Top 10 most funded mobility-tech startups in MENA region

Top 10 most funded mobility-tech startups in MENA region
Car-sharing firm ekar operates across seven cities with a fleet of 2,300 vehicles and 250,000 users in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. (Supplied)
Short Url
Updated 05 October 2022

Top 10 most funded mobility-tech startups in MENA region

Top 10 most funded mobility-tech startups in MENA region
  • After producing several unicorns, the shared mobility market is set to expand

CAIRO: The shared mobility technology landscape, which includes ride-sharing, car-renting and taxi-ordering models, has been on the rise in the Middle East and North African region ever since global players such as Uber and Lyft rode a wave of success in the business.

After producing several unicorns, the shared mobility market in the region is set to expand with a compound annual growth rate of 18.4 percent from 2022 to 2030 as the annual market is predicted to witness a 16.9 percent increase, according to Grand View Research Inc.

Arab News has compiled a list of the 10 most funded mobility-tech startups from the MENA region.

1. Careem

Total funding: $771.7 million

Founders: Mudassir Sheikha and Magnus Olsson

Investors: Alpha Partners, Arzan Venture Capital, BECO Capital, Bild Alternative Investment, Coatue Management and 22 others

Headquarters: UAE

Recognized to be the Middle East’s first unicorn startup, Careem has transformed the ride-hailing sector in the region, attracting global competition and acquisitions to the industry.

The company first started as a car-booking app. It later entered the food delivery space and now operates as a super app.

Founded in 2012, Careem is the second most funded startup in the region. It obtained unicorn status in 2018 and was later acquired by global ride-hailing giant Uber for $3.1 billion in 2020.

2. Swvl

Total funding: $264 million

Founders: Mostafa Kandil, Mahmoud Nouh and Ahmed Sabbah

Investors: BECO Capital, Endeavor Catalyst, MSA Capital, Oman Technology Fund, Arzan Venture Capital, Sawari Ventures, VNV Global, Queen’s Gambit Growth Capital and others

Headquarters: Founded in Egypt, based in the UAE

Founded in 2017, Swvl is a tech-enabled mass transit solutions provider offering intercity, intracity, business-to-business and business-to-government transportation services.

The company is another unicorn founded in the MENA region, also listed on the Nasdaq.

Currently operating in 20 countries across four continents, Swvl went public after it completed a merger with special purpose acquisition company Queens Gambit Growth Capital and was valued at $1.5 billion in March 2022.

3. Yassir

Total funding: $43 million

Founders: Noureddine Tayebi and El-Mahdi Yettou

Investors: Y Combinator, P1 Ventures, French Partners, ACE & Co., Venture Souq, WndrCo, DN Capital, Kismet Capital, Spike ventures, Quiet Capital, Endeavor Catalyst, FJ Labs, Venture Souq, Nellore Capital, Moving Capital and other investors

Headquarters: Algeria

Established in 2017, Yassir offers on-demand services such as ride-hailing and last-mile delivery in 25 cities across Algeria, Canada, France, Morocco and Tunisia, with over 3 million users.

The startup started as a ride-sharing platform and later became a super app adding last-mile delivery and financial services for its users.

The company raised $30 million in series A funding in June 2021 in a bid to expand into Western Africa and Europe in 2022.

4. ekar

Total funding: $34 million

Founder: Vilhelm Hedberg

Investors: Polymath Venture and other investors

Headquarters: UAE

Founded in 2016, ekar offers on-demand access to a network of car-share, subscription leasing vehicles and other mobility options, including peer-to-peer rentals.

Operating across seven cities with a fleet of 2,300 vehicles and 250,000 users in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the company is one of the region’s first fully contactless car-sharing apps.

The company raised $17.5 million in series B funding in 2019, announced its launch in Thailand in 2022 and plans to expand into Malaysia, Turkey and Egypt later in the year.

5. KOI Ride

Total funding: $18 million

Founders: Ghassan Muradwij and Riyaz Alambath

Investors: Undisclosed

Headquarters: UAE

KOI Ride is a B2B ride-hailing service startup that offers end-to-end ground transport services and connects online booking portals with licensed transportation providers.

