Saudi women seize startup culture with both hands

Saudi women seize startup culture with both hands
Nine Soft Serve: Launched from a food truck in 2018 by Abeer Al Hashim, now a chain of six stores in Alkhobar and Riyadh
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Updated 26 November 2021

Saudi women seize startup culture with both hands

Saudi women seize startup culture with both hands

Saudi Arabia is making the transition to a more diversified economy, after being reliant upon oil for much of the past century — a trend sparked by Vision 2030 as well as commitments made at the COP26 Summit last month.

While corporate giants such as Aramco and Sabic continue to dominate the economy, a culture of enterprise is taking hold as more and more young people start their own companies.

And contrary to international perceptions, it is Saudi women who are playing a major part in this new era.

No less than 17.7 percent of Saudi women either started or ran a business in 2020, according to a report last month from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, a London-based data group that tracks startups across the world. This is considerably higher than the global average of 11 percent of females who go into business.

The report also noted that over 30 percent of Saudi women intended to launch a business in the next three years; and that, compared to men, women were “more likely to act on these intentions.”

GEM says these moves are backed by “recent government policies and interventions to support female entrepreneurs in the Kingdom.”

Nouf Al-Qahtani, the owner of the NSHQ chain of perfumeries, is a case in point. Al-Qahtani first went into business in 2005, repackaging and reselling her perfume collection.

Her startup took her from the souqs of Kuwait to the essential oil dealers of France and Italy, and a SR300,000 ($80,000) loan from the Prince Sultan Fund allowed her to launch her first shop in Alkhobar in 2015.

Today, she runs three perfume boutiques in Alkhobar and Riyadh with a staff of 14, while a fourth outlet is on the way.

“It is easier for Saudi women to go into business now,” Al-Qahtani told Arab News.

She adds: “Many businessmen in Saudi Arabia did not even want to talk to a single woman when I started my company. They would say, ‘Come back with your father or your brother and we will talk to him.’

“But now Saudi women are more powerful. They encourage each other, and even the mentality of Saudi men has changed. If they start any business, they want a female partner. You know why? Because she will work harder, she will do her best to prove herself and she will be more organized.”

Al-Qahtani credits this cultural shift to the reforms introduced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

She says: “I love the way he makes Saudi citizens, and especially women, believe in themselves and their national identity. Saudi consumers used to want only imported products — now they are really interested in local producers like myself.”

Abeer Al-Hashim, the owner of the Nine Soft Serve chain of ice-cream outlets, is another woman who started more or less from scratch and went on to greater things.

Beginning with a single Alkhobar-based mobile unit in the Kingdom’s Eastern Province in 2018, Al-Hashim now operates six retail outlets — four in Riyadh and two in Alkhobar.

Al-Hashim agrees that circumstances have rapidly improved for female entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia.

She says: “Even five years ago it was very tough for women to have an independent life and to run an independent company.”

“The entire commercial process is easier now, especially in terms of tech applications – it’s so simple to communicate with the government online, and as a woman you no longer need a man to speak on your behalf.”

Al-Hashim was recently approached by Monsha’at — the General Authority of Small for Medium Enterprises — which told her that her product was ideal for franchising. It went on to provide Al-Hashim with guidance and resources to expand her operation locally and internationally, including putting her in touch with a franchising consultancy.

This is an example of the proactive new approach of the Saudi government — a sea change from the cumbersome red tape and excessive delays that used to await anybody doing business in the Kingdom.

“We get such a lot of official support,” says Al-Qahtani, “and that’s something that I’m very proud of.”

Language & Learning Stimulation Center, Jeddah: Established by Rana Mirza in 2012 to assist children with language disabilities

Rana Mirza, who faced successive hurdles when establishing her Jeddah-based Language & Listening Stimulation Center for children with learning disabilities in 2012, wishes she had enjoyed the benefits that female startup founders now take for granted in Saudi Arabia.

Mirza said: “I had to pay a man to follow up on all the paperwork in the various government offices, but now I can do it all myself. And the government e-services save a huge amount of time and energy, because you don’t have to visit a physical office anymore. It’s all online.”

