45% of students in Saudi Arabia shifted to government schools amid pandemic

45% of students in Saudi Arabia shifted to government schools amid pandemic
The Kingdom is home to 1,600 private education and training facilities. (File/AFP))
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Updated 07 February 2021

45% of students in Saudi Arabia shifted to government schools amid pandemic

45% of students in Saudi Arabia shifted to government schools amid pandemic
  • This shift was attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is still impacting the sector
  • The current situation made mergers the optimum choice for the private education facilities to stop losses

Abdulaziz Al-Fahad, Chairman of Saudi Arabia’s National Committee for Private Education and Training, said that almost 45% of students in private schools and 90% children in private kindergartens shifted to government ones.

This shift was attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is still impacting the sector, Makkah paper reported, citing Al-Fahad during a webinar on the Kingdom’s private education held by Asharqia Chamber.

Some private schools, whose operations were halted, might exit the market if distance learning continued for a new year, the top official explained, adding that the prolonged crisis will lead to a “disastrous impact” in the private education and training facilities.

The current situation made mergers the optimum choice for the private education facilities to stop losses and protect the national facilities and investor funds.

The Kingdom is home to 1,600 private education and training facilities, Al-Fahad added, noting that the committee developed several initiatives to cut this count to one third at least, so as to build solid facilities that can weather tough conditions.


South Africa, Saudi Arabia seek to boost trade following pandemic dip

South Africa, Saudi Arabia seek to boost trade following pandemic dip
Updated 17 sec ago

South Africa, Saudi Arabia seek to boost trade following pandemic dip

South Africa, Saudi Arabia seek to boost trade following pandemic dip
JEDDAH: South Africa and Saudi Arabia are looking to boost trade between the two countries following a pandemic-hit year that saw imports from the Kingdom fall to a four-year low in 2020.

South African imports from Saudi Arabia slid to $2.69 billion in 2020 from $3.66 billion in 2019 and $5.41 billion in 2018, according to data from the UN Comtrade database. The vast majority of that was made up of oil and fuels ($2.27 billion or 84 percent in 2020), followed by fertilizers at $145.3 million and plastics at $124.5 million.

South Africa imports approximately 40 percent of its oil from Saudi Arabia, according to the EIA.

Far fewer goods went the other way, with Saudi Arabia importing $347.8 million from South Africa last year, down from $423.8 million in 2019 and $423.0 million in 2018.

The Saudi South African Business Council under the umbrella of the Federation of Saudi Chambers, held the Saudi South African business webinar on Thursday, co-organized with the Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce.

The two countries have committed to strengthen their ties by working more closely in sectors such as infrastructure development, agriculture, mining and energy, tourism, and other areas.

“Despite the progress in our relations, we look forward to expanding the scope of our cooperation with South Africa in line with our respective capabilities,” said Chairman of the Saudi-South African Business Council Hisham Al-Amoudi. “The Saudi market has the capacity to host more South African investments, namely in mining, health care, small to medium enterprises (SMEs), agriculture and information technology, among others.”

Al-Amoudi said that a number of measures must be taken to achieve this, including activating the agreements and memorandum of understanding (MOUs) signed between the two countries, increasing activities of the Saudi South African Business Council, “developing programs that support our goals, and enhancing our overall dialogue on topics of mutual interest.”

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa made a state visit to the Kingdom in 2018 to meet King Salman and the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to assess relations, focusing primarily on strengthening economic linkages between South Africa and Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia and South Africa are both G20 countries, and the Crown Prince has met with the South African President on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Argentina.

“Saudi Arabia is also a large investor in South Africa, especially in the area of renewable energy,” said Al-Amoudi.

“We seek to work with our South African friends to facilitate the access of Saudi products to the South African market, and enhance the Saudi-South African balance of trade,” he said. “I hope that these initiatives will elevate a strong relation to a higher level,” he added.

World Economic Forum to return to Davos in January 2022 after two-year absence

World Economic Forum to return to Davos in January 2022 after two-year absence
Updated 17 September 2021

World Economic Forum to return to Davos in January 2022 after two-year absence

World Economic Forum to return to Davos in January 2022 after two-year absence
  • The meeting will focus on accelerating stakeholder capitalism

ZURICH, Sept 16 : The World Economic Forum (WEF) is to take place in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos next year on Jan. 17-21, reverting to an in-person meeting of world and business leaders, organizers said on Thursday.
The meeting will focus on accelerating stakeholder capitalism, harnessing the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and ensuring a more inclusive future of work, WEF organizers said in a statement.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced organizers last year to shift the WEF annual meeting to Singapore and then cancel it altogether, raising questions over whether the high-profile event would return to Switzerland at all.


