Saudi Arabia, France strengthen business, trade relations in line with Vision 2030 investment plans

Saudi Arabia, France strengthen business, trade relations in line with Vision 2030 investment plans
Francois Touazi (left), vice chairman of MEDEF International France-Saudi Business Council, Faiz Alelweet (middle), vice president of the Saudi-French Business Council, Laurent Germain (right), chairman of MEDEF International France-Saudi Business Council
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Updated 01 June 2021

Saudi Arabia, France strengthen business, trade relations in line with Vision 2030 investment plans

Saudi Arabia, France strengthen business, trade relations in line with Vision 2030 investment plans
  • With direct investments amounting to more than $4.37 billion, France has become one of Saudi Arabia’s largest investors
  • A French delegation representing MEDEF International, arrived in Saudi Arabia for a three-day visit, welcomes the strengthening of bilateral relations

RIYADH: A French delegation on a three-day trip to Saudi Arabia has expressed high hopes for the Kingdom’s future through investment opportunities in emerging sectors and enhanced bilateral relations.

With direct investments amounting to more than $4.37 billion, France has become one of Saudi Arabia’s largest investors.

“We are really convinced that Saudi Arabia has a very promising market for French companies,” Laurent Germain, chairman of the MEDEF (Movement of the Enterprises of France) International France-Saudi Arabia Business Council, told Arab News during his fourth mission to the Kingdom.

“The Saudi economy is robust, and the growth forecast for the next 10 years is very promising.”

Germain pointed out that the digital and healthcare sectors had particularly caught France’s eye, calling it the “new economy” and he said French companies were committed to increasing and diversifying their investment in the Saudi economy.

“We have a lot of startups and SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) in France specialized in high-value technologies, and the objective is for them to have more access to the Saudi market,” he added.

Last year, the MEDEF delegation saw the arrival of 100 representatives from 80 French companies, having “solid” expertise in many sectors, including tourism, healthcare, and entertainment.

This year’s delegation, spearheaded by Germain, was received by Dr. Khaled Al-Yahya, secretary-general of the Council of Saudi Chambers (CSC), on a three-day trip to meet with Saudi ministries, government entities, and French companies based in the Kingdom.

Germain said: “What was clear in the discussions was that all the ministries now have a clear strategy, and clear targets. For the Ministry of Tourism having 100 million visitors (by 2030), for the energy ministry to have 50 percent of the energy produced through renewables, and now each ministry has an action plan. And what we discussed is how the French firms can help the different ministries in order to achieve these goals.”

The CSC has been working alongside MEDEF International — a French non-profit organization — toward enhancing the role of the foreign private sector by developing its strategies in line with Vision 2030.

Francois Touazi, vice chairman of the MEDEF International France-Saudi Arabia Business Council, said: “We’re also here to have an update. Despite the (coronavirus disease) COVID-19 pandemic, Saudi Arabia was very active, and we have been very impressed by all the projects that have been announced — the Line, for example, the plans to transition to hydrogen — we’re very excited to be part of this new adventure.”

The transition to renewable energy is a new undertaking of Saudi Arabia and part of its goals for sustainable development strategies under Vision 2030.

“This is a sector where the French firms have great expertise. Both the big companies like Electricite de France (EDF), Engie, and others,” Germain said.

“But we also have SMEs and startups very much advanced on this issue and the combination of both can bring a very interesting offer to the Saudi market.

“I think we have very clearly identified the different sectors where the tenders will be issued, because what is key for the companies is to know about the projects, about the timelines, the tenders, when the tenders will be out so that they can prepare themselves to be effective.”

The MEDEF recently signed a framework agreement with the Saudi investment ministry (MISA) to boost bilateral investment relations and support long-term partnerships in emerging sectors, including tourism, healthcare, and entertainment.

“Through the meetings we have had during that delegation, we have a clear view on what the projects are going to be, when the tenders are going to be issued, and what the criteria are for the French companies to win the tenders,” he added.

