IBM targets Kingdom's youth as new Saudi GM insists he wants to 'serve' the country

IBM targets Kingdom's youth as new Saudi GM insists he wants to 'serve' the country
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Updated 23 September 2021

IBM targets Kingdom's youth as new Saudi GM insists he wants to 'serve' the country

IBM targets Kingdom's youth as new Saudi GM insists he wants to 'serve' the country

IBM’s investments in initiatives including a cybersecurity center and training academy show the company's belief in the Saudi people, one of its top officials has told Arab News

Fahad Alanazi, general manager of IBM Saudi Arabia, said his company's strategy “is to make the national priority, our priority” as he spoke of his commitment to the region.

Alanazi was appointed earlier this year as the first Saudi GM of IBM for Saudi Arabia, and he is clear that his local knowledge will help the company thrive in the Kingdom. 

“In order to serve people of a country, you need to understand the way business is operated there,” said Alanazi.

With this in mind, IBM has established a number of initiatives aimed at the Saudi youth. 

The most recent, a training academy, was announced in August as part of a series of technology initiatives aimed at improving the digital skills of 100,000 Saudi youngsters.

The initiatives tie in with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, and are being delivered in partnership with the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority, the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming and Drones, and the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology.

Education

Alanazi praised the Saudi education system, something which IBM is seeking to complement with digital training programmes. 

“On previous technology training programs conducted by us, the Saudi students scored the highest among other Middle Eastern students and that’s a good sign of the education system,” he said. 

IBM has a “digital nation” program with the Saudi Ports which focuses on providing online training and enabling the digital skills of Saudi port employees. There have also been agreements with the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology to train their employees, as well as other government officials.   

IBM has signed an agreement with Tuwaiq Academy to provide online courses to improve the digital skills of employees in the government and private sectors that are using AI data technology.

The courses to be offered through Tuwaiq will cover hybrid clouds, data science, AI technology, blockchain, and machine learning.

“We are measuring our success by our ability to create jobs via our ecosystem,” said Alanazi .

IBM sees its projects as win-win opportunities, not only because they feel responsible for spreading knowledge but also because investment in education will reap benefits from seeing growth in Saudi Arabia. “The more we train people, the more the country will be developing technologically and that means there is a return for us,” he said.

This approach also benefits the IBM ecosystem, he said, ensuring there are the right people to work for IBM and creating customers in the future.

“ We are committed to developing local talent, we have strong belief in the Saudi market and the Saudi youth,” said.

A sign of this commitment is that IBM’s only security operations center in the region is located in its Riyadh office, serving the whole of the Middle East. The center operates 24/7 to monitor security incidents and provides active alerts on any suspicious activities related to client data, said Alanazi.

Clouds

IBM is one of the leading firms working in hybrid clouds, which they believe to be an opportunity worth $1.3 trillion worldwide, according to Alanazi. 

Hybrid clouds combine on-premises IT infrastructure with private cloud services and the public cloud, and they are viewed as a way of moving faster while keeping costs in check and complying with local regulations. 

Nearly half of C-suite executives in the Kingdom see hybrid clouds as a preferential solution when it comes to disaster recovery, and 85 percent are pursuing or planning hybrid cloud strategies, according to a survey by IBM.

However, fear of information leakage is slowing down their plans. Although the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology regulates the cloud, 80 percent of public and private sector leaders still prefer data to be held within the country for greater privacy.

It is a government requirement that all healthcare and financial personal data be held in the Kingdom. “We believe there will be some sort of acceptance to put them on the cloud system,” Al Anizi said, but for the time being there are clear instructions that valuable information needs to be inside the country. 

“We have the IBM cloud satellite installed here in Saudi Arabia, but we are committed in moving Saudi Arabia forward with hybrid cloud,” he said.

As with every other industry, data technology and AI have been affected by the pandemic.

“Delivery services, online banking, payment systems and other related sectors are growing. We have been part of that,” said Alanazi. 

This growth includes the recent launch of an instant payment system in cooperation with Mastercard. It is aligned with Saudi Payments’ aim to improve the Kingdom’s financial ecosystem through the adoption of faster payment systems and improvements to banking reconciliation, according to a report by IBM. 

Recent transformations in the way technology has been put to use was not determined by the pandemic, but Covid did accelerate investment and helped the process move faster, said Alanazi.

IBM first set foot in Saudi Arabia in 1947, when the first computer was installed at Aramco. The company does not yet plan to base its regional headquarters in Saudi Arabia and its existing office in Riyadh doesn’t only serve sales and marketing purposes, but also provides technical resources, consultancy services, and security expertise, he said.


