Saudi education witnesses rapid transformation in last five years

Saudi education witnesses rapid transformation in last five years
Between 2015 and 2019 the number of primary and secondary level schools in Saudi Arabia grew 16.5 percent to a total of 38,150. (File)
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Updated 03 May 2021

Saudi education witnesses rapid transformation in last five years

Saudi education witnesses rapid transformation in last five years
  • There has been a 61 percent increase in the take-up of business management courses in public universities

RIYADH: During his televised interview last week to mark the 5th anniversary of the Vision 2030 program, one of the many subjects addressed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was the Kingdom’s education system.

“With regard to higher education, currently we have five universities ranked among the 500 best universities worldwide according to various indicators. Our objective is to have three universities ranked among the best 200,” the crown prince said.

He said that his ambitions ran even higher. “We might be working toward a very ambitious objective… having one university ranked among the best 10 universities worldwide, which is King Saud University. But even if it ranked 20 or 30 that would be extremely good.”

A report released on Sunday by real estate consultancy firm Knight Frank said the Kingdom’s education sector is undergoing rapid transformation across all levels and “it creates a compelling case to invest in the education space of the Kingdom.”

In the five years to 2018, the total number of students in higher education in Saudi Arabia grew by 8.3 percent to 1.62 million. The Kingdom has 60 universities, 70 percent of which are public institutions. In terms of subject matter, there has been a 61 percent increase in the take-up of business management courses in public universities, while the natural sciences, mathematics and statistics sector recorded a 55.9 percent increase in the number of students enrolling.

FASTFACT

• In the five years to 2018, the total number of students in higher education in Saudi Arabia grew by 8.3 percent to 1.62 million.

One of the key goals of Vision 2030 is to increase the number of Saudi nationals in the labor force and to facilitate this there has been a surge in the number of technical and vocational training (TVT) facilities in the Kingdom. The Knight Frank report found that in the five years leading up to 2017 the number of TVT public sector facilities in the Kingdom rose by 60.4 percent to reach 223.

The biggest growth in the education sector has been in the primary and secondary levels. Between 2015 and 2019 the number of schools in the Kingdom grew 16.5 percent to a total of 38,150. Eighty percent of these are public facilities, but in the fee-paying private sector, the number of schools over the same time period has increased by 42.1 percent.

“As we continue to see an increase in female labor force participation rates, demand for affordable and quality pre-primary institutions is only likely to increase.

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Investment, in conjunction with the Ministry of Education, estimates that 1,500 kindergartens are required across Saudi Arabia over the next decade alone,” the report said.

Shehzad Jamal, Head of Healthcare & Education at Knight Frank Middle East, said in a statement: “The Saudi Arabia government has recognized that improvements need to be made in the quality of its education system, which are to be addressed through its Human Capital Development Vision Realization Program of the Vision 2030. Significant reforms are under implementation to address challenges faced by the sector.”


Saudi-based B2B marketplaces raise combined $37.2m

Saudi-based B2B marketplaces raise combined $37.2m
Updated 43 sec ago

Saudi-based B2B marketplaces raise combined $37.2m

Saudi-based B2B marketplaces raise combined $37.2m
  • Sary raised $30.5 million in a Series B round led by VentureSouq
  • Retailo secured $6.7 million in a seed round led by Shorooq Partners

RIYADH: Two competing Saudi business-to-business online marketplaces have announced fundraising, a further sign of the growing interest in the region’s start-ups.

Sary raised $30.5 million in a Series B round led by VentureSouq and joined by new investors US-based Rocketship.vc and STV, Sary said in a press release. Existing shareholders Ra’ed Ventures, MSA Capital and Derayah also contributed to the funding round.

Riyadh-based Retailo raised $6.7 million in a seed round led by existing investor Shorooq Partners and UK private equity shop Abercross Holdings, Retailo said a separate press release. Retailo, founded by former Careem executives, has now raised $9 million after being in operation for just nine months.

While Sary is the more mature business having being founded in 2018, both companies offer a platform to connect small businesses with wholesalers and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies.

Sary plans to use the funds to grow geographically and expands the services it offers including credit provision.

“Core to VentureSouq’s overall fintech thesis is the emerging trend of embedded financial services,” VentureSouq Co-Founder and General Partner Suneel Gokhale said in the press release. “In Sary’s case, we see this move into credit as directly contributing to top-line growth, diversifying revenue streams, and improving unit economics for a strong, proven vertical-specific technology company.”

A rush to fund digital start-ups in the Middle East risks creating a valuation bubble, Fadi Ghandour, CEO of venture-capital investor Wamda, said last month.

