Saudi fisheries program CEO lays out $4bn investment plan

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Updated 25 February 2022

Saudi fisheries program CEO lays out $4bn investment plan

Saudi fisheries program CEO lays out $4bn investment plan

RIYADH: The National Fisheries Development Program plans to attract over $4 billion of foreign and local investment into Saudi Arabia’s fishing industry as part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 scheme to diversify the economy.

The man tasked with making this happen over the next eight years is NFPD CEO Dr Ali Al-Shaikhi. His body is mandated by the government to expand the country’s seafood industry, boost food security and grow agricultural exports.

Al-Shaikhi told Arab News: “This was an idea that in 2010 transformed into an initiative. A steering committee hired KPMG to study the potential of the Kingdom’s seafood sector.

“The committee also visited many countries to study aquaculture, and they assessed potential Saudi seafood production, at over one million tons. A market study discovered that KSA seafood consumption per capita was less than 50 percent of the global average — 11 kilos rather than 24.

“Four years later, the committee’s report spelled out a clear strategy — to improve our aquaculture production facilities, and to increase production capacity. This was approved by the Royal Court, which assigned a program to implement the strategy.”

Al-Shaikhi joined the NFPD in 2017 after serving in the National Aquaculture Group and the Almarai food company

He said: “The NFDP works with the government and the private sector. We have a very good team and we have moved fast.

“We are focused on job creation, protecting the local markets and improving and promoting our seafood industry.”

He added: “We are preparing the platform for investment. We have spent almost SR300 million ($80 million) over the last three years only on research — carrying out feasibility studies, measuring environmental impacts, identifying the right species to be cultivated, calculating feed consumption rates and so on.

“We have created hatcheries for fish and fish feed and we are developing food processing techniques. Once all these critical elements are in place, the investor or farmer will have all the knowledge required and can just focus on production.

“Now we are working with the private sector to achieve our goals. We identify investment opportunities and make it easier and faster to invest in terms of new regulations and government support.”

Fishing is an age-old tradition in the Gulf, but aquaculture — the artificial raising, harvesting and processing of marine products — is an increasingly ‘smart’ industry demanding a range of specialized skills. How is Saudi Arabia preparing to meet this challenge?

“At present over 3,000 Saudis technicians are employed in our aquaculture sector,” Al-Shaikhi said. “We do not yet have academic colleges specific to aquaculture in the KSA, so we will help young Saudis to study aquaculture abroad.

“We are launching an initiative to develop one hundred Saudi [citizens] as aquaculture leaders — with 70 percent of funds coming from the private sector and 30 percen from the government.

“And we just signed an agreement with a local academic facility to train 3,000 Saudis for the aquaculture and fisheries sector. Foreign academics are coming in, so we will have knowledge transfer from them as well as from international governments we cooperate with.”

Al-Shaikhi noted: “Aquaculture is one of the fastest-growing areas in the food sector. Worldwide it's growing 6 percent per year. This contributes to food security, job creation and rural development — and it’s sustainable in terms of the environment and climate change. 

“Aquaculture is one of the key elements that will improve the quality of life in many countries, and of course, we want this to happen in Saudi Arabia.”


Saudi airports take a hard look at sustainability 

Saudi airports take a hard look at sustainability 
Updated 18 sec ago

Saudi airports take a hard look at sustainability 

Saudi airports take a hard look at sustainability 

RIYADH: The aviation sector in Saudi Arabia is pushing toward a sustainable model by building infrastructure for the future to deliver a seamless passenger experience, according to Abdulaziz Al-Duailej, president of the Kingdom's General Authority of Civil Aviation.

Picking up the threads from the universal pandemic that marred the airline industry, the sector is bolstering the infrastructure by addressing core issues such as staff shortage, health mandates and climate change concerns. 

Fresh from the pandemic, the industry had to endure a hiring process that took almost 16 weeks from recruiting a skilled worker to finally deploying him or her to the job, leading to a clogged supply of staff members in the airports. The situation, however, is fast changing. 

“We tried to support the airports by accelerating the training, certification and security clearance of the ground handlers and other players of the ecosystem through digitization programs that have minimized the process,” said Al-Duailej, while speaking at the World Travel and Tourism Global Summit in Riyadh. 

The aviation authority last month also submitted the ‘Harmonizing Air Travel' policy guidelines to the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization Council for its approval, encouraging the use of a unified health document that could alleviate traveler concerns that global travelers encountered during the universal pandemic. 

There is also a concerted effort in the Saudi aviation sector to cut the dwell time or time passengers spend in the airport before boarding their flights. 

NEOM Airport, for instance, is working toward developing a high-speed “green” rail system that will transfer air travelers to the city without the need of even finding a parked vehicle, meaning there will be no parking at the NEOM airport. 

