Saudi Arabia anticipates 1 trillion riyal injection from 4IR technology

Saudi Arabia anticipates 1 trillion riyal injection from 4IR technology
Saudi Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdullah Alswaha takes part in the forum on Wednesday July 28, 2021. (SPA)
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Updated 30 July 2021

Saudi Arabia anticipates 1 trillion riyal injection from 4IR technology

Saudi Arabia anticipates 1 trillion riyal injection from 4IR technology
  • Artificial intelligence and smart cities will see Saudi Arabia rebrand as a global technology hub

RIYADH: Advanced technology from the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is expected to generate around 1 trillion riyals for the Saudi economy in new revenue streams, a senior Saudi official told a conference in Riyadh today.

The Kingdom will enjoy economic boosts from robotics, artificial intelligence, and wireless production models as it pushes for more smarter cities and infrastructure.

In his opening remarks of the Saudi 4IR conference, Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdullah Alsawaha announced the inauguration of the Saudi 4IR center in collaboration with WEF and said that the center will spur more innovation as Saudi cities must keep pace with technological developments.
He told an audience at the two-day conference, being held at King Abdullah City for Science and Technology, that the Kingdom is building the most technologically advanced infrastructure in the new NEOM giga-project, which will be a global technology center.

The impact of the 4IR is expected to be massive, with non-oil gross domestic product anticipated to increase by more than 4 percent from 2017 to 2030, generating 1 trillion riyals in new revenues, Abdullah Alghamdi, the president of Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA) said in his opening remarks.

He added that SDAIA is working on developing customized platforms for each  city to accommodate their specific needs.

The concept of a Fourth Industrial Revolution was first suggested by Klaus Schwab, chairman of the World Economic Forum, and was the theme of the annual WEF meeting at Davos in 2016. WEF opened its first 4IR Center in San Francisco in 2016, and there are now centers in 13 countries, including Saudi Arabia.

"With this launch you have become part of our growing global network of centers, Schwab said in his remarks to the conference.

Saudi Arabia has invested heavily in digitizing its cities, with 60 percent of the Kingdom’s urban centers covered by 5G networks, said Haytham Alohali, vice minister of communications and information technology.

The government has developed one of the most advanced E-government systems in the world and has established data and AI to support its digital transformation, minister of industry Bandar Alkhorayaf said, adding that the Kingdom has a strong manufacturing base with over 10,000 factories 40 specialized integrated industrial cities that provide the required infrastructure and services needed for the manufacturing facilities and workforce.

The world's leading petrochemical producer, SABIC, strives to keep pace with technical developments and is focused on digital transformation in artificial intelligence, machines, and robotics, CEO Yousef Albenyan told the conference. It also seeks to provide smart solutions to its customers and enhance the competitive process, he added.


Saudi digital payment solutions startup, CashIn, gets $1.6m in funding

Saudi digital payment solutions startup, CashIn, gets $1.6m in funding
Image: Shutterstock
Updated 13 sec ago

Saudi digital payment solutions startup, CashIn, gets $1.6m in funding

Saudi digital payment solutions startup, CashIn, gets $1.6m in funding
  • The startup provides digital payment solutions, virtual points of sale, and other payment features to businesses
  • It comes as a new e-invoicing rule in the Kingdom is set to be implemented, with CashIn partnering with the government sector to fully comply with it

DUBAI: Saudi financial technology startup CashIn has raised SR6 million ($1.6 million) in its latest funding round, as the industry grows bigger due to evolving consumer habits.

The startup provides digital payment solutions, virtual points of sale, and other payment features to businesses who are looking to manage sales in an integrated platform.

It comes as a new e-invoicing rule in the Kingdom is set to be implemented, with CashIn partnering with the government sector to fully comply with it, the startup said in a statement.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is undergoing rapid growth in the FinTech and technology sectors in comparison to other countries, and we are keen on CashIn to adapt to these fast-paced changes in parallel with Saudi’s 2030 vision,” its chief executive officer Omar Al-Rammah said.