“Since the pandemic the whole digital ecosystem which we were predicting to happen within ten years actually happened within a couple of months, so everything digital is growing exponentially,” he told Bloomberg Television. “Everything that is digital is exploding. So, lots of new money and lots of new startups.”

“There is so much new money coming into the market,” he said. “Sovereign wealth funds are starting to invest, and they are seeding a lot of VCs and so I think yes there is a little bit of a valuation bubble.”

Last month, 44 start-ups across the Middle East and North Africa raised more than $175 million, up $5 million from March, according to data from Wamda.

The biggest deal was by Riyadh-headquartered buy now pay later platform Tamara, which raised $110 million in a Series A round led by leading global payment processor Checkout.com. Helped by that transaction, Saudi Arabia topped the list in terms of number and value of start-up investments for the first time.


Saudi financial liquidity rises to record at end of April

Saudi financial liquidity rises to record at end of April
Updated 07 May 2021

Saudi financial liquidity rises to record at end of April

Saudi financial liquidity rises to record at end of April
  • Money supply increased 1 percent in the week to SR2.199 trillion

RIYADH: Saudi liquidity reached its highest level ever at the end of last week, April 29th, at SR2.199 trillion ($586.2 billion), compared with SR2.177 trillion a week earlier.

Money supply increased by 1 percent during the week, and 2.3 percent since the end of last year, Al Eqtisadiah reported, citing Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority data.

Money supply has been above SR2 trillion since May 7, 2020.


Saudi insurance sector grew 2.3 percent in 2020 amid pandemic

Saudi insurance sector grew 2.3 percent in 2020 amid pandemic
Updated 07 May 2021

Saudi insurance sector grew 2.3 percent in 2020 amid pandemic

Saudi insurance sector grew 2.3 percent in 2020 amid pandemic
  • Written premiums rose to SR38.78 billion
  • Net profit increased 61.1 percent

RIYADH: The Saudi insurance sector grew 2.3 percent in terms of written premiums in 2020, to SR38.78 billion ($10.3 billion), according to the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority’s (SAMA) 14th annual report on the Saudi insurance market, issued on Thursday.

Energy and accident & liability insurance classes showed notable increases in written premiums with penetration of the sector increasing from 1.3 percent in 2019 to 1.5 percent in 2020.

In terms of underwriting performance, the overall loss ratio improved to 77.5 percent.

Insurance net profit (after zakat and tax) increased by 61.1 percent compared to the previous year’s corresponding figure, thereby improving the return-on-assets and return-on-equity ratios.

The SAMA report also noted that the overall Saudization ratio increased from 74 percent in 2019 to 75 percent in 2020.


Qatar Minister of Finance replaced after arrest

Qatar Minister of Finance replaced after arrest
Updated 07 May 2021

Qatar Minister of Finance replaced after arrest

Qatar Minister of Finance replaced after arrest
  • Al-Emadi replaced by Minister of Trade and Industry
  • Al-Emadi accused of embezzlement, abuse of power

RIYADH: Qatar’s Emir has replaced the Minister of Finance following his arrest, according to a Royal statement on Thursday.

“Ali Sharif Al-Emadi, Minister of Finance, is relieved of his position, and Ali bin Ahmed Al Kuwari, Minister of Trade and Industry, in addition to his duties, is to be entrusted with the duties of the Minister of Finance,” Qatar News Agency (QNA) reported citing the Amiri order.

The public prosecutor said earlier Emadi was being questioned over allegations of embezzlement, abuse of power and crimes related to the public sector, according to a statement carried by the official state news agency. An investigation is underway.


Saudi cement companies post $237.9m net profit in Q1 2021

Saudi cement companies post $237.9m net profit in Q1 2021
Updated 07 May 2021

Saudi cement companies post $237.9m net profit in Q1 2021

Saudi cement companies post $237.9m net profit in Q1 2021
  • Net profits were 15 percent lower than a year ago
  • Four companies saw record profit growth while 10 experienced a decline

RIYADH: Saudi cement companies listed in the main market during the first quarter of this year 2021 achieved net profits of SR892.5 million ($237.9 million), compared to about SR1.05 billion for the same period last year, recording about 15 percent decline.

Four companies recorded record growth, while the remaining 10 saw a decline, Al Eqtisadiah reported citing Saudi financial market data.

Najran Cement recorded the highest growth in net profit with 51.4 percent, while Arabian Cement Co. achieved 48.6 percent growth, followed by Al Jouf Cement, up 15.4 percent.

Tabuk Cement posted the biggest decline in net profit, decreasing by 75.6 percent to SR7.1 million.

Cement companies’ revenues decreased 1.5 percent during the first quarter of this year to SR2.94 billion, compared to about SR2.98 billion for the same period in 2020. Revenues grew by 2 percent compared with the previous quarter.