Established in 2015, the company offers its services in over 30 countries. In June 2022, KOI Ride raised $3 million in an investment round to strengthen its presence in existing markets.

6. Udrive

Total funding: $17.3 million

Founders: Nicholas Watson and Hasib Khan

Investors: Cultiv8 and Oman Holding International

Headquarters: UAE

Another car rental app Udrive provides a pay-per-minute rental service for UAE residents and tourists, clocking in over 2 million trips.

Founded in 2016, the company allows users to pick up a car from any location available and is then returned to any parking location in the same city.

In its latest funding round, Udrive raised $5 million to support its plans to expand in the Middle East and enhance its technology.

7. Fenix

Total funding: $5 million

Founders: Jaideep Dhanoa and IQ Sayed

Investors: Emkan Capital and Panthera Capital Ventures

Headquarters: UAE

Established in November 2020, Fenix provides a different kind of mobility using electric scooters on a subscription-based service.

Founded by two ex-Careem executives, the company has one of the largest electric vehicle fleets in the region as it operates in four cities.

In 2021, the company raised a $5 million seed funding to support its goals to become the first national micro-mobility operator in the Gulf Cooperation Council.

8. Telgani

Total funding: $4.2 million

Founder: Abdulkader Almkinzy

Investors: 500 Startups, Saudi Venture Capital Co., Impact46 and others

Headquarters: Saudi Arabia

A car rental platform, Telgani allows users to rent a car through its mobile app that is then delivered to their doorstep.

Founded in 2018, the company also enables users to pick the car and the location they want to travel to and provides them with nearby options.

In November 2021, Telgani secured a $2.5 million pre-series A funding led by Saudi venture capital firm, Impact46.

9. Ousta

Total funding: $3.1 million

Founder: Nader El-Batrawi

Investors: Angel investors

Headquarters: Egypt

Founded in 2016, Ousta is Egypt’s first local ride-sharing application that was established to compete with ride-hailing companies Uber and Careem.

The company did not disclose any of its operations to the media since its fundraising of $1.5 million in 2016.

10. Urent

Total funding: $1.5 million

Founder: Omar Al-Ashi

Investors: Viacheslav Zhuravlev

Headquarters: UAE

Urent, another player in the car rental space, is a UAE-based platform aiming to revolutionize the car rental industry in the region.

The company offers a peer-to-peer vehicle sharing platform, creating a whole community based on trust.

It is dubbed to be the Airbnb for cars.

In June 2019, Urent raised seed funding and, in 2020, raised an undisclosed pre-series A funding, and will be operating globally by Q4 2023.


Oil set for 10 percent weekly drop as demand worries dominate

Oil set for 10 percent weekly drop as demand worries dominate
Updated 38 sec ago

Oil set for 10 percent weekly drop as demand worries dominate

Oil set for 10 percent weekly drop as demand worries dominate

RIYADH : Oil prices were stable on Friday but both benchmarks were headed for a weekly loss on worries over weak economic outlooks in China, Europe and the US weighing on oil demand, according to Reuters.

Brent crude futures were at $76.16 a barrel, up 1 cent, at 0919 GMT. Brent hit a 2022 low this week.

US West Texas Intermediate crude inched up 7 cents to $71.53 a barrel.

The contracts are set for weekly losses of around 10 percent each, their worst weekly drops in percentage terms since August and April, respectively.

The market structure for Brent contracts has switched to contango, meaning contracts for near-term delivery are cheaper than for delivery in six months, indicating that traders see weaker demand .

News of a leak closing Canadian firm TC Energy’s Keystone pipeline in the US prompted a brief rally on Thursday. However, prices finally eased as the market took a view that the closure would be brief.

The market similarly shrugged off a queue of oil tankers being held up by Turkish authorities on their way to the Mediterranean from the Black Sea.

“Evidently, nothing can improve the mood in the oil market,” said PVM analyst Tamas Varga.

In China, surging infections will likely depress economic growth in the next few months despite some restrictions being eased, bringing a rebound only later in 2023, economists said.

Also on the downside, the US economy is heading into a short and shallow recession over the coming year, according to economists polled by Reuters who unanimously expected the US Federal Reserve to go for a smaller 50 basis point interest rate hike on Dec. 14.

