RIYADH: It is clear that Saudi Arabia is no longer content to simply be an oil exporter. Saudi Vision 2030 is designed to diversify the economy and ensure that all the Kingdom’s citizens are well prepared for future developments in all walks of life.
Female participation in the Saudi labor force is expected to increase in the near future. Female empowerment and employment are expected to lead economic growth, especially in the services sector.
Separately, regulatory changes have been made to the tourism, entertainment and leisure sectors to give a boost to service sectors, which generate more employment opportunities than the industrial sector.
A new digital model is being pursued in education, backed by smart devices. For example, five million students are now registered on e-learning platforms. One of the largest fund allocations in Budget 2021 is for education — SR186 billion ($49.6 billion).
Along with logistical channels, digital technology has also helped Saudi Arabia during the lockdown. In the health sector, the Tawakkalna system (the official app approved by the Saudi Ministry of Health to help prevent the spread of COVID-19) was launched, and now has 7.4 million users.
The bulk of Saudi Arabia’s population belongs in the Gen Z category (people born around 1995), the highest among the G20 countries. This is a major advantage for the Kingdom as it means its population can adapt to newer trends faster. Overall, Saudi citizens believe in technology and have faith in their rulers, thus helping advance the Kingdom’s goal of diversification faster.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has aligned itself with global practices in terms of the carbon cycle, with policies aimed at controlling carbon-dioxide emissions, the gas that constitutes 85 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions. Simultaneously, the Kingdom is prolonging the life of fossil fuels through efficient and cost-effective service.
Not only that, Saudi Arabia is aiming to generate 30 gigawatts of energy from renewables by 2025 and 60 gigawatts by 2030, which will further free up crude oil for exports. Energy demand is expected to double by 2050.
The Kingdom is investing in technology in a significant way. In the last three years, the Public Investment Fund (PIF) has put much stock in technology and early-stage venture-capital investments, both domestically and globally.
The PIF’s economic role has grown through its effective work in developing the local economy, expanding its portfolio of international assets, and establishing strategic partnerships to achieve its objectives, and to maximize sustainable returns as part of Saudi Vision 2030.
Saudi Arabia has taken the lead in building a drone manufacturing base, of which the first stage is 90 percent complete. The Kingdom wants to invest in and build tech expertise and aspires to be a formidable competitor to Silicon Valley. It is ranked second in the cybersecurity corporate indicator.
The Kingdom’s plans include building a $500 billion city, Neom. Neom will introduce a new model for urban sustainability and be a place that is focused on setting new standards for community health, environmental protection and the effective and productive use of technology.
- Mazen Al-Sudairi is head of research, Al Rajhi Capital