-light collaborative model will disrupt intra-city logistics, enabling faster, more efficient, low-cost delivery for businesses and online sellers,” he added. Nasser Al-Maawi, another cofounder of the startup, said that WeDeliver has seen “strong results” and reported “300 percent growth in the second quarter of this year.”

According to a recent industry report, Saudi startups raised more than a quarter of a billion dollars in venture capital (VC) funding during the first half of 2021.

A total of $1.228 billion was raised by startups in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in the first six months of the year, a rise of 63 percent year on year and 12 percent more than was raised during the whole of 2020, according to figures from the MENA H1 2021 Venture Investment Report, published by Dubai-based research platform Magnitt.

According to the report, the top three countries in the MENA region for startup funding were the UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, accounting for 71 percent of total investment. The UAE was the dominant market, making up 26 percent of total funding, followed by Egypt with 24 percent and Saudi Arabia with 21 percent, for a total of $257.88 million.

“It’s also important to note that within this top three ranking, Egypt was the only geography to observe a deal count increase year on year, while Saudi Arabia has almost closed the deal count gap with UAE from 44 deals in 2020 to just an 11-deal difference in H1 2021,” the report said. The food and beverage sector was the most popular among VCs in terms of dollars invested, while the fintech sector generated the most deals.

According to this year’s Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report, total entrepreneurial activity in Saudi Arabia increased in 2020 by 24 percent compared to 2019. It also showed that more than 90 percent of adults saw entrepreneurship as a favorable career choice, while a third of Saudis surveyed said that they were keen on launching a business within the next three years.


MasterCard launches support for cryptocurrency startups

MasterCard launches support for cryptocurrency startups
Updated 29 July 2021

MasterCard launches support for cryptocurrency startups

MasterCard launches support for cryptocurrency startups
  • XRP, a cryptocurrency that Ripple uses in its payments network, rose 15.48 percent on Wednesday

RIYADH: Bitcoin traded higher on Wednesday, rising by 3.95 percent to $39,808.10 at 4:21 p.m. Riyadh time. Ether, the world’s second most-traded cryptocurrency, was down 0.29 percent to $2,291.10, according to data from CoinDesk.

XRP, a cryptocurrency that Ripple uses in its payments network, rose 15.48 percent on Wednesday, trading at $0.74, its highest level since June 21. This represents a daily gain of 13 percent, after the company said it is targeting the $1.8 billion Filipino Remittance Corridor. Ripple announced that Japanese money transfer provider SBI Remit and Philippine mobile payment service Coins.ph have teamed up to move remittance payments from Japan to the Philippines, CoinDesk reported.

Earlier this week, US Sen. Elizabeth Warren wrote to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen outlining several concerns about the risks posed by cryptocurrencies. Warren asked Yellen to act urgently and adopt appropriate policies to address her concerns.

She claimed that the longer the US waits to introduce the appropriate regulatory regime for these assets, the more likely they will become so entangled in the financial system, potentially creating serious consequences if this market comes under pressure. 

The senator from Massachusetts said: “I have become increasingly concerned about the dangers cryptocurrencies pose to investors, consumers, and the environment in the absence of sufficient regulation in the US,” according to Bitcoin News.

MasterCard on Tuesday announced a new global program dedicated to supporting fast-growing digital assets, blockchain and cryptocurrency companies. Seven startups have signed up for the Start Path program. With Mastercard, the startups will expand and accelerate innovation around digital asset technology and make it safer and easier for people and organizations to buy, spend and hold cryptocurrency and digital assets, Bitcoin News reported.


ExxonMobil, Sabic US petrochemical complex to operate end of 2021

ExxonMobil, Sabic US petrochemical complex to operate end of 2021
Updated 28 July 2021

ExxonMobil, Sabic US petrochemical complex to operate end of 2021

ExxonMobil, Sabic US petrochemical complex to operate end of 2021
  • The project, located near Corpus Christi, Texas, is expected to begin ahead of schedule, likely in the fourth quarter of 2021

RIYADH: A petrochemical complex on the US coast being built Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) and ExxonMobil is expected to be operational by the end of 2021, the US energy company said.