Kuwait’s Boubyan Bank net profits grow by 37%, plans ESG framework

Kuwait’s Boubyan Bank net profits grow by 37%, plans ESG framework
Updated 20 October 2021

Kuwait’s Boubyan Bank net profits grow by 37%, plans ESG framework

Kuwait’s Boubyan Bank net profits grow by 37%, plans ESG framework

RIYADH: Kuwait’s Boubyan Bank net profits rose by 37 percent during the first nine months of 2021 while operating profits recorded a growth of 18 percent to reach 140 million dinars ($145.8 million).

Abdullah Al-Tuwaijri, CEO of personal and digital banking services at the bank, said that fees and commissions were the biggest support for the bank’s performance in the last quarter, as the growth rate exceeded 25 percent, in addition to the financing portfolio, which rose by 18 percent.

In an interview to CNBC Arabia, he said the bank’s current assets have exceeded 7 billion dinars and its market share in individual services sector stands at about 15 percent.

He said the bank plans to expand its digital services with a focus on fintech and also aims to work on developing a framework for environmental, social and governance standards.

He said: “We are still conservative and believe that the economic and operational matters in Kuwait are better, as we noticed during the third quarter business growth, but we still have a conservative view and we are waiting until the end of the year to see the general indicators.”


Oil remains near multiyear highs as energy crunch continues

Oil remains near multiyear highs as energy crunch continues
Updated 20 October 2021

Oil remains near multiyear highs as energy crunch continues

Oil remains near multiyear highs as energy crunch continues

NEW YORK: Oil edged higher on Tuesday and was near multiyear highs as an energy supply crunch continued across the globe, while falling temperatures in China revived concerns over whether the world’s biggest energy consumer can meet domestic heating needs.

The Brent crude benchmark rose 34 cents to $84.67 a barrel by 11:11 a.m. EDT (1511 GMT). US West Texas Intermediate futures rose 46 cents to $82.90 a barrel.

Prices have been climbing the last two months. Since the start of September, Brent has risen by about 18 percent, while WTI has

gained by around 21 percent. “Supply-demand balances show that the market is experiencing a supply deficit, which is spurring deep inventory draws and driving prices upward,” said Louise Dickson, senior oil markets analyst at Rystad Energy.

“This market tightness is expected to extend into most of 2022, and crude oil demand will only catch up with crude supply by the fourth quarter of next year.”

With temperatures falling as the northern hemisphere winter approaches and heating demand increasing, prices of oil, coal and natural gas are likely to remain elevated, traders and analysts said.


Greece, Egypt, Cyprus sign energy deal with Europe in mind

Greece, Egypt, Cyprus sign energy deal with Europe in mind
Updated 19 October 2021

Greece, Egypt, Cyprus sign energy deal with Europe in mind

Greece, Egypt, Cyprus sign energy deal with Europe in mind
  • The deal concerns the "interconnection" of the neighbours and transfer of electricity to their respective networks, Greek prime minister said
  • The announcement comes as countries around the world face an energy crisis, with the prices of natural gas, oil and coal rising

ATHENS: Greece, Cyprus and Egypt on Tuesday signed an electricity agreement that could include Egyptian solar power and potentially supply power to other European countries.
The protocol was signed during a meeting between Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and the presidents of Egypt, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, and Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, in Athens.
The deal concerns the “interconnection” of the neighbors and transfer of electricity to their respective networks, Mitsotakis said.
“As energy sources diversify, Egypt can become a supplier of electric power, which will be mainly produced by the sun, and Greece will become a distribution station for Europe,” Mitsotakis added.
The announcement comes as countries around the world face an energy crisis, with the prices of natural gas, oil and coal rising.
El-Sisi said the agreement aims to “reinforce energy cooperation.”
In a joint statement, the Mediterranean neighbors said: “This interconnection reinforces cooperation and energy security, not only between these three countries but also with Europe.”
“It will be a way to transfer important quantities of electricity from and to the eastern Mediterranean,” the statement said.
The three countries also expressed their intention of exploring and transferring natural gas in the region.
Energy cooperation between eastern Mediterranean countries regularly irritate Turkey, which has its eyes set on oil and natural gas deposits in the region.
“Unfortunately, Ankara does not understand the message of the times and its aspirations to the detriment of its neighbors are obviously a threat to peace in the region,” Mitsotakis said.
Tensions soared last year when Turkey sent an exploration ship and small navy flotilla to conduct research in waters that Greece considers its own under treaties.
The Turkish foreign ministry later Tuesday lambasted the joint statement as another example of the “hostile policy” toward Turkey and Turkish-held northern Cyprus.
While Ankara supported energy projects which “increased cooperation between regional countries,” the ministry stressed that Turkish and northern Cyprus’ rights and interests “should not be ignored by these projects.”
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey seized the north in response to a coup orchestrated by an Athens-backed junta seeking to annex the island to Greece.
Despite attempts this year to normalize relations with Egypt after falling out in 2013, the Turkish ministry also criticized Cairo’s cooperation with Greece and Cyprus.
“The inclusion of Egypt indicates that the Egyptian administration has not yet grasped the real address where it can cooperate in the eastern Mediterranean,” it added in a written statement.