This is an important factor for Mirza, whose 40-employee center requires numerous official licenses to provide a range of linguistic and psychological therapies.

These businesswomen have their own clear message for other women considering a new startup.

“I would advise her to believe in herself,” says Al-Qahtani. “If she believes in herself, others will believe in her too.”

Al-Hashim said: “You cannot start something without a sense of passion. If you don't have passion for what you’re doing, you’re wasting your time.”

Mirza’s advice is more hands-on: “Try to have knowledge of management, quality control, finance and customer service — before you start your business. I learned that the hard way. It's not just about your passion — it’s about the know-how.”

All three of these entrepreneurs are testament to the fact that significant opportunities exist for anybody, male or female, who takes advantage of the emerging culture of enterprise in Saudi Arabia.


UAE and South Korea sign agreements in defense, hydrogen cooperation

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, UAE vice president and prime minister and ruler of Dubai, meets with President Moon Jae-in at Expo 2020 Dubai. (WAM)
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, UAE vice president and prime minister and ruler of Dubai, meets with President Moon Jae-in at Expo 2020 Dubai. (WAM)
Updated 16 January 2022

UAE and South Korea sign agreements in defense, hydrogen cooperation

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, UAE vice president and prime minister and ruler of Dubai, meets with President Moon Jae-in at Expo 2020 Dubai. (WAM)
  • The UAE is the first leg of the South Korean president’s tour that includes stops in Saudi Arabia and Egypt

LONDON: The UAE and South Korea signed several agreements on Sunday during President Moon Jae-in’s official visit to the Emirates to attend the “Day of Korea” ceremony at Expo 2020 Dubai.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, UAE vice president and prime minister and ruler of Dubai, praised relations between the two countries and their keenness to further boost bilateral ties in various areas, Emirates News Agency reported.
“The strategic partnership between the UAE and Korea provides many opportunities to enhance cooperation in various fields, including economy, trade, food security, health, culture, space, energy and tourism,” he said, adding the Emirates is South Korea’s top trade partner in the region.
The volume of non-oil trade between the two countries reached $4.8 billion in 2020.

“Prominent strategic projects such as the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant are proof of the depth of relations between the two friendly nations,” Sheikh Mohammed said. “We also appreciate the active participation of the South Korea pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai.”
During the meeting, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the UAE's Ministry of Defense and South Korea's Defense Acquisition Program Administration on medium and long-term cooperation in the fields of defense industries and technology.
UAE’s Tawazun Economic Council (Tawazun) signed an MoU with Korea’s LIG Nex1 Co. and two MoUs with Hanwha Systems Co.
Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) signed three agreements with a number of Korean entities, and they include a framework agreement between ADNOC and the Export-Import Bank of Korea.
A joint study agreement was signed between ADNOC, the Korea National Oil Corporation and SK Gas on hydrogen, and another agreement between ADNOC and KNOC on ammonia cargo.
“During the next phase, we plan to draw up plans to further expand cooperation in areas of common interest, as well as explore development opportunities in priority sectors,” Sheikh Mohammed said.
Moon will meet Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh on Tuesday and the head of the Gulf Cooperation Council Nayef Al-Hajraf on Wednesday, when he is expected to announce the resumption of Gulf free-trade talks. He will meet Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi in Cairo on Thursday, South Korean news agency Yonhap said.


Dubai real estate sales in 2021 record highest value since 2009

Dubai real estate sales in 2021 record highest value since 2009
Dubai skyline
Updated 16 January 2022

Dubai real estate sales in 2021 record highest value since 2009

Dubai real estate sales in 2021 record highest value since 2009

Dubai real estate deals were worth approximately 151 billion dirhams ($41.1 billion) in 2021, their highest value since 2009.

The total number of deals last year reached 61,241, the largest number since 2013, according to Al Arabiya.

This value jumped by 110 percent compared to 2020, while the total number of deals increased over the course of 2021 by 74 percent compared to 2020.

