Careem welcomes Saudization of ride-hailing sector, eyes further investment

Careem welcomes Saudization of ride-hailing sector, eyes further investment
Careem has 33 million registered users in 13 countries across the region. (File/Reuters)
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Updated 16 January 2021

Careem welcomes Saudization of ride-hailing sector, eyes further investment

Careem welcomes Saudization of ride-hailing sector, eyes further investment
  • Careem said the company had been affected by the pandemic because workers stayed at home and cut down on their travel

DUBAI: Ride-hailing service Careem has welcomed a government decision to fully localize the sector in the Kingdom, saying the move will help to create more jobs for Saudi drivers.

The Saudi Ministry of Transport said the new rule would have limited impact as citizens already made up 96 percent of the workforce in the ride-hailing sector.

“We are proud that over 100,000 Saudi nationals are finding income-earning opportunities with Careem each month,” a Careem spokesperson told Arab News. “We’ve worked hand-in-hand with the Transport General Authority and Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development to help the Kingdom achieve its ambitious agenda, and applaud the efforts the government is making to support Saudis working in the ride-hailing sector.”

The spokesperson added that Careem planned to continue investing in the Kingdom with a greater range of transportation and delivery services. 

Although Careem did not give specific numbers for its operations in Saudi Arabia, it said it had 33 million registered users in 13 countries across the region and operated in 28 Saudi cities.

Ibrahim Manna, managing director of global markets at Careem, said the company had been affected by the pandemic because workers stayed at home and cut down on their travel.

“COVID-19 has impacted our ride-hailing, starting in March,” he told Arab News. “This is a natural result of lockdowns, curfews and other limitations of movement, changing user behavior and habits in daily life.”

But while the ride-hailing service decreased, food delivery demand soared.

“Delivery was one of the big growth levers,” he added. “Due to the change in the daily lives and needs of the customer, we adapted quickly and provided them with what they needed most. We partnered up with many stores, pharmacies and restaurants, in order to deliver essentials to citizens in Saudi Arabia during a difficult time.”

On Thursday Mueed Al Saeed, assisting vice president of Land Transport Regulation of the Public Transport Authority, said there were 16 companies including Careem licensed to operate ride-hailing services in the Kingdom.

He also said 300 million trips had been carried out during the past three years, and that there were 250,000 drivers actively working for these services.


AS IT HAPPENED: Future Investment Initiative 2021, Day Two

AS IT HAPPENED: Future Investment Initiative 2021, Day Two
Updated 1 min 53 sec ago

AS IT HAPPENED: Future Investment Initiative 2021, Day Two

AS IT HAPPENED: Future Investment Initiative 2021, Day Two

DUBAI: The Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh is on its second day with scheduled discussions on a plethora of subjects from the circular carbon economy, green economy, sustainable tourism to investing in equality.

Watch the livestream of FII 2021’s second day:

With more than 250 expert speakers delving on ‘Investing in Humanity’ at the three-day Davos of the Desert, the second day’s opening plenary tackled the concept of circular carbon economy — an integrated and inclusive approach to transitioning toward more comprehensive, resilient, sustainable and climate-friendly energy systems that support and enable sustainable development.

Discussions revolved on how the investment community, business and government work together to achieve progress towards the G20 recommendations of the circular carbon economy.

The scheduled speakers included Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s energy minister; Lorenzo Simonelli, chairman and CEO of Baker Hughes; Matt Harris, founding partner of Global Infrastructure Partners and Dr. Jennifer Holmgren, CEO of LanzaTech.

(All times in GMT) ­­

06:57 – “We are suggesting a $500 million program that will take care of about 750 million people, like a micro-financing scheme for energy projects, where other lending agencies can join to form a total of $2 billion,” the Saudi energy minister says.

06:45 – Prince Abdulaziz talks about the Kingdom’s consolidated efforts in pursuit of ssustainability, adding ‘we’ll be issuing our own energy strategy soon.’

06:37 – Energy security, economic prosperity, and the well-being of people are the three key pillars of Saudi Arabia’s circular carbon economy agenda, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman says.

06:24 – Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman opens the discussion on investing in the circular carbon economy.


Saudi Arabia has its eye on the prize in the esports boom

Saudi Arabia has its eye on the prize in the esports boom
Updated 27 October 2021

Saudi Arabia has its eye on the prize in the esports boom

Saudi Arabia has its eye on the prize in the esports boom
  • Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan, president of the Kingdom’s esports federation, said the sector has the potential to contribute billions of dollars to the local economy
  • Analysts predict that global revenues from esports will grow to more than $1.08 billion in 2021 and will surpass $1.6 billion by 2024

RIYADH: Electronic gaming, or egaming, is an increasingly popular activity, with a recent study suggesting that 50 percent of the Saudi population consider themselves regular gamers.

