Experts mull Islamic digital economy’s future and challenges

Special Experts mull Islamic digital economy’s future and challenges
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The 42nd Al-Baraka Islamic Economics Symposium was titled Envisioning the Future of the Digital Economy and included the participation of leading economics, finance, and investment experts. (Supplied)
Special Experts mull Islamic digital economy’s future and challenges
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The 42nd Al-Baraka Islamic Economics Symposium was titled Envisioning the Future of the Digital Economy and included the participation of leading economics, finance, and investment experts. (Supplied)
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Updated 21 April 2022

Experts mull Islamic digital economy’s future and challenges

Experts mull Islamic digital economy’s future and challenges
  • Delegates discuss cybersecurity, currencies, investment in staff, research and development
  • Abdullah Saleh Kamel said that Saudi Arabia was making significant headway in becoming the world’s leading center for Islamic finance

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia was fast reaching its goal of becoming the global hub for Shariah-compliant investment, amid challenges of aligning the growing industry securely with the latest digital technology.

These issues were raised on Tuesday at the opening ceremony of the 42nd Al-Baraka Islamic Economics Symposium. Among those who attended included Prince Saud bin Khalid Al-Faisal, deputy governor of Madinah, on behalf of the city’s governor Prince Faisal bin Salman bin Abdulaziz. Also present was Prince Dr. Mamdouh bin Saud bin Thunayan, president of the Islamic University of Madinah.

This year’s symposium was titled “Envisioning the Future of the Digital Economy,” and included the participation of leading economics, finance, and investment experts.

The symposium began with a speech by Abdullah Saleh Kamel, chairman of the board of trustees of the Al-Baraka Islamic Economics Forum, who traced the history of the body to its founder, the late businessman Sheikh Saleh Kamel, 42 years ago.

Kamel also announced the launch of the Saleh Abdullah Kamel Award that aims to recognize innovators in Islamic finance, both individuals and organizations. He said that Saudi Arabia was making significant headway in becoming the world’s leading center for Islamic finance.

In his speech, Dr. Fahad Aldossari, deputy governor of the Saudi Central Bank for research and international affairs, said the global industry was worth $7.2 trillion, while its assets in the Kingdom amounting to nearly SR3 trillion or almost $800 billion, and growing at an annual rate of 18 percent.

In his address, Dr. Saad bin Nasser Al-Shithri, adviser at the royal court and a member of the Saudi Council of Senior Scholars, welcomed efforts to digitize Islamic finance but said safeguards have to be introduced to protect the public. He urged universities in the country to conduct more research into the issue.

The inaugural session of the forum was titled “The Future of the Digital Economy,” with a speech by Prof. Fayyad Abdel Moneim, the former Egyptian minister of finance. He said that an integrated approach was needed for the industry.

In a research paper, Dr. Hatim Tahir, director of Islamic finance at Deloitte Middle East, shed light on the digital economy currently and its future. In a second research paper, Dr. Kinan Salim, head of the Islamic digital economy department at INCEIF University, Malaysia, focused on laws regulating the industry.

Ahmet Faruk Aysan, professor and program coordinator at Hamad bin Khalifa University, Qatar, presented the third research paper. He providing detailed explanations of how blockchain systems and the Internet of Things were affecting the digital economy. He also tackled the impact of digital currencies.

Hussein Abdou, professor of banking and finance at the University of Central Lancashire in the UK, focused on artificial intelligence and its applications.

Another paper, presented by Elsadig Musa Ahmed, professor of economics and technology management at Multimedia University, shed light on big data and its role in economic decision-making. Ahmed praised Saudi Arabia for its use of digital technology, and emphasized that trained workers were critical for the industry.

The second session of the forum, chaired by Dr. Majid Al-Moneef, professor and expert in energy economics, and former secretary-general of the Saudi Supreme Economic Council, discussed the challenges of achieving digital transformation and ways to confront the monopolistic policies of giant technology companies. The session also tackled the requirements for attracting investments necessary to implement the digital economy. 

In the same session, cybersecurity challenges were tackled in a paper presented by Dr. Amiruddin Abdul-Wahab, CEO of Malaysia’s Cyber Security Agency. Abdul-Wahab highlighted the need for an integrated approach to confront the risks threatening financial and economic institutions.

The third session of the forum was chaired by Sidi Ould TAH, director-general of the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa, who discussed the potential for the digital economy to assist in sustainable development for emerging economies 

In this regard, Amani El-Rayes, vice president of INP for training, consultations and community affairs, provided a detailed analysis of the country’s role in supporting the digital economy by building basic economic infrastructure for small and medium enterprises.


Saudi charity KSrelief launches medical program combatting blindness in Bangladesh

Saudi charity KSrelief launches medical program combatting blindness in Bangladesh
Updated 14 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. 


Jeddah to host 2nd Saudi International Maritime Forum in November

Jeddah to host 2nd Saudi International Maritime Forum in November
Updated 10 August 2022

Jeddah to host 2nd Saudi International Maritime Forum in November

Jeddah to host 2nd Saudi International Maritime Forum in November
  • Event will be attended by experts in maritime security from around the world
  • The event was a continuation of the Kingdom’s contribution to promoting international peace and security

RIYADH: The 2nd Saudi International Maritime Forum will be held in Jeddah from November 15-17.
Organized by the Royal Saudi Naval Forces and held under the patronage of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the event aims to provide a platform for the exchange of views on how best to ensure maritime safety in a rapidly changing global environment.
Titled “Protecting Marine Units and Vital Coastal Sites Against the Threat of Unmanned Systems,” the forum will highlight the threat of such systems and present ways in which they can be dealt with.
Thanking the crown prince for his sponsorship of the event, RSNF Commander Fahd bin Abdullah Al-Ghufaili said it would also discuss the role individual nations and international organizations have to play in maintaining maritime security.
The event was a continuation of the Kingdom’s contribution to promoting international peace and security, he added.
“It also aims to enhance the role of the RSNF in cooperation with marine environment authorities at the national level, and what naval forces of brotherly and friendly countries are doing to support regional and international efforts, ensure the safety of maritime traffic and contribute to sustaining the global economy,” Al-Ghufaili said.
Military specialists and experts from the fields of technology, industry and academia will take part in a series of workshops during the forum, which will also be attended by representatives from government ministries and organizations and international corporations.
The event will also provide a platform for companies from around the world to display their latest equipment, technologies and systems related to maritime security.