The European Central Bank will also likely lift its deposit rate by 50 bps next week to 2.00 percent, another Reuters poll found, despite the euro zone economy almost certainly being in recession, as it battles inflation running at five times its target.


Aramco and Shandong Energy to collaborate on downstream projects in China

Aramco and Shandong Energy to collaborate on downstream projects in China
Updated 09 December 2022

Aramco and Shandong Energy to collaborate on downstream projects in China

Aramco and Shandong Energy to collaborate on downstream projects in China

RIYADH: Crude oil from Saudi Arabia could be supplied to the Chinese province of Shandong under a new agreement struck between Aramco and an energy firm in the region.

The Saudi oil giant has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Shandong Energy Group, which includes a potential crude oil supply agreement and chemicals products offtake deal, supporting Aramco’s role in building a thriving downstream sector in Shandong Province.

The MoU also signals the firms are exploring collaboration on integrated refining and petrochemical opportunities in China.

The signing ceremony, which was conducted with the participation of Shandong Provincial People’s Government, underlined the importance of Aramco’s collaboration with Chinese companies. 

The scope of the MoU extends to cooperation across technologies related to hydrogen, renewables and carbon capture and storage.

Mohammed Al Qahtani, Aramco senior vice president of downstream, said: “Through collaborations such as this in China’s energy heartland, we are creating new pathways for growth in a country that is driving the increased integration of refining and petrochemical processes. 

“I am delighted that this spirit of cooperation is being extended across hydrogen, renewables and carbon capture and excited by the potential for further cooperation in these key areas which will shape our collective future.”

Li Wei, chairman of Shandong Energy Group, said: “Both Shandong Energy and Aramco are important players in the international energy arena. We share a lot of common interests, complementary strategies with expansive scope for cooperation, especially in oil and gas resources development and integrated refining and petrochemicals development along the whole industrial chain.”

The announcement strengthens Aramco’s efforts to support demand for energy, petrochemicals and non-metallics in China as the company seeks to expand its liquids to chemicals capacity to up to 4 million barrels per day by 2030.

The MoU comes amid a strengthening of ties between Saudi Arabia and China, spurred by the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to the Kingdom.

His attendance led to the signing of 35 investment agreements involving organizations from the two countries.

They cover a range of sectors, including green energy, technology and cloud services.

Transportation, logistics, medical industries, construction and manufacturing are also covered by the deals, as is a petrochemicals project, housing developments and the teaching of the Chinese language.

The agreements are worth about $30 billion, and come as China seeks to shore up its COVID-19-hit economy and the Kingdom continues to diversify its economic and political alliances in line with Vision 2030.


How Saudi Arabia can capitalize on Chinese expertise to achieve its diversification goals

How Saudi Arabia can capitalize on Chinese expertise to achieve its diversification goals
Updated 09 December 2022

How Saudi Arabia can capitalize on Chinese expertise to achieve its diversification goals

How Saudi Arabia can capitalize on Chinese expertise to achieve its diversification goals
  • In the first half of 2022, the Kingdom was largest recipient of Chinese investments under the Belt and Road Initiative
  • Beyond energy, they are also exploring cooperation on the circular carbon economy and digital infrastructure

RIYADH: While strengthening trade ties and regional security will be priorities when Chinese President Xi Jinping visits Saudi Arabia, Beijing could use this opportunity to further its Belt and Road Initiative as the Middle East, more specifically so the Kingdom, remains at the center of its ambitious project.

Saudi Arabia was the single largest recipient of Chinese investments under BRI, with about $5.5 billion in investments made in the Kingdom during the first half of 2022, according to a report by the Shanghai-based Green Finance and Development Center.

This comes as BRI countries in the Middle East received about 57 percent of BRI investments as the regional countries increased their share of overall BRI engagement from 8 percent in the first half of 2020 to 32 percent in the first half of 2022.

Energy was the main avenue for investment as Saudi Arabia received the most energy engagement in the first half of 2022. (AFP)

Among the sectors, energy was the main avenue for investment as Saudi Arabia received the most energy engagement in the first half of 2022, elevating the Kingdom to fourth place in the BRI for energy engagement between 2013 and 2022.