Saudi Arabia raises penalty for violating finance companies law

Saudi Arabia raises penalty for violating finance companies law
Updated 19 October 2021

Saudi Arabia raises penalty for violating finance companies law

Saudi Arabia raises penalty for violating finance companies law

RIYADH: Saudi Cabinet on Tuesday approved raising the penalty for violating the Finance Companies Law to not more than SR2 million ($0.53 million), the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Following the amendment, the penalty shall be SR2 million or 10 percent of the value of finance to which the violation was carried out, or imprisonment for a period of not more than two years, or one of those two penalties.


Route to net zero emissions will cost global economy $5tr annually: Report

Route to net zero emissions will cost global economy $5tr annually: Report
Updated 19 October 2021

Route to net zero emissions will cost global economy $5tr annually: Report

Route to net zero emissions will cost global economy $5tr annually: Report

A report from Bank of America has warned reaching net zero will cost the global economy $5 trillion annually for the next 30 years.

On the eve of the UN’s COP26 environmental conference in Scotland this month, where countries who signed the 2015 Paris Agreement to reduce carbon emissions will review their progress and outline policies to achieve net zero by 2050, the report offers a stark reminder of the cost of transitioning to greener energy.

However, the report also warned that failing to address climate change could lead to the loss of 3 percent of global gross domestic product annually this decade, amounting to around $69 trillion by the end of this century.

A key priority at COP26 is for governments to agree on specific cash-backed policies that will accelerate the transition toward net zero, including a commitment to phase out the use of coal, sharply reduce deforestation, speed up the transition to electric vehicles and green heating systems, and implement fiscal measures to encourage increased investment in renewable energy.

In addition, the summit, which is taking place in Scotland’s former industrial heartland of Glasgow, will also attempt to get western governments to make good the $20 billion a year shortfall in helping emerging nations transition to greener energy.

Developed nations had agreed to provide $100 billion per year to emerging nations. Not only have they fallen short on that commitment, but the UN wants agreement in Glasgow to increase that funding further.

The UN Environment Programme estimates the cost of transition in emerging countries will reach $140-300 billion by 2030, and $280-500 billion by 2050. San Francisco based think tank, the Climate Policy Initiative, estimates Africa on its own may require up to $3 trillion by the end of this decade.

Against this backdrop, Bank of America estimates the total cost of transitioning will be $150 trillion, at least four times the amount that global COVID-19 stimulus packages are forecast to cost governments this decade.

The report states financing the trillions of dollars of investment needed for net zero will require “significant changes in capital allocation.”

As Arab News reported last week, the World Resources Institute said G20 countries still account for 75 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, a report by Moody’s Investors Service revealed financial institutions in the G20 were carrying almost $22 trillion of exposure to carbon-intensive sectors.

However, Bank of America said the use of labelled bonds and loans to address environmental issues is expanding rapidly.

It is forecasting more than $1 trillion in labeled bond issuance this year, with $900 billion in green, social and sustainability bonds and a further $100 billion in sustainability-linked bonds.

The report adds that labeled bonds already account for more than 20 percent of European high grade and European high yield issuance for corporates this year, driven by environmental, social and governance (ESG) concerns and EU regulations, more than twice the rate in 2020.

However, while the report is bullish about the ability of Western governments to pay for greening the planet, the report notes that while around 50 countries, along with the EU — which between them account for almost 75 percent of CO2 emissions — have committed to reaching net zero, only 10 countries have so far enshrined that commitment in legislation.

The report adds while a number of the countries have pledged to long-term targets, centered on 2050 or the end of the century, they have failed to make 2030 commitments in line with the Paris Agreement.

The good news? Well, Bank of America’s cost estimate is considerably lower than an earlier forecast, published in the summer, by BloombergNEF’s closely watched New Energy Outlook, which put the figure at $173 trillion, of $5.8 trillion annually.

Progress of sorts as the world heads to Glasgow.