“Instead of focusing necessarily on the airport and being a destination, we want to facilitate getting you into the city as fast as we can,” said John Selden, CEO of NEOM Airport. 

The airport is also considering using electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft, or EVTOL, to expedite the mobility of incoming passengers. 

“The last two years were incredibly tough for the industry. The check-in process, which usually takes five minutes, took 20 minutes per passenger. We need to find a way to put all the passenger touchpoints together to make travel seamless,” said Luis Felipe de Oliveira, director-general of the Airports Council International, while speaking at the event. 

Airports are also toying with the idea of running the infrastructure to support sustainability, which includes 100 percent green or battery-powered equipment throughout the airport expanse. 

“We need to have systems where passengers don’t leave gates, and we don’t burn fuel on taxiways until we are ready for take-off. We don’t need a queue at the end of the runway,” said Pagano while sharing his vision of a green hydrogen-fueled ecosystem that will power the airports of the future. 


Two new natural gas fields discovered in Saudi Arabia: Energy minister

Two new natural gas fields discovered in Saudi Arabia: Energy minister
Updated 5 min 11 sec ago

Two new natural gas fields discovered in Saudi Arabia: Energy minister

Two new natural gas fields discovered in Saudi Arabia: Energy minister

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman has announced the discovery of two new natural gas fields in the Kingdom.

The “Awtad” unconventional natural gas field was discovered southwest of the Ghawar field, 142 kilometers southwest of the city of Hofuf, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

The “Al-Dahna” unconventional natural gas field is located 230 kilometers southwest of the city of Dhahran.

Both fields were discovered by Saudi Aramco.

Prince Abdulaziz said that the importance of these discoveries lies in increasing Saudi Arabia’s natural gas reserves, which would in turn support the Kingdom’s strategies and help realize the objectives of the Liquid Fuel Displacement Program.

The Minister of Energy added that the discoveries underline the wealth of natural resources the Kingdom has at its disposal.


Uber’s diversification strategy should be blueprint for travel and tourism industry: Leading IBM official

Uber’s diversification strategy should be blueprint for travel and tourism industry: Leading IBM official
Updated 30 November 2022

Uber’s diversification strategy should be blueprint for travel and tourism industry: Leading IBM official

Uber’s diversification strategy should be blueprint for travel and tourism industry: Leading IBM official

RIYADH: The travel and tourism sector should look to Uber to learn how to diversify, according to the Global Managing Director of IBM’s Travel and Transportation Industry Dee Waddell.

Speaking at a panel during the second day of the World Travel & Tourism Council Global 2022 summit taking place in Riyadh, Waddell said the industry has an opportunity to take a platform approach, in the same manner as the US-based ride-hailing app.

“Uber has started to launch out beyond just the traditional taxi, they've gone to scooters, they've gone to electric scooters, and vertical takeoff device equipment, so you're seeing that they're taking a platform approach into expanding out like Amazon did,” Waddell said.

When it comes to the cities of tomorrow in Saudi Arabia and worldwide, the primary driver revolving around the use of technology will tackle how to leverage the infrastructure and use these technologies to be able to further develop experiences within the cities, he added.

What makes a city great is its cultural identity and shared humanity, according to President and CEO of Diriyah Gate Development Authority Jerry Inzerillo, who was also speaking during the same panel.

“All the great cities of the world have one thing in common and that is the celebration that we may not share the same ideology, but we share the same biology,” Inzerillo said.

Moreover, designing with purpose is key to a fruitful city as it is not only about building buildings vertically and making sure that the box fits, said Global CEO of JLL Hotels and Hospitality Gilda Perez-Alvarado during the panel discussion.

Integrating nature within those cities is vital, since this allows for interaction, connectivity, and collaboration and allows for simple activities for residents such as going for a walk in the fresh air, she revealed.

“Let’s design with purpose. It’s not just about efficiency, as efficiency can be very wasteful in the long run,” Perez-Alvarado said.

In addition to designing with purpose, it’s important to keep an eye on transportation since it is a basic infrastructure that can make or break a city, she added, saying that some European cities provide free transportation making them more efficient and more environmentally-conscious.

When developing cities of tomorrow, it is vital for cities around the world to share a clear and concise narrative of why somebody should come to your city and that unlocks in terms of experiences and opportunities, the Managing Director of Tourism for Western Australia Carolyn Turnbull said during the panel discussion.

“The vision that exists here in Riyadh has been extraordinary. I came to this event with a clear vision for Western Australia but I’m going home to ensure that we are thinking as big as Riyadh is,” Turnbull added.


Capital markets need to step in to secure Vision 2030 goals: S&P Global

Capital markets need to step in to secure Vision 2030 goals: S&P Global
Updated 30 November 2022

Capital markets need to step in to secure Vision 2030 goals: S&P Global

Capital markets need to step in to secure Vision 2030 goals: S&P Global

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s banking sector will not be able to fund all of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 projects, according to a report which said more private investment is needed.

