All eyes on Riyadh bid for World Expo 2030 as Saudi Pavilion in Dubai holds closing ceremony

Special All eyes on Riyadh bid for World Expo 2030 as Saudi Pavilion in Dubai holds closing ceremony
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Updated 05 April 2022

All eyes on Riyadh bid for World Expo 2030 as Saudi Pavilion in Dubai holds closing ceremony

All eyes on Riyadh bid for World Expo 2030 as Saudi Pavilion in Dubai holds closing ceremony
  • Saudi Arabia emerges as a strong contender to host the global event, having won multiple endorsements
  • Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced Saudi Arabia’s bid to host Expo 2030 in October last year

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s award-winning pavilion held its closing ceremony at Expo 2020 Dubai’s Opportunity District on Monday night, after organizing workshops, shows and exhibitions for six consecutive months during which the Kingdom’s culture, development and investment potential were in the international limelight.

As the Arab region’s first ever World Expo draws to a close this week, Saudi Arabia has emerged as a strong contender to host Expo 2030, having already won multiple international endorsements for its formal bid launched late last year.

The consensus view is that the combination of a record-breaking pavilion and attention-grabbing program of events at Expo 2020 Dubai has greatly strengthened Saudi Arabia’s case for hosting the prestigious global event in its capital, Riyadh, in 2030.

“For Saudi Arabia, Expo 2020 Dubai provided a major and highly visible platform to highlight the exciting opportunities and experiences available in the Kingdom, especially as it opens up to the world at an unprecedented scale,” Hussain Hanbazazah, the Saudi pavilion’s commissioner general, told Arab News.




Visitors tour the Saudi Arabia Pavilion at the Dubai Expo 2020 on January 13, 2022, with a projection of an image of the Kingdom's largest palm farm. (AFP/File Photo)

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced the Saudi bid to host Expo 2030 in October last year and the Kingdom submitted its formal application in December to the Bureau International des Expositions, the organization behind the expo.

In its presentation to the BIE in December, Saudi Arabia outlined bold plans to transform Riyadh and the rest of the country into a world-class venue for global connectivity, culture and climate action.

Saudi Arabia’s bid is based on the theme “The Era of Change: Leading the Planet to a Foresighted Tomorrow.” If the Kingdom is successful, the expo would take place in Riyadh from Oct. 1, 2030, to April 1, 2031.

“The BIE is pleased to receive this letter of candidature from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the fifth country to seek the organization of World Expo 2030,” Dimitri S. Kerkentzes, secretary general of the BIE, said upon receiving the formal application from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

He added: “The strong interest in hosting World Expo 2030 attests to the global desire to reconnect with each other and to build a future that is more sustainable, by fostering innovation and cooperation.”

As part of the Saudi bid, Fahd Al-Rasheed, CEO of the Royal Commission for Riyadh City, announced in December last year that the Kingdom plans to build one of the world’s biggest public transport networks, establish a green space in the heart of the city that is four times the size of New York City’s Central Park, plant 15 million trees, and turn the Saudi capital’s streets into works of art.

“The transformation is not occurring only in Riyadh, it is sweeping the country,” Al-Rasheed said. “Riyadh will be more than ready to host the World Expo. It will be a perfect manifestation of what the World Expo aims to achieve to bring together the world’s best minds, ideas and solutions.”

Central to Riyadh’s urban redevelopment plan is sustainability, according to Al-Rasheed, with environmental preservation and the goal of cutting carbon emissions by half in less than a decade at the forefront of the project.

“As a first time competitor, Saudi Arabia’s candidature represents an important and symbolic challenge for our nation and one that we will embrace with full commitment,” he said.

Five countries, including Saudi Arabia, Italy, South Korea, Russia and Ukraine, are in the running to host the event. Many believe that owing to the conflict in Ukraine and the package of stringent sanctions placed by Western countries on Russia, it is unlikely that the latter two will succeed in their bids.

Saudi Arabia has already won significant backing for its expo bid. In November, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation pledged its support for the Kingdom’s application.




Saudi Arabia first participated in a World Expo in 1958 when the event was hosted in the Belgian capital, Brussels. It has actively participated in World and Specialized Expos ever since. (Supplied)

Since then, several African nations have also registered their support for the Saudi bid, including Djibouti, Morocco, Mauritania and Zambia.