In the gas sector too, Saudi Arabia was the main recipient of investments from China at $4.6 billion in the first half. The Kingdom also saw its cooperation with China on solar projects improving with a $210-million project with Jinko Solar.

In October, Saudi Arabia and China in a virtual meeting agreed to jointly coordinate investments in the countries of BRI to ensure oil supply and demand security to BRI countries, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Co-chaired by Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, the meeting discussed areas where both countries can strengthen their relationships such as oil and petrochemicals, decarbonization technologies, electricity and renewables, and hydrogen.

This was the fourth gathering of the Belt and Road Major Investment Projects and Energy Subcommittee of which Prince Abdulaziz is the Saudi chairman, SPA reported.

Saudi Arabia and China are exploring new frontiers of common interest that are set to drive the future economy. (AFP)

However, both countries look to go beyond the energy sector and are exploring new frontiers of common interest — such as the circular carbon economy and digital infrastructure — that are set to drive the future economy.

Saudi Arabia’s massive push toward sustainability and green economy received further boost when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman last month announced that the Kingdom would contribute $2.5 billion to a green initiative in the Middle East over the next 10 years.

China, being an early adopter of clean technology with thousands of patents under its name, can play an important role in helping Saudi Arabia achieve its sustainability goals.  Over the last 20 years, China has established its global position as an energy innovator, with significant success in the areas of solar power and, more recently, electric mobility, according to a report by the International Energy Agency.

In the space of digital infrastructure, China’s growing technological expertise in areas like cloud computing, 5G, surveillance technology and virtual currency is expected to set benchmarks for the rest of the world.

This sector offers huge opportunities for both countries to engage as the world embraces the fourth industrial revolution.

Earlier this year, the Saudi Ministry of Communications and Information Technology approved a new Communications and Information Technology Law to overhaul the Kingdom’s digital infrastructure as it intends to bolster growth in the communications and information sectors.

As part of Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia aims to grow its ICT sector by 50 percent, while increasing the sector’s contribution to the gross domestic product by $13.3 billion. These initiatives will include 50 percent localization but, at the same time, attract more foreign investment.

Saudi Arabia can capitalize on China’s technological expertise to foster its ambition of becoming a regional leader in the information and communication technology sector.

While the Chinese president’s visit to Saudi Arabia is set to strengthen trade ties, both countries have the opportunity to expand their cooperation beyond energy, technology or green economy as they prepare for a new dawn.


How China became Saudi Arabia’s top trading partner, revived ancient Silk Road 

How China became Saudi Arabia’s top trading partner, revived ancient Silk Road 
Updated 09 December 2022

How China became Saudi Arabia’s top trading partner, revived ancient Silk Road 

How China became Saudi Arabia’s top trading partner, revived ancient Silk Road 
  • Modern China exports textiles, electronics and machinery to Saudi Arabia and imports crude oil and primary plastics
  • Both nations well placed to expand cooperation in the circular carbon economy, renewables and high-tech industries

RIYADH: Decisions made over the past decade since Xi Jinping became president have placed China on a firm footing to become Asia’s — if not the world’s — pre-eminent economic power. The country’s many achievements are in the limelight as Xi pays a state visit to Saudi Arabia in response to an invitation from King Salman.

Thanks to sweeping reforms, diplomatic engagement, and massive infrastructure development, China has emerged today as the Arab region’s largest trade partner, reclaiming its historic mantle as an export powerhouse.

What makes China such a resilient exporter is the diversity of products it manufactures — having shifted away from agriculture, clothing and textiles into electronics, machinery and computers — making it less vulnerable to market volatility.

The rise of China did not happen overnight of course. In the early 1970s, the country’s share of global trade stood at less than 1 percent. Then, after a series of reforms designed to open up the economy, demand for exports boomed, growing from $2.31 billion in 1970 to $7.69 billion in 1975.

The country’s many achievements are in the limelight as Xi pays a state visit to Saudi Arabia. (SPA)

By 1985, Chinese exports had reached a value of $25.77 billion, growing throughout the decade until 1993 when exports almost doubled in value in just one year from $53.36 billion to $104.61 billion in 1994.