The analysis by S&P Global says Saudi Arabia’s investment needs are “significant”, and capital markets will play a “key role” in funding not just private sector investments but also giga-projects such as NEOM, the IPO for which is expected in 2024.

Quantifying the exact funding amount needed for Saudi Arabia’s ambitious growth plans is “not easy” according to the report, with the Kingdom aiming to raise the private sector’s contribution to gross domestic product from 40 percent to 65 percent, and increase non-oil exports share of GDP from 16 percent to 50 percent.

Taken alongside the boom in oil prices, S&P Global says Saudi Arabia is set to become one of the world's fastest-growing large economies in 2022, real GDP growth in excess of 7.0 percent this year, and a return to fiscal surpluses at 6.3 percent of GDP in 2022 and 3.5 percent in 2023.

The report said: “Saudi banks have contributed significantly to a key Vision 2030 objective — increasing home ownership to 70 percent by 2030 (60 percent in 2020). 

“Mortgage lending has been the main engine of growth for Saudi banks over the last few years, with total mortgages hitting SR503.2 billion ($133.85 billion) as of June 30, 2022, compared with SR140.3 billion at Dec. 31, 2018.

“ As the market matures and interest rates continue to rise, origination will likely lose momentum in the next 12-24 months. 

“However, as contracts for Vision 2030 projects are awarded, corporate credit lending should start to contribute more meaningfully to banks' lending growth.”

S&P Ratings said that even as Saudi firms set out ambitious capital spending goals in the next five years, the firm would not necessarily reassess its ratings of these businesses “given their healthy balance sheets and strong liquidity.”

“Over time, however, we will reassess our ratings as projects are executed because any rating upside would hinge on business trends improving, sustainable EBITDA (Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) growth, or stronger leverage metrics,” said the report.

The report went on to state that Saudi Arabia had fared better against the wave of inflation sweeping the globe than other countries, with the riyal being pegged to the dollar helping to play down unpredictability.

“We forecast inflation at 2.5 percent in 2022, before rising to 2.7 percent in 2023 and averaging 1.9 percent in 2024-2025,” said the report, adding: “We expect interest rate hikes to affect the private and general household sectors more than government-related activities given expected high but tapering oil prices.”


Standard Chartered launches tech program for women-led startups in Saudi Arabia  

Standard Chartered launches tech program for women-led startups in Saudi Arabia  
Updated 30 November 2022

Standard Chartered launches tech program for women-led startups in Saudi Arabia  

Standard Chartered launches tech program for women-led startups in Saudi Arabia  

RIYADH: Women-led tech startups working in Saudi Arabia stand a chance to receive $50,000 in funding support if they take part in a tech program launched by Standard Chartered and Falak Investment Hub. 

The Kingdom's first cohort of the ‘SC Women in Tech’ program will provide women entrepreneurs opportunities for economic and social development, as well as funding.   

Applications for the eight-week program, part of Standard Charter’s global ‘Women in Tech’ initiative, currently available in six other countries, began on Nov. 28 and is set to remain open for around six weeks.   

During the program each start-up will be provided with opportunities to meet one-on-one with Falak teams, mentors and industry experts during workshops, events, or private discussions. The startups are expected to benefit from the guidance of entrepreneurs, technologists, as well as investors, aimed at supporting their growth.  

At the end of the program, all start-ups will be provided with the chance to pitch to over 40 angel investors, Venture Capital, and family office representatives through Falak Angels (the second established angel network in the Kingdom). The winners of this year’s cohort will receive up to $50,000 in total funding. 

Earlier this year, the Kingdom announced over $$6.4 billion in future technologies and entrepreneurship investments. It is a key pillar of Vision 2030, which focuses on strengthening entrepreneurship by boosting private-sector investment, supporting innovation, and attracting and training talent.   

Speaking about the initiative, Mazen Bunyan CEO of Standard Chartered Bank Saudi Arabia, said: “We are proud to collaborate with Falak Investment Hub and bring our ‘Women in Tech’ program to the Kingdom. 

The spirit of diversity and entrepreneurship are important values that we celebrate at Standard Chartered, and we hope that by providing early-stage support and mentorship we can help women succeed and become leading job creators.”  

Vision 2030 promotes Saudi women as an important part of the Kingdom’s strength. It aims to develop their talents, invest their energies, and provide them with the right opportunities to build their futures, contributing to the development of society.

Saudi women now comprise 33.6 percent of the Saudi workforce as of March 2022, according to the General Authority for Statistics. That figure is up from 17.4 percent just five years ago.  

The unemployment rate of women was the lowest in 20 years as of the first quarter of 2022, falling to 20.2 percent from 22.5 percent during the fourth quarter of 2021.