RIYADH: Global sovereign sukuk issuance is expected to drop to $73 billion this year on the back of narrowed fiscal deficits, Moody’s said in a report on Tuesday.
The rating agency added that the total sukuk value stood at $88 billion last year and is anticipated to dip to $75 billion in 2023.
"We expect issuance to fall as government deficits continue to narrow because of higher oil prices, lower coronavirus-related expenditure, and accelerating economic activity in core sukuk-issuing countries," said Senior Analyst, Alexander Perjessy.
"Issuance volumes already dropped 22 percent in 2021, with the largest decline from the Gulf Cooperation Council sovereigns, mainly Saudi Arabia,” Perjessy noted.
Moody’s sees the total government deficit of Sukuk-issuing sovereigns in Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Turkey dropping to $92 billion this year, down from $118 billion in 2021.
GCC sovereigns are likely to see a surplus of $50 billion in 2022, compared to a surplus of $13 billion last year and a deficit of $112 billion in 2020, according to the rating agency.
Hospitality training programs step up to support Saudi youth
Companies throughout the Kingdom are cultivating careers in hospitality through vocational training programs
Updated 25 September 2022
RIYADH: As Saudi Arabia’s tourism sector continues to grow, with the Kingdom expecting to attract 100 million annual visitors and creating one million jobs by 2030, building a resilient hospitality industry has become a core focus.
The hospitality sector has risen up to the challenge by ensuring that there is enough qualified manpower to handle the ever-increasing demand by providing training programs for nationals to develop their skills across all career levels. The intention is to equip young Saudis with essential skills in the hospitality, tourism, and travel industries through programs supported by the world’s best tourism training schools.
Companies throughout the Kingdom are cultivating careers in hospitality through vocational training programs that emphasize resource efficiency and provide globally recognized qualifications.
In August, the Radisson Hotel Group launched a training program, A Brilliant Journey of Advanced Development Programme, aimed at developing Saudi talent. The program targets supervisors and equips them with the expertise to fill managerial positions across its portfolio of 26 operational hotels.
“All the programs that we have launched target Saudi employees. And that works well with Vision 2030 offering new jobs for Saudis,” Managing Director of RHG Saudi Arabia Basel Talal told Arab News.
Talal added that 14 Saudis, over half of them women, are in the program at supervisory and assistant managerial levels.
According to him, the group remains committed to upskilling Saudi nationals working in the hospitality sector as part of its expansion strategy in the Kingdom.
Talal said that the initiative aligns with the Saudi 2030 Vision, which aims to increase tourism’s contribution to the domestic product to 10 percent.
Among the group’s initiatives is the Concierge Navigation to Success program, which aims to provide Saudis working in the hospitality industry with the tools and resources they need to advance their careers and ultimately enrich customer experiences.
Talal said that five males and two females are currently enrolled in the concierge program.
The NTS program was launched as a response to COVID-19, Talal said, adding, “As a result of the lack of visitors and business during COVID-19, the Ministry of Tourism advised all hotels to focus on concierge services.”
The programs will be offered twice a year, “The idea is that we repeat the program every six months, twice annually,” he informed.
To cover certain core elements or pillars, RHG partners with training programs like Atton or Maximus: “We’ve seen that there are parts or gaps in the training program that require us to reach out to third parties,” Talal said.
With those programs, RHG improves employee retention and creates more loyalty to the brand, and to the unit as a whole. “Higher retention or improved retention will only result in a better quality of service, and reduce cost because you don’t get any employees to train them, you just work with the existing employees,” he said.
RHG employs over 450 Saudi line employees and another 200 are supervisors and managers, he added.
RHG also has a follow-up process for graduates on their progress, their skill set, and how to improve, which is reflected in their annual performance reviews, Talal concluded.
Leading the way
The Red Sea Development Co. is also leading the way in establishing undergraduate and postgraduate hospitality programs.
TRSDC, in partnership with the University of Prince Mugrin and the École hôtelière de Lausanne, offers scholarships to high school graduates who are interested in studying international hospitality management, Fadi Alaseri, TRSDC’s associate educational director told Arab News.