A frequent criticism of electronic gaming is that it is a waste of time with little or no economic value. However Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan, president of the Saudi Arabian Federation for Electronic and Intellectual Sports, believes e-gaming and esports, which is the term for competitive video gaming, have the potential to contribute billions of dollars to business, job creation and gross domestic product in the Kingdom.

“When you talk about the potential in the Saudi market, one of the first things that I think back to is that we did a study with the Ministry of Sports and more than 23, 24 percent of the population considers themselves avid gamers who play more than once a week,” the prince told Arab News on Tuesday at the Future Investment Initiative Forum in Riyadh.

“About 23, 24 percent-plus consider themselves regular gamers who play more than once a month. That’s almost 50, if not more than 50, percent of the population that consider themselves gamers.”

The prince predicts that the sector will contribute about 1 percent of Saudi GDP by 2030, which might seem a small proportion but the amount of money potentially involved is significant.

“Do we really want to say 1 percent?” he asked. “Is that really a number? It sounds really small. They said, ‘That is worth more than SR80 billion ($21 billion),’ and I said I’ll go with 1 percent. That sounds like a really good number to me, and that’s both from direct and indirect job creation and GDP creation through the gaming and e-sports industry.”

According to the Global Esports and Live Streaming Market Report, published in March by games and esports analyst Newzoo, global revenues from esports, or competitive video gaming, are projected to grow to more than $1.08 billion in 2021, an increase of 14 percent on the previous year.
 

Market and consumer data company Statista predicts that global esports revenue will surpass $1.6 billion by 2024.

Like their counterparts in other countries, a growing number of Saudis are taking part in esports and streaming their gaming activities on platforms such as YouTube and Twitch. Audience numbers are also growing.

Video gaming and esports are known for fostering creativity, collaboration and leadership, skills that are highly valued in the business world. Consequently, esports and egaming can provide a path to a range of careers and employment opportunities. And as the esports sector grows, these could increasingly include opportunities for tournament organizers.

The esports industry in Saudi Arabia has experienced impressive growth in the past few years, and the Kingdom has stepped up its efforts to support it. SAFEIS held its first esports/gaming tournaments in the Kingdom recently and more are planned. Other tournaments are hosted by platforms such as the Saudi-based KAFU Games.

Meanwhile there are plans for an esports academy as part of the NEOM smart city development. And for those interested in the development of games, Tuwaiq1000 has offered course for beginners interested in learning how to program from scratch, or for professionals who want to refine their programming skills.

Thanks to all this support that is increasingly available, “sooner rather than later Saudi Arabia will become a world leader in esports,” according to academic Ali Alshammari, a game developer and researcher from Tabuk.

Gaming and esports therefore represent an emerging opportunity for Saudi authorities to support and develop a new sector that can make a significant contribution to non-oil revenues, in keeping with the objectives of Saudi Vision 2030.

“We are a part of a global community,” said Prince Faisal, who added that it is important for this community to come together and dispel misconceptions about gaming and esports.

“There are two things I want people to always remember about gaming,” he said. “Try and be positive. And please don’t ever forget that at the end of the day, gaming is about fun and if you are not having fun then you shouldn’t be doing it.”


Fashion, money, power and sustainability: Welcome to the new FII

Fashion, money, power and sustainability: Welcome to the new FII
Updated 27 October 2021

Fashion, money, power and sustainability: Welcome to the new FII

Fashion, money, power and sustainability: Welcome to the new FII
  • Business bigwigs debate and brainstorm how to solve big problems at global level

RIYADH: The Future Investment Initiative Forum returned to Riyadh on Tuesday, two years after the city last hosted the event, at which powerful and affluent people from around the world traditionally gather to look for big contract opportunities.

But this year, the fifth staging of the forum, is different. There was no talk about big contracts; instead, the powerful participants were discussing how can we give back to humanity and solve big problems at a global level. It is all about sustainability and investing in humanity.

The return of the FII after a postponement of a year caused by the pandemic, is a sign that the worst is behind us — at least in Saudi Arabia, which is going through a deep transformation.

Riyadh is no longer talking a language all of its own. It is now talking a global language that includes terms such as “saving the planet,” “sustainability,” “carbon emissions reduction” and “planning for a better world.”

The Saudis wanted to make sure that the launch of this year’s forum would send a strong message and they found no better way of achieving than by having renowned singer Gloria Gaynor appear and perform her famous song, “I Will Survive,” during the opening.