Armed with this information, the French delegation will return to France and inform private companies of what will enable them to win bids in order to successfully penetrate the Saudi market.

“The financing of the projects of Vision 2030 have been confirmed and this gives visibility to the French companies and motivates them to invest more into the Saudi market,” Germain said.

Plans to arrange a Saudi delegation for France to meet its counterparts and encourage SMEs are in the pipeline, according to Faiz Alelweet, vice president of the Saudi-French Business Council.

On French-Saudi ties being possibly affected by the French elections next year, Germain said: “France recognizes all the potential that Saudi Arabia has in the region, but also in the world.

“It is very much aware that Saudi Arabia is now a key player of the G20, that the growth forecast in Saudi Arabia is very strong, that there is political will in the diversification of the economy of Saudi Arabia, that this is a tremendous opportunity for French companies, and that’s why there will be a continuity whoever wins the presidency.”

The mission will also be visiting Jeddah for talks with officials and business leaders there.


As Saudi Arabia brings COVID-19 under control, fight against viral hepatitis set to regain prominence

The WHO says 4.5 million deaths could be prevented in low- and middle-income countries by 2030 through vaccination, testing, medicines and education. (AFP)
The WHO says 4.5 million deaths could be prevented in low- and middle-income countries by 2030 through vaccination, testing, medicines and education. (AFP)
Updated 6 min 37 sec ago

As Saudi Arabia brings COVID-19 under control, fight against viral hepatitis set to regain prominence

The WHO says 4.5 million deaths could be prevented in low- and middle-income countries by 2030 through vaccination, testing, medicines and education. (AFP)
  • Once COVID-19 is brought under control, Saudi Arabia will turn its attention toward a silent, older scourge

DUBAI: Before the coronavirus swept the planet in early 2020, Saudi Arabia was on course to eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030. But as in the rest of the world, the task of fighting COVID-19 in the Kingdom was understandably given precedence over efforts to defeat what is often called the “silent killer.”

Hepatitis fits the description because 95 percent of infected individuals worldwide are unaware of their infection and in most cases people are asymptomatic. It nevertheless remains the world’s seventh-leading cause of death.
The illness is an inflammation of the liver that can cause a range of health problems and can be fatal, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). There are five main strains of the virus, referred to as types A, B, C, D and E.
While all cause liver disease, the five strains differ in important ways, including modes of transmission, severity of the illness, geographical distribution and prevention methods.
In particular, types B and C lead to chronic disease and, together, are the most common cause of liver cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) and liver cancer. An estimated
325 million people worldwide live with hep-B or C and, for most, testing and treatment remains beyond reach.
In 2015, viral hepatitis caused 1.34 million deaths worldwide, mostly from hep-B infection, which is higher than the number of global deaths caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Some types of hepatitis are preventable through vaccination. According to the WHO, “an estimated 4.5 million premature deaths could be prevented in low- and middle-income countries by 2030 through vaccination, diagnostic tests, medicines and education campaigns.”
July 28 is World Hepatitis Day. The date was chosen to coincide with the birthday of Nobel prize-winning scientist Dr. Baruch Blumberg, who discovered hep-B virus and developed a diagnostic test and vaccine.

FASTFACT

July28

World Hepatitis Day is observed each year on this date to raise awareness about the virus that causes liver disease and hepatocellular cancer.