“TRSDC’s transformative education programs are designed to develop the brightest minds in the tourism and hospitality fields, by equipping young Saudis with the needed skills and competencies, allowing them to realize their full potential,” Alaseri said.
There are two tracks available in the program: Fast Track, which is a four-year program with no preparatory year, and Full Track, which is a five-year program with a preparatory year, which qualifies students to begin the major.
TRSDC and its partners will provide suitable job opportunities to graduates upon successful completion of the program, he added.
“The program aims to prepare leaders and specialists in international hospitality management by providing a curriculum that combines theoretical knowledge and hands-on experiences based on Swiss and international hospitality standards,” Alaseri said
There were 2,653 applicants for the scholarship, 1,883 of whom were males and 770 were females. However, only 26 were selected, of which 14 were males and 12 were females.
“Our talents will run the ground-breaking luxury, regenerative tourism destination in alignment with the Saudi labor market needs within our destination,” Alaseri said.
“TRSDC reshapes educational opportunities by opening new doors and empowering young Saudi professionals with the required skills and knowledge to excel in the hospitality field and tourism sectors,” he added.
Upskilling Saudi youth
In order to provide students with job opportunities at Hilton Hotels in Saudi Arabia upon graduation, the group entered into a partnership with Bunyan Training Academy in July 2022.
The training program, which is accredited by the Saudi Technical and Vocational Training Corporation and certified by the EHL, is available to select young Saudi talent, Hilton Group’s Senior Director of Human Resources for Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Levant Fawaz Moumina told Arab News.
“This is the first time in Saudi that an international hospitality provider such as Hilton is collaborating with EHL to offer this program,” he added.
Students will receive sought-after theoretical and practical lessons across various functions of the industry, Moumina said.
Furthermore, participants will be able to pursue bachelor’s degrees based on the variety of professions they will be trained in, including culinary, F&B, front office, and housekeeping, if they choose to do so, he said.
This program aims to identify more than 30 Saudi talents who are interested in pursuing a career in hospitality. “Following a meticulous selection process, Bunyan Training Academy carefully selected applicants with Hilton’s input,” Fawaz said.
In 2024, students who complete the program will receive a diploma accredited by both the Saudi TVTC and EHL, he said.
As part of its efforts to mobilize the nation’s labor force, Moumina said the group has also established close ties with the King Khalid Foundation, the International Youth Federation, King Saud University and ministries and governmental organizations like the Saudi Tourism Authority.
Fawaz stated that Hilton has 2,400 team members in Saudi Arabia across 16 hotels, to reach 10,000 by 2030 — half of whom will be Saudi nationals.
Saudi Arabia signs more than SR40 billion deal to develop local infrastructure in 11 cities
This agreement provides more than 150,000 housing units of varying sizes and designs
Updated 24 September 2022
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing signed an agreement with the National Housing Company worth more than SR40 billion ($10.6 billion) to develop the infrastructure of 11 cities around the Kingdom.
The agreement, which deals with financing and developing a portfolio of projects between the ministry and the National Housing Company, was signed during a ceremony held under the patronage of the Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing, Majid Al-Hogail, and in the presence of Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb, Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture Abdulrahman Al-Fadhli, and Minister of Transport and Logistics Saleh Al-Jasser.
This agreement provides more than 150,000 housing units of varying sizes and designs, covering 11 cities in the Kingdom. It also covers an area of more than 90 million square meters, while around 54 million square meters will be allocated for green and open spaces, public facilities, road networks and public transport.
The population capacity resulting from this agreement will reach 750,000 people.
The National Housing Company, in partnership with developers, will invest more than SR40 billion in the portfolio of these projects to develop comprehensive infrastructure, service delivery, and develop a range of quality of life facilities.
The company is the leading enabler of the real estate development sector and the largest major developer of suburbs and residential communities, and aims to increase the real estate supply in the Kingdom with various housing options, as part of the company’s endeavor to achieve objectives of the housing program as part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, by raising the proportion of housing ownership for Saudi families to 70 percent.
The signing of the agreement came on the sidelines of the Exhibition of Projects of Distinguished Cities under the patronage of King Salman, which is being organized by MOMRAH from Sept. 24 to 28 in Riyadh, in which the National Housing Company is participating as a strategic sponsor.