Saudi Arabia first participated in a World Expo in 1958 when the event was hosted in the Belgian capital, Brussels. It has actively participated in World and Specialized Expos ever since.

The Kingdom’s enthusiasm and engagement in these events has not gone unnoticed. At a Specialized Expo 2008 in the Spanish city of Zaragoza, Saudi Arabia was handed a silver award for its pavilion design. This was topped two years later with a gold award at the World Expo 2010 Shanghai in China.

The tradition of World Expos began in London in 1851 with the Great Exhibition — a monumental celebration of scientific and technological advancement, but also a fascinating display of curiosities from around the world, reflecting an age of accelerating transport and communications, and seemingly boundless potential.

Since then, World Expos have been occasions to share and celebrate the innovations and discoveries of the day, while also reflecting on the shared challenges facing humanity in the hope of identifying shared solutions. The next World Expo is due to be held in Osaka, Japan, in 2025.

These global events, which are held roughly every five years and take place over a period of six months, take visitors on immersive journeys built around a common theme. Welcoming tens of millions of visitors, World Expos allow participating countries to build extraordinary pavilions, transforming host cities for years to come.

By all accounts, Expo 2020 Dubai has been a resounding success, drawing some 10 million visitors to the UAE’s biggest city since the event opened on Oct. 1 last year. By March 25, the Saudi Pavilion alone had welcomed some 4.6 million visitors, including 7,566 school visits.

The pavilion hosted more than 230 unique programs, including 35 that were tailored specifically towards children to teach them about Saudi history and culture in a playful and engaging setting.

The pavilion also hosted 11 business programs with the objective of driving growth and investment, while also promoting tourism and entertainment opportunities in the Kingdom. Several of these events were co-curated with other pavilions with the aim of building cross-cultural bridges and identifying common commercial interests.

Central to the Saudi pavilion’s events and exhibits, and key to its bid to host Expo 2030, are the objectives of the Kingdom’s economic and social reform agenda, Vision 2030.

“Expo 2020 Dubai is the first expo that Saudi Arabia has participated in since the launch of Vision 2030, our national transformation strategic framework, which is ushering in big changes in our country,” said Hanbazazah.




As the Arab region’s first ever World Expo draws to a close this week, Saudi Arabia has emerged as a strong contender to host Expo 2030. (AN Photo/Hashem Rzk)

The agenda, launched by the crown prince in 2016, aims to transform Saudi Arabia into a global investment powerhouse, to diversify its economy away from oil and to embrace sustainable high-tech industries with the ultimate aim of becoming the world’s 15th largest economy by the end of the decade.

The jewels in Vision 2030’s crown are undoubtedly the Kingdom’s new giga-projects, from the Red Sea Project, a luxury sustainable tourism development taking shape on the Kingdom’s west coast, to NEOM, the clean energy-driven smart city of the future under construction in the Kingdom’s northwest.

To promote these investment opportunities, the Saudi pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai included a “Business Park,” an innovative platform connecting investors from around the world to forge partnerships and discuss opportunities, and a “Discovery Center,” where visitors were invited to learn more about the Saudi economy, its competitiveness and the unprecedented reforms that have taken place in the Kingdom.

“We are very proud that our national pavilion was very popular, with one in every four Expo visitors visiting our pavilion,” said Hanbazazah.

“We invite everyone who hasn’t visited it yet to come and live the experience for themselves before the expo closes its doors on March 31.”


Bahrain tourism minister discusses opportunities in Saudi Arabia with officials

Bahrain tourism minister discusses opportunities in Saudi Arabia with officials
Updated 15 sec ago

Bahrain tourism minister discusses opportunities in Saudi Arabia with officials

Bahrain tourism minister discusses opportunities in Saudi Arabia with officials
  • Both officials agreed to explore investment opportunities in the tourism sector in both countries

RIYADH: Bahrain’s tourism minister discussed expanding cooperation with Saudi Arabia in the tourism sector during an official visit to the Kingdom, Bahrain News Agency (BNA) reported.

Fatima Jaafar Al-Sairafi met with Qusai bin Abdulla Al-Fakhri, CEO of Saudi Tourism Development Fund, in Riyadh where both reviewed ways to create diverse business opportunities in the tourism sector and promote sustainability in line with international developments.

“They agreed to explore the future prospects of tourism projects undertaken by the private sector in both countries, in addition to tapping into investment opportunities in this vital sector,” the BNA statement read.