The seed round was led by BIM Ventures and a number of angel investors, the startup said.


Saudi, Oman ties open door for businesses to explore opportunities in the sultanate

Saudi, Oman ties open door for businesses to explore opportunities in the sultanate
Updated 19 September 2021

Saudi, Oman ties open door for businesses to explore opportunities in the sultanate

Saudi, Oman ties open door for businesses to explore opportunities in the sultanate
  • Several KSA businesses in talk with their Omani counterparts to expand into the sultanate

JEDDAH: More Saudi businesses are actively exploring investment opportunities in Oman following recent reciprocal visits of Saudi and Omani top officials.
The visits have given a new impetus to the bilateral ties and slammed open doors of new opportunities for both countries in various sectors.
Among a long list of such businesses are Al Sayadiyah United Co. and Luberex Co. for Trade and Industry, which are reportedly in talks with their Omani counterparts to expand into the sultanate. 
Marwan Raffa, CEO of the Kingdom-based Al Sayadiyah United Co., said the company has been operating for about 40 years. It trades in fish and seafood items from different Gulf Cooperation Council countries and expects a very good experience in trade operations with Oman.
The CEO is in touch with Oman's counterparts to expand business operations in the country.
He said the Kingdom’s relationship with other countries, of course, would affect his line of work.
“Good relationships open up more opportunities,” he said.

FASTFACTS

Currently, the total Saudi investments in Oman amount to nearly SR24 billion and Omani investments have reached over SR4 billion.

The trade volume between the two countries amounted to more than SR2 billion ($533)

Oman’s coasts and beaches are no less than 3,000 km long. He said it is a great and fruitful place for his business.
“The location of the Sultanate of Oman in the south of the Arabian Peninsula and its coasts overlooking the Indian Ocean in the south and the Arabian Sea in the east, with a length of more than 3,000 km, makes it a treasure trove of marine life and an excellent and rich source of seafood,” he said.
Al Sayadiyah has 12 restaurant branches in the Kingdom — 10 in Jeddah and 2 in Riyadh.
Ali Al-Attas, CEO of Luberex Co. for Trade and Industry. His company makes car oil in Oman.
“We want to open a market in Oman and neighboring countries,” Al-Attas told Arab News.
He said manufacturing in Oman has high-quality outcomes. “Oman’s manufacturing quality is well known, just as Saudi Arabia’s industrial manufacturing.”
“Its process for investment is easy as well,” he added.
Luberex was established in 2016 and manufactures all types of car oils in Oman, and manufactures more items such as paint spray and rust remover in Riyadh.
Their annual turnover is $3 million-$5 million, and they are looking to be listed on Tadawul.
Oman’s Sultan Haitham bin Tariq recently visited Saudi Arabia during which the two sides agreed on several initiatives including boosting Saudi investments in Oman’s Duqm region, cooperation in the energy, food, culture, sports, and tourism sectors.
Saudi and Omani businessmen are also considering setting up a joint venture specialized in petrochemicals and chemicals, Argaam reported recently.
The report quoted Nasser Al-Hajri, chairman of the Saudi-Oman Joint Business Council as saying, “Saudi businessmen are looking for major investments in Oman’s industrial, petrochemical, chemical manufacturing, fish farming, mining, food, animal feed, tourism and real estate sectors.
The proposed name of the  joint venture is “Gulf Company.”
Saudi businessmen are keen on investing in Oman, provided they get better incentives and facilities, Al-Hajri said.
The trade volume between the two countries amounted to more than SR2 billion ($533 million) in the first quarter of 2021.
The number of Saudi investors in Oman has reached 1,235 whereas 320 Oman companies have so far invested in various sectors in the Kingdom.
Currently, the total Saudi investments in Oman amount to nearly SR24 billion and Omani investments have reached over SR4 billion.