Further growth followed China’s induction into the World Trade Organization in December 2001, stimulating a surge in value worth $520.24 billion over a period of just five years.

In 1990, China was ranked 14th among the top world exporters, representing just 1.8 percent of global exports. By 2000, it had risen to seventh place, making up 3.9 percent, just behind the UK and Canada.

In 2004, China overtook Japan as the world’s third-largest exporter, accounting for 6.5 percent of global exports. Then, in 2007, the value of Chinese exports broke the $1 trillion threshold for the first time, reaching $1.26 trillion.

Although the 2008 global financial crisis briefly slowed Chinese export growth, it quickly rebounded. By 2009, China had overtaken Germany as the world’s largest exporting nation, making up 9.6 percent of global exports. 

Unbowed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, resulting in lockdowns, travel bans and a global economic slowdown, China’s exports have continued to grow, reaching an estimated $3.55 trillion in 2021.

China and the Arab world have a trade relationship stretching back 1,500 years to the time of the Silk Road, when Chinese fabrics came overland to the Arabian Peninsula and Arab incense, frankincense and pearls were carried to East Asia.

The name “Silk Road” was first coined by German geographer Ferdinand von Richthofen in 1877 to describe the ancient trade routes between East Asia and Europe. The concept of a great unifying belt continues to inspire trade relations to this day.

Today, China is Saudi Arabia’s largest trading partner. According to Reuters news agency, bilateral trade between the two countries reached $87.3 billion in 2021, with Chinese exports to the Kingdom reaching $30.3 billion and China’s imports from Saudi Arabia totaling $57 billion.

China’s main exports to Saudi Arabia are textiles, electronics and machinery, while China mainly imports crude oil and primary plastics from the Kingdom. In the first 10 months of 2022, China’s Saudi oil imports reached 1.77 million barrels per day, valued at $55.5 billion, according to Chinese customs data.

China’s global exports 

• 1970: $2.31bn

• 1985: $25.77bn

• 2000: $253.1bn

• 2005: $773.34bn

• 2010: $1.65 trillion

• 2020: $2.72 trillion

• 2021: $3.55 trillion 

Bilateral trade between Saudi Arabia and China grew steadily after the signing of a memorandum of understanding in November 1988, growing to $5.1 billion in 2002, of which China’s exports were worth $1.67 billion and imports $3.43 billion.

In October 1999, China’s then-President Jiang Zemin became the first Chinese leader to visit Saudi Arabia, where he signed a strategic oil deal with the Kingdom to help fuel China’s booming manufacturing sector.

In 2000, crude oil exports to China alone were valued at $1.5 billion. By 2010, they were worth well over $25 billion. In 2022, Saudi Aramco invested in a $10 billion refining and petrochemicals complex in China — the largest Saudi investment in China.

In September 2013, Xi announced the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative — formerly known as One Belt One Road, and often referred to as the new Silk Road — during an official visit to Kazakhstan.

The initiative sets out to connect the markets and manufactories of East Asia to those of Europe via a vast logistical and digital network running through Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa in a modern-day reimagining of the ancient Silk Road.

China’s exports have continued to grow, reaching an estimated $3.55 trillion in 2021. (AFP)

Considered the centerpiece of Xi’s foreign policy agenda, the Belt and Road Initiative is a global infrastructure development strategy, investing in 149 countries and international organizations, and which has been likened to the US Marshall Plan of the late 1940s.

The initiative, which was incorporated into the Chinese constitution in 2018, has a target completion date of 2049, intended to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative shares the same goal of boosting interconnectivity through cooperation in energy, trade, investment and technology as Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 social reform and economic diversification agenda, launched in 2016 by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Beyond energy, technology and sustainable development, another emerging area of cooperation between the two nations is logistics. The Kingdom’s courier, express and parcel services market is forecast to grow over the next five years, offering the Belt and Road Initiative a valuable source of haulage infrastructure.

Saudi-based companies like AJEX and its international e-commerce express service are looking at ways to improve trade between China, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and the wider Middle East to keep up with the demand for cross-border commerce.

By working together, diplomats and business leaders say Saudi Arabia and China are well-placed to expand their cooperation in the circular carbon economy, hydrogen power, renewable energy, and a host of other sustainable and high-tech industries.