The officials praised the deep-rooted historic relations between both kingdoms, highlighting efforts to strengthen the steadily growing ties.
 
Al-Sairafi highlighted Bahrain’s 2022-2025 tourism strategy, which aims to increase cooperation with other countries to boost investment in tourism infrastructure.


Saudi charity KSrelief launches medical program combatting blindness in Bangladesh

Saudi charity KSrelief launches medical program combatting blindness in Bangladesh
Updated 10 min 57 sec ago

Saudi charity KSrelief launches medical program combatting blindness in Bangladesh

Saudi charity KSrelief launches medical program combatting blindness in Bangladesh
  • Thousands of people were examined in the new scheme

RIYADH: A new scheme combatting blindness and its causes in Bangladesh was launched on Monday by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief).

The KSrelief voluntary medical team examined 6,600 cases, and performed 150 successful cataract procedures.
This latest scheme serves as an extension of projects combating blindness by the Saudi charity, for families with low incomes in a number of countries.


All you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s new social media influencer permit

All you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s new social media influencer permit
Updated 11 August 2022

All you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s new social media influencer permit

All you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s new social media influencer permit
  • Kingdom’s media regulator says new law to take effect from October, with all social media influencers affected

LONDON: As more Saudis connect through their social media profiles and even begin to profit from these platforms, the Kingdom has launched a new licensing system to properly monitor the influencer industry.

From early October, every Saudi and non-Saudi content creator in the Kingdom who earns revenue through advertising on social media must first apply for an official permit from the General Commission for Audiovisual Media (GCAM).

For a fee of SR15,000 (roughly $4,000), content creators will receive a permit lasting three years, during which time they can work with as many private entities as they wish and promote any product or service, as long as it does not violate the Kingdom’s laws or values.
 

The incoming influencer license “is not a permit to censor or to block,” Esra Assery, CEO at GCAM, told Arab News. “It’s more of a permit to enable the maturity of the sector. We want to help those individuals grow, but grow in a professional way so they can make a career out of (social media revenue).”

The new regulations are being touted as legal protections, both for influencers and businesses wishing to advertise with them, so that rates and contractual obligations are standardized across the industry.

“The market is so unregulated,” said Assery. “We’re not against influencers or those individuals. Actually, we want to enable them. If you check out the new bylaw, it protects them also, because the bylaw regulates their relationship with the advertisers.”
 

Esra Assery, CEO at Saudi Arabia's General Commission for Audiovisual Media. (Supplied)

Currently, anyone in Saudi Arabia is able to advertise on social media and earn money from deals with private entities — with payments per post climbing into the thousands of riyals, depending on the number of followers an influencer can reach.

Concern has been expressed that introducing permits and regulations will undermine how much money influencers can make and might even constitute censorship. However, GCAM insists the permits are designed to ensure transparency between influencers and their clients.

Saudi influencers, whether based in the Kingdom or abroad, must apply for the permit if they wish to work with a brand — local or international. However, non-Saudi residents in the country must follow a different track.

After applying to the Ministry of Investment for a permit to work in the country, they can then apply for an influencer permit through GCAM. However, non-Saudi residents must be represented by specific advertising agencies.

“While some influencers may focus on the short-term loss of paying the license fee, there is a huge benefit to licensing coming in as it legitimizes the sector on a national level,” Jamal Al-Mawed, founder and managing director of Gambit Communications, told Arab News.

“This is crucial in the influencer industry as it has been a bit of a wild west for marketing in the past, with no clear benchmarking for rates or contracts.”

Al-Mawed said that the new measures can protect brands that are susceptible to fraud “when they pay huge budgets to influencers who are buying fake followers and fake engagements. This creates a vicious circle, as hard-working content creators are undermined by the bad apples.”

Although the new license is unlikely to solve every issue overnight, “it does create a foundation for more professionalism and accountability,” Al-Mawed added.

Under new rules, non-Saudi residents and visitors to the Kingdom are prohibited from posting ads on social media without a license. (Shutterstock image)

In June, non-Saudi residents and visitors to the Kingdom were prohibited from posting ads on social media without a license. Those who ignore the ruling face a possible five-year prison sentence and fines of up to SR5 million.

GCAM announced the ban after finding “violations by numerous non-Saudi advertisers, both residents and visitors, on social media platforms.”