UAE, UK sign deal to strengthen cooperation on climate action

UAE, UK sign deal to strengthen cooperation on climate action
Updated 19 September 2021

UAE, UK sign deal to strengthen cooperation on climate action

UAE, UK sign deal to strengthen cooperation on climate action
  • The MoU comes ahead of the UN COP26 climate summit in November

DUBAI: The UAE and the UK on Saturday signed a memorandum of understanding to strengthen cooperation to accelerate measures to protect environment.

The MoU comes ahead of the UN COP26 climate summit in November, due to be hosted by the UK in the city of Glasgow and offers a framework for wide-ranging cooperation by government entities, companies, and research agencies in support of realizing COP26 goals.

UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, Dr. Sultan Al-Jaber, who is also special envoy for climate, and UK Minister of State for Middle East and North Africa James Cleverly signed the memorandum, which recognizes that strong, decisive climate action can be an engine for economic growth.

HIGHLIGHT

Under the MoU, the UAE and the UK will work together in seeking to deliver on the Paris Agreement, including by reducing emissions to keep 1.5 degrees in reach, facilitating greater action on adaptation, mobilizing finance for climate action and collaborating on pathways to low emission and climate-resilient growth.

Under the MoU, the UAE and the UK will work together in seeking to deliver on the Paris Agreement, including by reducing emissions to keep 1.5 degrees in reach, facilitating greater action on adaptation, mobilizing finance for climate action and collaborating on pathways to low emission and climate-resilient growth.

Al-Jaber said: “Fifteen years ago, the UAE made a strategic decision to invest heavily in innovation and low-carbon energy, especially renewables and in partnership with other countries. 

“Today’s MoU, on the eve of the UN climate summit in Glasgow, builds on our long-standing partnership with the UK, including on environmental cooperation and investment. We look forward to strengthening our collaboration across all sectors to help support and realize the bold ambitions the UK has outlined for COP26.”

The UAE was the first country in the region to ratify and sign the Paris Accords and the first in MENA to set an economy-wide reduction in emissions by 2030, as part of its second Nationally Determined Contributions. 

November’s UN climate summit will see the official launch of the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate , co-founded by the UAE and the US with endorsement from the UK’s COP Presidency. 


Flexible-work platform attracts more than 10,000 Saudis since launch

Flexible-work platform attracts more than 10,000 Saudis since launch
Updated 19 September 2021

Flexible-work platform attracts more than 10,000 Saudis since launch

Flexible-work platform attracts more than 10,000 Saudis since launch
  • The ministry seeks to achieve a target of 57,000 contracts via the platform by the end of 2022

RIYADH: A platform to help workers find part-time and freelancing work in Saudi Arabia has managed to attract interests from more than 10,000 seekers of flexible work hours since May 2020, according to the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development.

The ministry seeks to achieve a target of 57,000 contracts via the platform by the end of 2022, Al-Eqtisadiah newspaper reported, citing the ministry.

The ministry launched the platform, known as Marn, which offers hourly-based employment and does not require employers to pay end-of-service benefits.

BACKGROUND

The ministry launched the platform, known as Marn, which offers hourly based employment and does not require employers to pay end-of-service benefits.

The platform appeals to employers because it reduces their overheads and means they are only paying wages when they receive orders. The retail and wholesale sectors have benefited most from the flexible work system, along with the construction and logistics sectors, the newspaper added.

In 2020, Minister of Human Resources and Social Development Ahmed Al-Rajhi, launched mrn.sa, platform.

Under the system, an employee’s working hours with a single employer should be less than half the total working hours at the facility.

The flexible work contracts are limited to Saudis only.