With COVID-19 vaccination efforts continuing apace and the pandemic beginning to subside in many parts of the developed world, the fight against viral hepatitis is once again high on Saudi Arabia’s public health agenda.
“The Saudi Ministry of Health instituted a specific program to fight hepatitis C in the country before the pandemic, in accordance with the WHO,” Dr. Faisal Aba Alkhail, a consultant transplant hepatologist at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh, told Arab News.
“But then COVID-19 came and disrupted many initiatives. The battle against COVID-19 had to be the priority.”
In 2016, the WHO Global Health Sector Strategy issued a road map for the elimination of viral hepatitis as a public health problem by 2030.
The plan entailed a 90 percent reduction in infections and a 65 percent reduction in mortality by the end of the decade, compared to a 2015 baseline that showed 257 million people living with hepatitis B, 71 million with hepatitis C, and 36.7 million with HIV.
“As Saudi Arabia gains control over COVID-19, it’s time to revisit the initiatives and campaigns to eliminate viral hepatitis B and C with full force to meet the WHO target of elimination by 2030 in our country,” Aba Alkhail said.
Hepatitis B is spread through contact with the blood, semen and other body fluids of an infected individual, but can be prevented through vaccination.
Hepatitis C is also blood-borne, but varies in its severity, in some cases lasting only a few months while at other times developing into a lifelong illness. It is a major cause of liver cancer, with sufferers often requiring liver transplantation. There is currently no vaccine.
In the 1980s, Saudi Arabia had one of the highest rates of hep-B infection in the world, with an estimated 8.3 percent of the population infected.
Then, in 1989, the Kingdom became the first country in the Middle East to launch a hep-B vaccination program, eight years after the first vaccine was approved for use in the US. By 1990, the vaccine was available to all infants from birth and children were routinely vaccinated when they started school.
While the vaccination of children and infants has been associated with a notable decline in the rate of infection in Saudi Arabia, falling to just 1.3 percent according to the Saudi Journal of Gastroenterology, hepatitis remains a major public health risk in the Kingdom, especially among high-risk groups, including those with HIV, drug addictions and those who have undergone blood transfusions.
In 2007, the Saudi Ministry of Health ranked hepatitis the second most common reportable viral disease in the country, with almost 9,000 new cases diagnosed that year alone. Of these, 52 percent had hepatitis B, 32 percent hepatitis C, and 16 percent hepatitis A.
In Saudi Arabia, hepatitis B and C remain a major cause of hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common type of primary liver cancer, and diseases that require liver transplantation. The infection rate may have dropped, but morbidity and mortality related to the disease have not shown a parallel decline.

It’s time to revisit the initiatives and campaigns to eliminate viral hepatitis B and C with full force.

Dr. Faisal Aba Alkhail - Consultant transplant hepatologist at King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh

Medical experts expect the burden of associated liver diseases to rise in the coming years, owing to aging in infected populations.

Dr. Faisal Aba Alkhail

Saudi Arabia has implemented a number of programs designed to improve diagnosis, including premarital screening for hepatitis B and C and HIV. “In Saudi Arabia you can’t complete marriage documents without doing the test for hep-B and hep-C,” Aba Alkhail said.
“In addition, the Kingdom follows the standard special population screening of dialysis patients, blood bank donors, hospital-based patients and other high-risk groups.”
Crucially, it has also made hepatitis screening and treatments free to all citizens and residents, both Saudi and non-Saudi.
“In Saudi Arabia, we are (trying our best to follow) the WHO targets: To diagnose 90 percent of infections and treat 80 percent of high viral-load patients by 2030, as well as diagnose and treat all infected patients by 2022,” said Aba Alkhail.
“Most known cases have been rated and cured since effective treatments were made available in 2014. Many countries are running out of new hepatitis C patients to treat, according to the World Hepatitis Alliance.
“Saudi Arabia still has the burden of hepatitis C patients that are not yet diagnosed and there is a need for a screening program to detect previously undiagnosed cases.”
Medical professionals set out a list of recommendations in a May 2021 report, titled “Revealing Hepatitis B Virus as a Silent Killer: A Call-to-Action for Saudi Arabia,” published in the Cureus Journal of Medical Science.
“In 2016, hep-B caused 1,700 annual deaths (i.e. five deaths per day) in KSA,” the report said. “Although substantial improvements have been made in hep-B management, a lot remains to be done for hep-B screening and care pathways.
“Considering the current hep-B estimates in KSA, the country is expected to achieve the WHO hep-B 2030 target goals for diagnosis, treatment and mortality by 2051.
“The current scenario in KSA demands the implementation of a structured policy framework to combat and eliminate hep-B.”
The report’s authors said the Kingdom could curb the virus by “establishing a national-level registry, implementing screening campaigns, improving linkage of care between primary care physicians (PCPs) and specialists, and increasing PCP education and awareness.”
However, the report said that in order for these measures to have the desired effect on transmission rates, they must be adhered to consistently and simultaneously throughout the Kingdom.
“We have already come so far since the 1990s. Saudi Arabia had a problem in the past with hepatitis, but the vaccine has greatly improved its prevalence in the Kingdom,” said Aba Alkhail.
“The challenge now is finding the undiagnosed cases and treating them effectively so that we can win this battle.”