The complex — which is being developed by Gulf Coast Growth Ventures (GCGV), a joint-owned company by the Saudi and US companies — has reached mechanical completion of a monoethylene glycol unit and two polyethylene units, ExxonMobil said.

“Gulf Coast Growth Ventures is a key development of our plan to serve growing demand for our high value performance products,” said Karen McKee, ExxonMobil President. 

The project, located near Corpus Christi, Texas, is expected to begin ahead of schedule, likely in the fourth quarter of 2021.

“Not only are we ahead of schedule, but we have executed this project with the highest commitment and emphasis on safety with nearly 18 million safe person-hours worked, all while acting on the promises we made to the community when we started this journey four years ago,” said Abdulrahman Al-Fageeh, SABIC’s executive vice president of petrochemicals. 

GCGV will produce 1,100 kilotons of monoethylene glycol and 1,300 kilotons of polyethylene per year upon completion.

“The benefits of this strategic joint venture will not only accrue to SABIC but also to Saudi Aramco, which bought the company from the Public Investment Fund to create a Saudi synergy in local petrochemical production,” independent economist and former professor of finance and economics at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals Dr. Mohamed Ramady told Arab news.

Once in full production, the new venture will add a welcome stream of additional revenue to SABIC’s profitability and its market value. It is expected to reinforce the Kingdom’s diversification into high-value hydrocarbon products through high-performance plastics, adding to SABIC’s portfolio of agri-nutrients and metals, he said.

“This new strategic joint venture cements the ongoing relationship that SABIC has built over the years with international partners as part of its plans to service its key overseas markets with high quality petrochemical downstream products,” he added.

The project created more than 600 permanent jobs with average salaries of $90,000 per year and an additional 6,000 high-paying jobs were created during construction.

The project is expected to be delivered under budget and at approximately 25 percent less than the average cost of similar projects along the US Gulf Coast.


Oil nears $75 on US inventory decline as pandemic concerns recede

Oil nears $75 on US inventory decline as pandemic concerns recede
Updated 28 July 2021

Oil nears $75 on US inventory decline as pandemic concerns recede

Oil nears $75 on US inventory decline as pandemic concerns recede
  • ‘Supply is likely to remain tight even with the production hikes set by OPEC+,’ says broker

LONDON/RIYADH: Brent crude approached $75 a barrel on Wednesday as a report showed US inventories fell more than expected last week, moving the market’s focus away from concerns that rising coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections will hurt demand.

Crude in storage fell to the lowest since January 2020, while distillate supplies posted the biggest decline since April, according to a report from the US Energy Information Agency. Fuel inventories fell by more than 2 million barrels.

WTI, the US benchmark, added 0.5 percent to $72.03 a barrel as of 3:48 p.m. in London, while Brent climbed 0.3 percent to $74.72.

Oil is 45 percent higher this year, boosted by a return of demand, as economies have reopened following millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines, while OPEC+ has kept supply tight.

However, OPEC+ agreed to increase supply by 400,000 barrels a day every month from August, leading to speculation as to whether demand will continue to return.

“Oil supply is likely to remain tight even with the production hikes set by OPEC+,” Naeem Aslam, from online broker Avatrade, told Reuters.

Russia’s flagship Urals crude oil has mostly been used in Europe so far this year due to relatively low output and high prices, while Asian markets have shunned the blend, data showed on Wednesday.

As a result, Russia has lagged behind Saudi Arabia in China’s energy market, one of the world’s largest.

According to Refinitiv Eikon data, the port of Rotterdam, Europe’s biggest oil hub, received 9.7 million tons of Urals in the first half of this year, up from 7.3 million tons in the same period last year.

At the same time, supplies of seaborne Urals cargoes to China plunged to 1.8 million tons from 7.86 million in the first half of 2020.

This year, the spread between Brent — to which Urals is linked — and the Middle Eastern Dubai blend has reached an all-time high of more than $4 per barrel, making Russian oil uncompetitive in Asia.

India has also cut purchases of Urals, while South Korea and Thailand have completely stopped intake of the blend.

Some European countries, notably Finland, have also reduced purchases of seaborne Urals amid the move to greener economies.