ACWA Power bets big on Uzbekistan growth

ACWA Power bets big on Uzbekistan growth
Updated 18 September 2021

ACWA Power bets big on Uzbekistan growth

ACWA Power bets big on Uzbekistan growth
  • ACWA has invested about $1.2 billion in Uzbekistan thus far
  • ACWA plans to contribute to $100 million Uzbekistan fund

MOSCOW/RIYADH: In the crowded corridors of the Hilton Tashkent City, ACWA Power Chairman Mohammad Abunayyan talks quietly with key delegates of the Islamic Development Bank’s annual meeting in Uzbekistan, who approach him one after another.

Abunayyan, a lean, middle-aged, intelligent-looking man is with IDB officials celebrating the launch of the $100 million Economic Empowerment Fund for Uzbekistan earlier this month.

ACWA Power is planning on becoming one of the Saudi investors that will make up 45 percent of the fund, which is also being financed with money from the Islamic Development Bank and the Uzbek government.

ACWA’s contribution would be the latest in a long line of investments in the Central Asian nation, where the utility now has assets worth $4.6 billion having invested about $1.2 billion, according to the prospectus for its initial public offering that was launched earlier this month.

Although that is less than one tenth of the SR248 billion ($66 billion) of assets ACWA has accumulated globally since it was established in 2004 with what Abunayaan describes as a small equity investment. Abunayaan joined the board in 2008.

Beyond its home market in Saudi Arabia, ACWA also owns assets in Turkey, South Africa, Vietnam and Egypt.

Still, Uzbekistan is an important market for ACWA Power.

In 2020, the company was awarded three projects: Sirdarya Combined-Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) independent power producer (IPP) with 1,500 MW of gross contracted power capacity; the 500 MW Bash Wind IPP; and the 500 MW Dzhankeldy Wind IPP.

The company’s fourth and largest Uzbek asset in Uzbekistan is the Karakalpakstan 1,500 MW Wind IPP project, valued at $2 billion. The Karakalpakstan, Bash and Dzhankeldy projects are at advanced stages of development and Sirdarya IPP is under construction.

ACWA Power’s investments in Uzbekistan represent a sizeable chunk of total foreign direct investment (FDI) that the country has received in recent years.

“Uzbekistan attracted $2 billion in FDI in 2020 and targets another $5 billion this year,” Atabek Nazirov, director general of the Direct Investment Fund of Uzbekistan, told Arab News on the sidelines of the IDB’s two-day conference on Sept. 3.

Such investments mean a long-term relationship between ACWA Power and Uzbekistan.

“[In our projects] we need to lay the foundation for a long-term partnership, this is a relationship that lasts for 20, 25, 30 years,” Tom Teerlynck, executive vice president of ACWA Power, told Arab News at the IDB meeting.

“The early years go very smoothly because everybody is happy — agreements signed, infrastructure is being built, the services being provided,” he said. “But problems come in later when people in ministries or private companies change. So, it’s very important to lay very robust foundations.”

Uzbekistan officials are confident that ongoing reforms will propel economic growth, despite the global shock caused by COVID-19.

“In 2020, Uzbekistan was the only economy in the Central Asia region that did not have a negative gross domestic product [GDP],” said Direct Investment Fund of Uzbekistan’s Nazirov. “We were able to achieve just above 1 percent growth.”

The government is forecasting economic growth of 6.5 percent this year although that is a conservative scenario and it is hoping for closer to 7 percent, Ilhom Norkulov, Uzbekistan’s deputy minister of economic development and poverty reduction, told Arab News at the IDB meeting.

“For the next five years our target is to increase GDP to $100 billion so we are working to create conditions for the economy to grow 6-7 percent a year,” he said.

However, Uzbekistan’s economy is facing tailwinds in the form of a high inflation rate – expected at 10-11 percent this year – unemployment of 10.5 percent in 2020 (up from 5.8 percent in 2017) and a decline in average monthly wages to a low of $226 in the fourth quarter of 2018 from a peak of $415 in 2016, but back to $280 in the second quarter 2021, according to official data.

Government officials say they are fully aware of the issues, and maintaining economic reforms and income growth should ease the employment and wage conditions over the long run.