In 2019, Chen Weiqing, China’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, said his country’s Belt and Road Initiative is wholly consistent with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 agenda, highlighting both governments’ common interests and readiness to collaborate.

“China and the Kingdom are among the leading forces of dialogue among civilizations,” Chen said at the time in an opinion article for Arab News. “Cooperation between China and the Kingdom enjoys the characteristics of strategy, harmony, and mutual benefit.”

During the Chinese-Arab Friendship Association meeting in 2021, Mohammed Al-Ajlan, chairman of the Saudi-Chinese Business Council, said more than a dozen Chinese investors had expressed an interest in various Saudi infrastructure projects.

“The economic and financial cooperation between the Arab countries and China witnessed a clear development in the process of consolidating trade and investment relations,” Al-Ajlan said in a statement at the time.

“(We are) looking forward to more efforts to support trade exchange and joint investments by taking advantage of the opportunities available in all countries.”


Strength in numbers: Saudi Arabia and China seal 35 deals worth $30bn during Xi Jinping’s visit

Strength in numbers: Saudi Arabia and China seal 35 deals worth $30bn during Xi Jinping’s visit
Updated 09 December 2022

Strength in numbers: Saudi Arabia and China seal 35 deals worth $30bn during Xi Jinping’s visit

Strength in numbers: Saudi Arabia and China seal 35 deals worth $30bn during Xi Jinping’s visit
  • Agreements range from green energy, technology, and logistics, to construction and manufacturing
  • Major ones include an alignment plan between the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and China’s Belt and Road Initiative

RIYADH: China’s business links with Saudi Arabia have been significantly boosted thanks to the signing of 35 investment agreements involving organizations from the two countries.

The raft of deals came during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to the Kingdom. They cover a range of sectors, including green energy, technology and cloud services.

Transportation, logistics, medical industries, construction and manufacturing are also covered by the deals, as is a petrochemicals project, housing developments and the teaching of the Chinese language.

The agreements are worth about $30 billion, and come as China seeks to shore up its COVID-19-hit economy and the Kingdom continues to diversify its economic and political alliances in line with Vision 2030.

One of the deals involved a memorandum of understanding with China’s Huawei Technologies on cloud computing and building high-tech complexes in Saudi cities. (Supplied)

The signing of the agreements was overseen by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and President Xi, with the first an alignment plan between the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Another deal saw a memorandum of understanding in the field of hydrogen energy signed by Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s energy minister, and He Lifeng, chairman of the Chinese National Development and Reform Commission.

Walid bin Mohammed Al-Samaani, the Kingdom’s justice minister, and Wang Yi, China’s state councilor and minister of foreign affairs, inked an agreement for cooperation and judicial assistance in civil, commercial and personal status cases.

A memorandum of cooperation to teach the Chinese language was signed by Yousef bin Abdullah Al-Benyan, Saudi Arabia’s education minister, and China’s Wang Yi.

Direct investment is to be encouraged through an MoU penned by Khalid bin Abdulaziz Al-Falih, the Kingdom’s investment minister, and Wang Wentao, China’s minister of commerce.

An action plan to activate the provisions of the housing memorandum of cooperation was also agreed, and signed by Majid Al-Hogail, Saudi Arabia’s minister of municipal, rural affairs and housing, and China’s Wang Wentao.

The signing of these MoUs and agreements was followed by a ceremony during which the Chinese president received an honorary doctorate degree in administration from King Saud University.

The Saudi crown prince also held an official lunch in honor of the Chinese president. (SPA)

The Saudi crown prince also held an official lunch in honor of the Chinese president.

Saudi investment minister Khalid Al-Falih said that this week’s visit “will contribute to raising the pace of economic and investment cooperation between the two countries,” offering Chinese companies and investors “rewarding returns.”

One of the deals involved a memorandum of understanding with China’s Huawei Technologies on cloud computing and building high-tech complexes in Saudi cities, the government communication office said in a statement.

Saudi firm AJEX Logistics Services is one of the companies looking to benefit from the growing ties between the Kingdom and China.

The firm marked the visit of the Chinese leader by announcing the launch of two new services as part of its expansion strategy into China and the Middle East.