Of these deals, ready made properties accounted for 60 percent of total real estate transactions in Dubai in 2021, while the rest was made up of off-plan properties.


Egypt sees first private issuance of green bonds 

Egypt sees first private issuance of green bonds 
Updated 16 January 2022

Egypt sees first private issuance of green bonds 

Egypt sees first private issuance of green bonds 

A Norwegian clean energy company Is working on what wiuld be the first private issuance of green bonds in Egypt. 

Norway's Scatec plans to issue around $340 million in green bonds, secured by its six solar energy plants in Benban complex that has a production capacity of 390 megawatts, Alarabiya reported citing banking sources. 

This comes amid Egypt’s boom in clean infrastructure projects during the last decade.  

 


China plans to increase consumption during the holiday season: Macro snapshot 

China plans to increase consumption during the holiday season: Macro snapshot 
Getty Images
Updated 16 January 2022

China plans to increase consumption during the holiday season: Macro snapshot 

China plans to increase consumption during the holiday season: Macro snapshot 
  • German gross domestic product rose by 2.7 percent in 2021 compared to 2020

Despite a rise in COVID-19 cases, China is planning to uplift consumption during the holiday season, the country’s National Development and Reform Commission said.

China will still maintain pandemic control, yet its effect would be mitigated through the fine-tuning of those regulations to each area, Bloomberg reported.

The commission also called on e-commerce vendors and online entertainment channels to introduce more sales promotions during the season.

South Korea Interest Rates

In a bid to combat inflation, the Bank of Korea decided to raise its interest by 0.25 percent to the pre-pandemic level of 1.25 percent.

The bank also signaled that further hikes would take place in the remainder of the year, according to The Wall Street Journal. The country’s annual inflation rate reached 3.7 percent in December, noticeably above the central bank’s target of 2 percent.

Inflation is set to remain above the 3 percent mark for a while and would average more than 2.5 percent for the full year, the bank’s governor, Lee Ju-yeol, said.

German GDP growth

German gross domestic product rose by 2.7 percent in 2021 compared to 2020, according to first calculations by the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis).


“Economic development has been largely dependent on the infection rates of Covid-19 and associated preventive measures also in 2021,” said Dr. Georg Thiel, head of the Federal Statistical Office, at the press conference on the 2021 GDP in Wiesbaden. 

“Despite the continuing pandemic situation, more delivery bottlenecks and material shortages, the German economy has managed to recover from the sharp decline last year, even though the economic performance has not yet reached the pre-crisis level agai,” Thiel continued.

Moreover, GDP in 2021 was still 2.0 percent lower than it was in 2019 the year before COVID-19 started.

UK economy

Britain's economy grew 0.9 percent faster than expected in November, before the latest wave of coronavirus infections and restrictions on many businesses, and was 0.7 percent larger than it was in February 2020, according to the Office for National Statistics.


“It's amazing to see the size of the economy back to pre-pandemic levels in November – a testament to the grit and determination of the British people,” finance minister Rishi Sunak said.


Government deposits with SAMA in biggest monthly drop since 2016  

Government deposits with SAMA in biggest monthly drop since 2016  
Updated 16 January 2022

Government deposits with SAMA in biggest monthly drop since 2016  

Government deposits with SAMA in biggest monthly drop since 2016  
  • Compared to December 2020, SAMA's net foreign assets fell 2.4 percent

The government’s deposits with the Saudi Central Bank fell by SR74.7 billion ($19.9 billion) during December to reach SR538, preliminary data posted by SAMA revealed.

This change represents the biggest monthly drawdown of government deposits with SAMA since November 2016 when they fell by SR90.3 billion.

At the same time during December 2021, net foreign assets held by the Saudi Central Bank dropped by 2 percent from November to SR1.64 trillion, according to preliminary data.

Compared to December 2020, SAMA's net foreign assets fell 2.4 percent.

In addition, the Kingdom’s monetary base – which is the sum of currency outside banks, cash in vaults and bank deposits with SAMA – edged up by 0.5 percent in December on a month-on-month basis to reach SR356 billion.