First metaverse project 2117 launches in the UAE inspired by Dubai ruler’s vision
The metaverse is aligned with Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center’s layout for Mars
Updated 24 September 2022
DUBAI: The UAE-based Web3 pioneer BEDU launched the country’s first metaverse project under the name 2117, inspired by the ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum’s vision to build the first colony on Mars.
BEDU’s CEO Amin Alzarouni told Arab News that the metaverse’s name, 2117, comes from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum’s announcement in 2017 that the first colony on Mars would be built a hundred years from then.
“So that’s why we call the metaverse 2117, inspired by that vision,” he said.
The newly launched metaverse is aligned with Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center’s space layout for Mars, and BEDU plans to build a full world on it that includes residential buildings, hotels, entertainment centers, schools, universities, and healthcare facilities, Alzarouni informed.
According to him, millions of dollars have been invested in the metaverse project without providing a specific figure.
Besides claiming that the firm’s name is derived from the Bedouin term, Alzarouni added that the firm’s mission is to follow the nomads’ footsteps and discover the next planet.
“They [nomads] basically discovered the land here, discovered Earth, and now we are going to continue discovering different areas, and the next destination is Mars,” he said.
According to the CEO, millions of dollars have been invested in the metaverse project. He says the firm’s mission is to discover the next planet.
He explained that 2117 is an immersive digital world that exists in parallel to reality. It will take 95 years for the Mars vision to become a reality in the real world.
The main focus of metaverse 2117, according to Alzarouni, is the value of humanity, regardless of its apparent space orientation.
“We are focusing a lot on humanity and the values of humanity, which is how people can live together with tolerance, with no differentiation between religion, culture and race,” he said.
Alzarouni explained that 2117 is an immersive digital world that exists in parallel to reality. It will take 95 years for the Mars vision to become a reality in the real world, but BEDU is already achieving it in the metaverse right now.
Aside from providing BEDU with the space layout, MBRSC also provides the data required to create a metaverse that is as real as possible, Alzarouni said.
Alzarouni said that in the metaverse, companies can scale up much faster and easier, which could result in more jobs being created.
There will be new jobs to fill in the metaverse five to 10 years from now, he said.
“One of the jobs that I foresee being created in the future is a combination of an architect with the programming skills that exist in the metaverse,” he said.
As a result, he added, a new skill set could be created by introducing a curriculum in universities where students would graduate with an architect mindset and software programming skills to be able to fulfill a role in the metaverse.
As a concept, the metaverse already exists in different verticals, and games like Roblox and Fortnite have already briefly incorporated it into society, the CEO said.
“The concept of digital twin exists in the manufacturing business, automobile business, and the real estate business, which is one aspect of how the metaverse could help,” he said.
However, he added that the world is in its early stages of integrating the metaverse into reality. “It will take a bit of time, depending on the adoption rates,” Alzarouni said. The implementation of the metaverse into society could take five to ten years, he continued.
BEDU’s main objective and strategy is to become the next unicorn in the Web3 sector, Alzarouni said.
“At the moment, we are all equal. Nobody can claim that they are ahead of the game, not Meta, not Microsoft, not any other metaverse project, and not even us,” he said.
In metaverse 2117’s vision, people will be able to work in the metaverse, go to school, and enjoy concerts, he said. 2117 timeline
The journey will begin in “2117” with a take-off from Earth, taking users through space for seven months until they land on Mars. It is estimated that the journey will begin this December, Alzarouni said.
The public will be able to participate in the metaverse starting in October and it will close at the beginning of December 2022.
Alzarouni said the sale would be open for two periods. The first sale, which will be private, will amount to 0.2117 ETH. In the second sale, which is for the public, the price will be 0.25 ETH, he added.
Web3 users with digital wallets will be able to connect their wallets and gain access to 2117 using their crypto, he said. “So, it’s as simple as any e-commerce experience that people have nowadays,” he added.
Upon BEDU’s release by the end of October, people will be able to access the 2117 metaverse via a link shared by the firm, he concluded.
Saudi coaching entity Eunoia uses AI to support employee well-being
We’re looking at whether a company provides motivating environment for employees: Founder
Updated 24 September 2022
RIYADH: Eunoia, a Riyadh-based coaching entity, has taken the lead in using artificial intelligence to support employee well-being in the marketplace.