Twitter: @rebeccaaproctor

 

Decoder

Hepatitis

● The illness is an inflammation of the liver that can cause a range of health problems and can be fatal, according to the World Health Organization. There are five main strains of the virus, referred to as types A, B, C, D and E. ● While all cause liver disease, the five strains differ in important ways, including modes of transmission, severity of the illness, geographical distribution and prevention methods. ● In particular, types B and C lead to chronic disease and, together, are the most common cause of liver cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) and liver cancer.


New ‘Hawi’ platform launched to develop Saudi Arabia hobbies sector

The platform will support symposiums and lectures related to hobbies in Saudi Arabia and abroad. (Supplied)
The platform will support symposiums and lectures related to hobbies in Saudi Arabia and abroad. (Supplied)
Updated 8 min 9 sec ago

New ‘Hawi’ platform launched to develop Saudi Arabia hobbies sector

The platform will support symposiums and lectures related to hobbies in Saudi Arabia and abroad. (Supplied)
  • Hawi will be involved with training courses, where international expertise can be transferred to clubs and exchanged with other institutions

JEDDAH: The Quality of Life Program’s Center on Tuesday launched a pilot version of the “Hawi” online platform to develop the Kingdom’s hobbies sector.
Hawi has been produced for the Saudi Amateur Clubs Association to raise awareness on the importance of hobbies to boost creativity and social activities.
The platform aims to encourage communication among those who share the same interests and ensure the operational and financial support for amateurs.
Director of the association Najlaa Al-Ajmi said the platform will promote positive lifestyles and improve the quality of life in the Kingdom.
“The platform has been developed to establish communities that share the same interests under an official umbrella, making it easier for clubs to establish their teams and register members,” she added.
She said that the platform has many benefits including “promoting healthy lifestyles, establishing balance between work and social life and allowing amateurs to practice their hobbies in an adequate environment, with people who share the same passion.”

HIGHLIGHTS

• Hawi has been produced for the Saudi Amateur Clubs Association to raise awareness on the importance of hobbies to boost creativity and social activities. • The platform aims to encourage communication among those who share the same interests. • It allows people to establish and register amateur clubs, manage members and their activities, define the regulations of the sector, reserve facilities and organize training courses.

Hawi allows people to establish and register amateur clubs, manage members and their activities, define the regulations of the sector, reserve facilities and organize training courses.
It also encourages amateurs to practice their hobbies by finding the proper facilities for their role.
The platform will support symposiums and lectures related to hobbies in the Kingdom and abroad.
Hawi will be involved with training courses, where international expertise can be transferred to clubs and exchanged with other institutions.
Hawi’s board of directors comprises representatives of 11 governmental authorities under the supervision of the Quality of Life program, the supervisory authority for hobbies in the Kingdom.


Saudi Arabia affirms support for Tunisia’s security and stability

Saudi Arabia affirms support for Tunisia’s security and stability
Updated 47 min 1 sec ago

Saudi Arabia affirms support for Tunisia’s security and stability

Saudi Arabia affirms support for Tunisia’s security and stability
  • The foreign ministry says it considers the situation a sovereign matter
  • The Kingdom called on the international community to stand by Tunisia

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is following up on the current situation in Tunisia, the foreign ministry said on Tuesday.
“The Kingdom respects everything related to Tunisia’s internal affairs and considers (the situation) a sovereign matter,” it said in a statement.
The Saudi government affirmed its support for Tunisia’s security and stability, and also affirmed “its confidence in the Tunisian leadership to overcome these circumstances, and to achieve a decent life and prosperity for the Tunisian people.”
The Kingdom called on the international community to stand by Tunisia in these circumstances in order to tackle its health and economic challenges.
Tunisian President Kais Saied on Monday sacked the prime minister and suspended parliament after violent nationwide mass protests erupted on Sunday.
The North African country is also struggling to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, that has put the health system under near collapse.


