Saudi education technology opens far more opportunities for startups

Special Saudi education technology opens far more opportunities for startups
The edtech sector is becoming noticeable as the nation transitions from an oil-based economy to a diversified one that will require skilled talent. (SPA)
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Updated 25 October 2022

Saudi education technology opens far more opportunities for startups

Saudi education technology opens far more opportunities for startups
  • Kingdom witnesses surge of tech-focused entrepreneurs establishing businesses in fintech, edtech and healthtech industries

CAIRO: Saudi Arabia is building a solid foundation for the education technology industry, also known as edtech, to nurture the online learning space in transforming its young population into an intelligent workforce.

In its recent report, UNESCO praised the Kingdom for adopting and implementing its online training programs during the universal pandemic, raising its stature in the global teaching community.

The edtech sector is becoming noticeable as the nation transitions from an oil-based economy to a diversified one that will require skilled talent bolstered by knowledge to ensure the success of Vision 2030.

One of the goals of Saudi Vision 2030 is to enhance the sustainability of education by developing comprehensive frameworks for flexible learning.

Salem Ghanem, founder and CEO at Faheem, a leading edtech startup in the Kingdom, told Arab News that the privatization of the education sector will significantly impact the Saudi economy in line with Vision 2030.

“The edtech space in Saudi Arabia is treasured with opportunities for startups, with a huge number of customers and a strong purchasing power. However, it is extremely underserved in many aspects,” he added.

According to Majid Mneymneh, vice president of higher education at Pearson Middle East, the Kingdom is working closely with the private sector to ensure higher education outcomes align with the job market requirements.

“In addition, the rise in online learning adoption and acceptance will play an important role in seeking to upskill and prepare the young workforce,” Mneymneh added.

Preparing for the future

Although the transition to online during COVID-19 was perceived as a threat to on-ground education entities, Mneymneh explains that the shift has proven acceptance and benefits of hybrid learning for all the stakeholders.

“Particularly in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, the shift to virtual learning overall has been well managed and received by students and educators for all age groups. Demands for blended learning, professional upskilling programs, remote assessments, teacher training and more have been on the rise,” Mneymneh explained.

Mneymneh also stated that according to the Global Learner Survey 2020 by Pearson, 88 percent of learners globally agree that online learning is a permanent part of their education and will lead to a better experience in the future.

“Higher education learners show much greater acceptability toward digital platforms, and there is a growing focus on gaining new skills which have become critical in the current environment. Students prefer practical learning experience through vocational training,” pointed out Mneymneh.

The Kingdom has seen a considerable surge of tech-focused entrepreneurs establishing businesses in fintech, edtech and healthtech industries. “With the ease of regulation, the Kingdom witnessed new startups in healthcare, financial services and education, few industries that were inaccessible and tech-resistant until recently. E-learning, in particular, is witnessing significant growth in Saudi Arabia,” Mneymneh said.

He believes startups will fill up the edtech space in the Kingdom as entrepreneurial talent is one of the critical solutions to boost the sector’s growth with vast opportunities still available.

Sectoral challenges

“Some challenges persist with the larger one is access to talent as the highly skilled local talent is scarce and it remains difficult to hire expats at large scale,” he said.

Another challenge to online learning is the lack of recognition and accreditation for online degrees and courses across all stages of education, from schools to universities and adult training.

“Hopefully, the government will follow the rest of the world in recognizing online learning and considering it as a support mechanism to the existing education ecosystem,” Mneymneh said.

The Kingdom has seen venture capital investments into edtech startups increase as three of the Middle East and North Africa region’s top 10 most funded edtech startups are from Saudi Arabia.

Ghanem explained that the startup ecosystem in the Kingdom is expanding and broadening, making it an excellent environment to start a business.

“The edtech field is still relatively new and facing adoption challenges and fighting misconceptions about online learning,” Ghanem added.

Ghanem stated that a prevailing misconception is that online learning is an alternative to on-ground. Instead, e-learning is an enabler for enhancing traditional education methods. Large corporations are also playing a massive role in implementing edtech and online learning into the traditional learning system to provide students with a digital experience to complement their educational goals.

“In today’s world, setting students up for future success means exposing them to various disciplines holistically to develop their critical thinking, interpersonal and reasoning skills, business acumen and good data analysis skills,” Mneymneh stated.

He added that the company’s goals are set to enter the new digital era focusing on addressing the workforce skills gap and meeting the growing demand for accreditation and certification in the Kingdom. “These are exciting times and the long-term impact seems to be on a positive edge, resulting in new and innovative ways of learning, bridging the digital divide and acting as a catalyst for innovation and digitization in education systems around the globe,” Mneymneh said.