The world, and Saudi Arabia, has survived the pandemic, with all the hard decisions and tough measures this took, from the rapid development of vaccines to prohibiting Muslims from gathering in mosques to pray.

It is perhaps hard to imagine that big asset-management businesses such as BlackRock and Blackstone might exist for anything other than making big deals, but their respective bosses Larry Fink and Stephen Schwarzman are talking about subjects such as inequality and future generations at the forum.

Still, some things at the FII remain the same. The corridors are filled with people in fancy suits and dresses and the event is still a gathering place for the biggest deal-makers on the planet, who collectively manage trillions of dollars in assets.

Empowerment of women is another hot topic, and it was surprising to hear Schwarzman, Blackstone’s co-founder, talk candidly about how his company has had trouble recruiting women.

“Like many people in finance, we were having a lot of trouble hiring women,” he said during the opening panel discussion on Tuesday. “It was a male-dominated business and we made a decision to change that in 2015.

“We analyzed it and what we realized is that women weren’t applying to Blackstone. We tried to find out why and we found out that they were scared of us. I don’t think I’m very scary.”

Ana Botin, chairperson of Banco Santander, was the only woman on the eight-person panel, although there were female speakers at the opening of the forum.

As the first day of the event was ending, Saudi Aramco announced deals that will help it become more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

Indeed, the world has changed.


Saudi market at the forefront of digital transformation

Saudi market at the forefront of digital transformation
Updated 27 October 2021

Saudi market at the forefront of digital transformation

Saudi market at the forefront of digital transformation
  • Kingdom leading consumer trends in the region, says Bain & Company Middle East partner

The coronavirus pandemic has taken the world to a whole other level of digitalization and the youth are the driving force behind the ongoing digital transformation, said Anne-Laure Malauzat, partner at Bain and Company Middle East.
Talking on the sidelines of the Future Investment Initiative Forum in Riyadh on Tuesday, she said Saudi Arabia is one of the leading countries in terms of contactless payments and other innovative solutions.
“We’ve seen the Kingdom lead in a number of things, the first one, for example, is everything that has to do with social media penetration. The Kingdom is known to have some of the highest social media utilization in the world,” Malauzat told Arab News.
She said YouTube utilization in Saudi Arabia is also one of the highest in the world. “With over 85 percent of people who have access to YouTube and watch YouTube on a regular basis, which is quite high,” she said.
Malauzat also pointed out that the region is also leading the way in terms of millennial and younger customers that are dictating change in market behavior and consumption pattern. 
She said that people in the Kingdom no longer want to spend time in making payments. “They want seamlessness and convenience and if it’s not convenient they might actually drop the purchase that’s how demanding our consumers are here,” she said.
The entrepreneur said the coronavirus pandemic has changed several things in the world and has forced companies rethink their strategies to deal with the changed environment focussed on digitalization.
“The main question we kept asking ourselves is we’re seeing the world changed especially in the last two years with the COVID-19 pandemic and we were wondering whether the change in the region was going to be different than around the world. What we found is actually there are quite a lot of similarities between the global and regional trends,” she said.
“We thought we were digital before COVID-19 now it’s a whole other level of digitalization,” Malauzat said.
“For example, we’ve seen that in Saudi Arabia, there are over 90 percent of people who said that they started shopping online more frequently following the COVID-19 pandemic and over 50 percent of those people said they would stick to their behaviors even after the pandemic.”
She said what happened was a structural change in how people purchase and shop.
Another example that occurred mainly due to the pandemic, she added, is that more people have started giving preference to their local products. 
“People were traveling less due to the pandemic so they spend more and more money locally and as a result the local offerings have grown; there has been a growth in local brands in different sectors whether it’s food or fashion. We’ve seen a rise of the local supply to meet the growing demand,” she said.


Saudi development fund issues $3bn to Pakistan to help support economy

Saudi development fund issues $3bn to Pakistan to help support economy
Updated 27 October 2021

Saudi development fund issues $3bn to Pakistan to help support economy

Saudi development fund issues $3bn to Pakistan to help support economy
  • The funds will help the Pakistani government support its foreign currency reserves

RIYADH: The Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) announced it will deposit $3 billion to the State Bank of Pakistan to help the Pakistani government support its foreign currency reserves and in combating the repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic.
SFD said that the directive was issued to finance the oil derivatives trade with $1.2 billion throughout the year.
The fund added that these directives confirm the Kingdom’s continued stance in supporting the Pakistani economy.