“After checking their data, it was found that they had committed systemic violations, including lack of commercial registrations and legal licenses, and they are not working under any commercial entity or foreign investment license,” the commission said at the time.

Now, with a regulated license, such violations will be easier to monitor and the sector will be better regulated to ensure full transparency.
 

Businesses such as bakeries or hair salons that hold social media accounts and advertise their own products or services are not covered by the prohibition. (Shutterstock image)

Although Saudi influencers will be able to hold full-time jobs while earning on the side through promotional campaigns on their social media profiles, the law states that non-Saudis can work only in one specific role while residing in the Kingdom.

However, the system does not apply to businesses and entities — such as bakeries or hair salons — that hold social media accounts and advertise their own products or services on these platforms. Only individuals are affected by the new law.

There are certain exceptions, however, such as individuals who have been invited to the country by a ministry or government entity in order to perform, including musicians and entertainers.

With the rise of social media over the past decade, content creators and so-called influencers with thousands of followers on Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat and other platforms have drawn audiences away from traditional outlets, such as television, newspapers and magazines, to new and largely unregulated media.
 

Sensing the shift in content consumption, advertisers have followed the herd. Crystal-blue waters caressing white, sandy beaches at luxury resorts and scrumptious feasts at the finest restaurants are now commonplace on influencer profiles as businesses rush to take advantage of more “natural-feeling” product placement.

However, regulators have struggled to keep up with this rapid transformation, leaving the process open to legal disputes, exploitation and abuse. That is why authorities elsewhere in the world have also been exploring influencer permits.

Dubai, widely seen as the influencer hub of the Middle East, is among them.

In 2018, the UAE’s National Media Council launched a new electronic media regulation system, which required social media influencers to obtain a license to operate in the country.

The cost of the annual license is 15,000 AED (roughly $4,000). Those who fail to obtain or renew the license can face penalties including a fine of up to 5,000 AED, a verbal or official warning, and even closure of their social media accounts.

The rules apply to influencers visiting the UAE as well. They must either have a license or be signed up with an NMC-registered influencer agency to operate in the country.

With Saudi Arabia progressing in the entertainment and creative industries, the introduction of the license is viewed as a step in the right direction.

“It’s great news for the industry,” said Al-Mawed. “When someone is licensed by the government to offer their services, that gives them a level of safety and trust and can help filter out the scammers who prefer to fly under the radar.”

 

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4,291 Saudi health security trainees graduate   

4,291 Saudi health security trainees graduate   
Updated 11 August 2022

4,291 Saudi health security trainees graduate   

4,291 Saudi health security trainees graduate   

RIYADH: A fourth group of health security trainees graduated from the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties in a virtual ceremony on Wednesday. 

A total of 4,291 male and female graduates will join the job market. 

Dr. Aws Al-Shamsan, secretary-general of the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties, said that health security plays an important role in improving healthcare services.

The program includes practical and theoretical training for three months, in addition to two weeks of field training in one of the health sectors, allowing trainees to benefit from hands-on experience.

Health security graduates receive a diploma allowing them to work in the Kingdom’s health sector.


Umbrellas raise Makkah pilgrims’ spirits

Umbrellas raise Makkah pilgrims’ spirits
Updated 11 August 2022

Umbrellas raise Makkah pilgrims’ spirits

Umbrellas raise Makkah pilgrims’ spirits

JEDDAH: Pilgrims sheltering from heavy rain in Makkah on Tuesday received a helping hand when the General Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques handed out umbrellas to visitors at the Grand Mosque.

Khaled bin Fahd Al-Shalwi, assistant for the general president for social, voluntary and humanitarian services agency, said that the “Umbrella of Mu’tamer” initiative is part of a range of services designed to help visitors perform their rituals. 

Programs and services come under the direction of the President for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, Abdulrahman Al-Sudais, who strives to provide a safe environment to allow visitors to the Grand Mosque to complete their rituals with ease, he added. 

According to the presidency’s website, the presidency has also employed more than 200 supervisors, 4,000 female and male workers, and utilized more than 500 items of equipment to deal with the rain at the Grand Mosque through its environmental protection agency. 

Ahmed bin Omar Bilaamash, assistant to the general president for services and achievement of the environmental protection agency, said that prayer areas, entrances and exits, and the mataf — the circumambulation space around the Kaaba — are equipped to handle the rainfall.