“When we say well-being, we’re not necessarily just talking about their health, but we’re also talking about their mental health, we’re looking at whether a company provides a motivating environment for employees to become better versions of themselves,” Maha Taibah, founder of Eunoia, told Arab News on the sidelines of the second Global AI Summit in Riyadh.
The event was organized by the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority under the theme, “Artificial Intelligence for the Good of Humanity.”
Eunoia was established in 2018 to offer growth-centric coaching that transcends standard coaching methods on an individual and group basis.
Taibah believes that humans are always able to reinvent themselves in relation to emerging innovations.
“As humans, we always reinvent ourselves. Before the Internet, we thought that people were going to go out of jobs because the Internet was coming. I think we have the capacity to evolve as human beings and whatever will be consumed by AI, we will definitely top it with something else that we are capable of. The human brain is magical,” she said.
Taibah is committed to youth development, bringing together public and private sector organizations to help shape their future by preparing them for their roles in society through innovative methods and carefully designed programs and products.
According to Taibah, Saudi Arabia is very well positioned to become a global player in technology with a large percentage of the population below 30 and keen to engage in innovation and technology.
“We are a very young nation, Saudi Arabia is 70 percent under 30, and we adopt technology very quickly,” she remarked.
Taibah believes that AI can be incorporated in multiple business sectors and startups can maximize its benefits.
“The trick here is really to understand how AI can serve the sector that you are interested in, it is the future and the future is already here,” Taibah added.
Global IT services company Crayon to invest in Saudi Arabia’s AI sector
Updated 24 September 2022
Fahad Abuljadayel Nour El Shaeri
RIYADH: Norway-based Global IT services company Crayon is fully invested in the future of Saudi Arabia’s artificial intelligence sector as its CEO forecasts the industry will contribute to 12.4 percent of the country’s gross domestic product by 2030.
During the second Global AI Summit held in Riyadh, Ziad Rizk, the CEO of Crayon Middle East and Africa, told Arab News that the Kingdom is an ideal location for the company to incubate its operations to meet the demand of the entire MEA region.
“Around $360 billion will be spent on AI across the Middle East and Africa. But specifically, when you look at the Kingdom, we believe that AI will represent around 12.4 percent of the total GDP by 2030,” Rizk told Arab News.
“Accordingly, this is where we are investing ahead of the curve, trying to lead and to support the Kingdom’s journey in that direction,” he added.
• CEO of the company forecasts the industry will contribute to 12.4 percent of the country’s gross domestic product by 2030.
• The Kingdom is an ideal location for the company to incubate its operations to meet the demand of the entire MEA region, he says.
• Crayon also announced the opening of its Regional Digital Transformation office in Riyadh during the event.
• The company, which helps customers understand software assets and utilize and reduce software costs, already has over 4,500 customers across the MEA region.
Rizk explained that the company will support the sector through multiple areas by leveraging its global expertise in the Kingdom, as well as establishing a local talent pool in collaboration with the government and universities.
“The third pillar is to work with the startup community and the scale-up companies that are really on the cusp of growing exponentially, and helping them branch out beyond the Kingdom, across the Middle East and Africa region,” he added. Crayon also announced the opening of its Regional Digital Transformation office in Riyadh during the event.
Founded in 2002, the company, which helps customers understand software assets and utilize and reduce software costs, already has over 4,500 customers across the MEA region.
Rizk said that Crayon’s existing customer base in Saudi Arabia consists of large businesses and entities ranging across sectors like oil, electricity and aviation.
Lauding the Saudi market, Rizk stated that their customers in the Kingdom were high in expertise as well as agile in pursuing their ambitions. Rizk believes that startup companies will play a huge role in boosting the Kingdom’s AI sector and the company is planning to support them.
“The startup community is really good at identifying a key technical problem, and then putting a lot of focus on solving it, but these companies face challenges on the business side, and this is where we engage with them,” he said.
Crayon was awarded the global partner of Data & AI in 2019 by Microsoft as well as Partner of the Year for Saudi Arabia in 2021.
The company has also seen 180 percent growth year over year and Rizk is expecting this to continue for at least three years.