Customers will soon be able to send single-piece and multi-piece shipments from China to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain in four to seven days.

Another deal, signed between the Saudi Investment Ministry and Shandong Innovation Group, involves the construction of an aluminum plant.

Chinese chemical company Kingfa, Shanghai-based wind turbines and energy management software firm Envision, and Beijing-headquartered CITIC Construction also penned MoUs.

The range of deals prompted the CEO of the Saudi Export Development Authority, Abdulrahman Al-Thukair, to hail the strong economic relations between Saudi Arabia and China.

Al-Thukair praised the growth and development of the volume of trade exchange between the two countries, noting that China is one of the Kingdom’s main trade partners, as total non-oil exports from the Kingdom to China reached SR36 billion ($9.57 billion) in 2021, mainly petrochemicals, which amounted to SR31.7 billion, and minerals, which amounted to SR2 billion.

Thursday’s developments prompted Hussain Al-Shammari, the Ministry of Media’s director of international media, to claim that Saudi Arabia is now a “hub” for Chinese industry.

Speaking to Arab News, he said: “Today they will open a regional center for all factories of China in Saudi Arabia that makes Saudi Arabia a hub for the industry for China. The Silk Road of China will be served with the Saudi Vision. Both countries are interested in strengthening these relations and we will benefit, both China and Saudi Arabia, from these visits.”

He added: “This second visit of the Chinese president is very important. We are signing a SR110 billion contract. We are signing more than 20 agreements — it is the deal of the decade for both countries.”

Al-Shammari highlighted the importance of the Chinese president’s visit to the Kingdom and the aligned goals of Saudi Vision 2030 and China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

“These important agreements will serve both purposes of Saudi Vision 2030 and will also serve the purposes of China,” Al-Shammari said, adding: “China needs the continuity of energy and oil going to their economy. We are important to China and China is also important to us.

China is the largest commercial partner of Saudi Arabia with a $67 billion interaction annually between the two countries. (Supplied)

“The Saudi-Chinese bilateral relations are very strong, China is the largest commercial partner of Saudi Arabia with a $67 billion interaction annually between the two countries, and both leaderships are looking forward to developing these relations even further.”

As China is the second largest economy in the world and Saudi Arabia is going through its Vision 2030 goals, a transfer of new technologies is required, said Al-Shammari.

“These summits come at an important time for both countries to further strengthen these bilateral relations,” he added.

As confirmed recently by Saudi Minister of Energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, the Kingdom will host a regional center for Chinese factories owing to Saudi Arabia’s strategic location among the three continents of Asia, Africa and Europe.

The minister also reaffirmed collaboration with China’s Belt and Road Initiative, as well as investment in integrated refining and petrochemical complexes in both countries.

Cooperation between the two countries has witnessed remarkable growth during the past five years, Bandar bin Ibrahim Al-Khorayef, the minister of industry and mineral resources, told Arab News.

The raft of deals came during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to the Kingdom. (SPA)

During the crown prince’s visit to China in February 2019, both countries concluded agreements to establish joint projects covering several sectors including manufacturing, petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals and others.

The countries already share a good history of cooperation, Al-Khorayef said, citing the example of seven Chinese factories operating in different fields in the Saudi Authority for Industrial Cities and Technology Zones.

In addition to this, there are 10 other factories at different stages of planning, construction and implementation.

Furthermore, there are about 12 projects for the Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu with Chinese companies at different stages, some of them in operation and others under procedure or design.

It is not just business groups that are benefiting from Saudi Arabia’s closer ties with China.

Saudi Arabian think tank King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center signed an MoU with China’s Economics and Technology Research Institute to exchange information around energy, economics and climate change.

Under the terms of the MoU, both entities will work hand in hand to allow for the exchange of research and the generation of actionable insights.

Some of the fields of common interest which will be prioritized as topics of research include energy, economics, climate change, sustainability, transition, productivity, hydrogen and carbon capture, among others.

The MoU falls in line with KAPSARC’s mission to utilize applied research and innovation to drive and propel the global energy sector, while the Chinese organization is affiliated with oil and gas firm China National Petroleum Corporation.