US Yemen envoy Lenderking arrives in Saudi Arabia for talks

During his visit, Tim Lenderking will discuss the growing consequences of the Houthi offensive on Marib. (Screenshot)
During his visit, Tim Lenderking will discuss the growing consequences of the Houthi offensive on Marib. (Screenshot)
Updated 27 July 2021

US Yemen envoy Lenderking arrives in Saudi Arabia for talks

During his visit, Tim Lenderking will discuss the growing consequences of the Houthi offensive on Marib. (Screenshot)
  • Lenderking will also meet with representatives from the international community and the office of UN Special Envoy for Yemen

RIYADH: The US Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking arrived in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.

During his visit, he will meet with senior officials from the Saudi and Yemeni governments.

Lenderking will discuss the growing consequences of the Houthi offensive on Marib, which is exacerbating the humanitarian crisis and triggering instability elsewhere in the country.

The special envoy will address the urgent need for efforts to stabilize Yemen’s economy and to facilitate the timely import of fuel to northern Yemen, and the need for the Houthis to end their manipulation of fuel imports and prices inside of Yemen.

Lenderking will also meet with representatives from the international community and the office of UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths to discuss the importance of an inclusive peace process and a rapid appointment of a new UN Envoy. 

“Now is the time to stop the fighting and enable Yemenis to shape a more peaceful, prosperous future for their country,” a US State Department statement said.


Saudi foreign minister meets with Pakistan president, prime minister Khan in Islamabad

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan received Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan in Islamabad on Tuesday. (SPA)
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan received Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan in Islamabad on Tuesday. (SPA)
Updated 27 July 2021

Saudi foreign minister meets with Pakistan president, prime minister Khan in Islamabad

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan received Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan in Islamabad on Tuesday. (SPA)
  • The visit is Prince Faisal’s second state visit to Pakistan in a year

RIYADH: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan received Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan at his office at the presidential residence in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, on Tuesday.

Prince Faisal conveyed the greetings of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the premier and the government and people of Pakistan, while Khan conveyed his greetings and appreciation to the king, the crown prince, and the government and people of Saudi Arabia.

At the beginning of the reception, the prime minister congratulated the Saudi leaders on the success of this year’s Hajj season, and that they were able to maintain an environment free from the spread of COVID-19 and other epidemic diseases’

Khan praised the precautionary measures taken by the Kingdom during the Hajj pilgrimage to preserve the health and safety of pilgrims.

During the meeting, they reviewed the historical and well-established relations between the two countries and ways to enhance them in all fields, through the Saudi-Pakistani Coordination Council, which aims to enhance effective partnership and intensify coordination on issues of common interest.

The two sides also held talks on the importance of exploring investment and available opportunities related to the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, in order to achieve more prosperity for the two countries.

The prime minister lauded the important role of Pakistan’s community in Saudi Arabia in the progress and development of the two countries and underlined that the strong people-to-people linkages helped building solid foundations of cooperation.

Khan, noting the difficulties being faced by Pakistani nationals due to ongoing COVID-19 travel restrictions, also underlined the importance of timely measures for facilitation of their return to Saudi Arabia when possible.

During his visit to the Pakistani capital, Prince Faisal also met with President Arif Alvi, who echoed the strong relations between his country and Saudi Arabia.

The visit is Prince Faisal’s second state visit to Pakistan in a year. He was last in Islamabad in December 2020.

The Pakistani foreign office said the Saudi foreign minister was visiting Pakistan on the invitation of Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.