Saudi Arabia’s Unifonic focuses on profitability, IPO after Softbank, PIF deal — CEO

Saudi Arabia’s Unifonic focuses on profitability, IPO after Softbank, PIF deal — CEO
Updated 17 September 2021

Saudi Arabia’s Unifonic focuses on profitability, IPO after Softbank, PIF deal — CEO

Saudi Arabia’s Unifonic focuses on profitability, IPO after Softbank, PIF deal — CEO
  • Unifonic plans to enter new markets, including Pakistan and Nigeria
  • CEO expects company to double in size every two years

RIYADH: Unifonic, the first Saudi startup to receive investment from SoftBank, would like to become profitable before listing its shares on a stock market, CEO Ahmed Hamdan said on Thursday.

“Over the next six months, we will have a bigger vision regarding the offering,” he said in an interview with Al Arabiya. The main criterion is to maximize the company’s profitability and the appropriate market in terms of the quality of the products we offer, and the appetite of investors in the public markets, he said without specifying which market Unifonic might list on.

Unifonic, which currently has offices in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Jordan and Pakistan, plans to expand its customer engagement offering into new markets in the Middle East and Africa, including Nigeria, over the coming five years, he said.

Japan’s SoftBank and Sanabil Investments, a unit of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, led a $125 million Series B funding round for Unifonic, it said in an announcement this week.

SoftBank’s $30 billion Vision Fund 2 made its first investment in a UAE-based company in July when it led a $415 million Series C round in cloud kitchen Kitopi, pushing its valuation above the $1 billion mark that makes it a unicorn.

The investment will help Unifonic grow, according to Hamdan, who said the company plans to hire more than 1,000 employees to develop its expertise in cloud, artificial intelligence and data.

Since 2018, the company’s shareholders have doubled the value of their investments, among the best returns in venture capital, he said. It has quadrupled sales in the past three years, and the company will continue to achieve high growth rates, which requires capital injections from time to time, he said.

“We expect this rate of growth to continue during the next three years, with the volume of business doubling every two years,” he said.

Growth will be through direct investment or acquisition, Hamdan said.


Wataniya Insurance board recommends $53.3m capital increase

Wataniya Insurance board recommends $53.3m capital increase
Updated 17 September 2021

Wataniya Insurance board recommends $53.3m capital increase

Wataniya Insurance board recommends $53.3m capital increase
  • Proceeds to help boost solvency margin

RIYADH: Wataniya Insurance Company’s board of directors recommended on Thursday to increase the company’s capital through a SR200 million ($53.3 million) rights issue, according to a bourse filing.

The company plans to use the proceeds to support its future plans and increase its solvency margin, Wataniya said in a statement on Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul). An insurer’s solvency margin is the difference between its assets and insurance liabilities and is designed to prepare it for unforeseen claims.

The financial adviser for the offering will be announced once appointed, the company said.


National Water Co. awards $95.4m contract to manage Riyadh water services

National Water Co. awards $95.4m contract to manage Riyadh water services
Updated 17 September 2021

National Water Co. awards $95.4m contract to manage Riyadh water services

National Water Co. awards $95.4m contract to manage Riyadh water services
  • Contract awarded to Alkhorayef Group and France's Veolia
  • Restructuring of Saudi water sector almost complete

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s National Water Company has awarded a seven-year contract to manage water services and environmental treatment in Riyadh to a consortium of Alkhorayef Water and Power Technologies and France’s Veolia, Argaam reported.

The SR358 million ($95.4 million) contract is tied to 14 main indicators, including improving and developing the customer experience, raising operational efficiency through cost savings and reducing water losses, and improving network management, according to a statement by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

Management contracts are one of the main pillars to improve the sector and prepare it for full privatization, said National Water Company CEO Mohammed Al-Mowkley.

NWC has completed 92 percent of its project to restructure the 13 administrative regions into six sectors, and as of November 2021, the process will be complete when the northern sector has been created, he said.

Management contracts to improve the performance of the sector’s services will all have been awarded by the end of 2021, he said.

If the targets are achieved after the third year of the contract, the National Water Company will be able to move directly to the stage of concession contracts, in which the private sector will take full responsibility for water services, and not wait until the seven years are over, he said.