ADNOC begins work on project that converts CO2 into rocks 

ADNOC begins work on project that converts CO2 into rocks 
Updated 23 sec ago

ADNOC begins work on project that converts CO2 into rocks 

ADNOC begins work on project that converts CO2 into rocks 

RIYADH: Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. has begun working on a pilot project in Fujairah to convert atmospheric carbon dioxide into rock formations.

ADNOC will install a direct air capture unit to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as well as install solar panels to power the operation, according to MEED.

“It will be the first carbon negative project of its kind in the region,” ADNOC said on its social media platform. 

The oil company is collaborating with Fujairah Natural Resources Corp. and Abu Dhabi Future Energy Co., or Masdar, to carry out the project. 

Powered by solar energy supplied by Masdar, the project will use British-Omani geoscience company 44.01’s carbon capture and mineralization technology to extract the compound from the atmosphere.  

ADNOC CEO Sophie Hildebrand said: “As the first energy company in the region to run a carbon-negative project of this kind, this pilot marks the latest step in our $15 billion investment into projects that will reduce our carbon footprint and help us achieve our net zero by 2050 ambition.”  

After taking carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the project will mix it with seawater, and inject it into peridotite rock formations underground in order to safely and permanently mineralize it. 

“Following a successful pilot, this technology will contribute toward our plans to increase our carbon capture and storage capacity to 5 million tons per year by 2030,” added ADNOC. 

The UAE company also revealed that Fujairah has been specifically chosen for its abundance of peridotite, a type of rock that naturally reacts with carbon dioxide to mineralize it.  

In January of this year, the state energy company announced its $15 billion investment on decarbonization projects by 2030.  

Saudi banks’ net profits surge 7.5% to $1.4bn: SAMA 

Saudi banks’ net profits surge 7.5% to $1.4bn: SAMA 
Updated 8 min 4 sec ago

Saudi banks’ net profits surge 7.5% to $1.4bn: SAMA 

Saudi banks’ net profits surge 7.5% to $1.4bn: SAMA 

RIYADH: In the backdrop of a looming global banking crisis, Saudi lenders continue to maintain strong credit growth driven by corporate loans.  

This has helped banks operating in the Kingdom record an aggregate year-on-year net profit of 7.5 percent to SR5.18 billion ($1.38 billion) in February 2023, the latest official data showed.   

In February 2022, the aggregate profit of Saudi banks was SR4.82 billion, noted the Saudi Central Bank, also known as SAMA, in its monthly report issued on Tuesday. 

On a month-on-month basis, however, the aggregate profit of banks, was down 19 percent in February, against January’s SR6.41 billion. 

A research report prepared by Al Rajhi Capital, which has analyzed the SAMA monthly data, attributed this modest growth in profits to the ongoing pressure on the cost of funding. 

“Mortgage origination came in at SR7.1 billion, lower than January, but slightly better than our expectations,” stated Al Rajhi Capital, a company that is authorized to engage in securities activities in Saudi Arabia. 

Al Rajhi said its updated estimate for monthly mortgage origination for 2023 is SR6.8 billion, which is a bit lower than the previous estimate of SR7.0 billion.  

The SAMA report noted that loans given to the private sector in February rose over 11 percent year-on-year to SR2.32 trillion. 

Based on these figures, Al Rajhi analysts expect Saudi banks’ loan growth to be around 10 percent in 2023, which they said, is on the conservative side as “we see upside risks to it.”   

This comes as the combined deposits of Saudi banks rose by 8 percent year-on-year to SR2.30 trillion in February. 

Al Rajhi analysis noted that total deposits in the month of February grew 1.2 percent month-on-month, higher than credit growth of 0.9 percent, which the analysts said: “should ease some pressure on the funding side going forward.” 

The apex bank data showed that the aggregate assets of banks in the Kingdom rose by more than 11 percent year-on-year to SR3.66 trillion in February. 

Whereas, the total assets held by SAMA increased by SR830 million month-on-month to SR1.92 trillion in February 2023. 

This is when compared with February 2022 grew by SR130.4 billion. 

SAMA’s investments in foreign securities, which account for 55 percent of its total assets, declined by around 7 percent to SR1.04 trillion in February. 

The SAMA report further revealed that the foreign direct investment inflow in Saudi Arabia was SR29.6 billion in 2022, thus bringing the cumulative FDI balance in the Kingdom to SR1.8 trillion. 

The rise of FDI in Saudi Arabia clearly indicates the Kingdom’s growing popularity as a global investment hub, a goal outlined in Vision 2030. 

The report, however, added that the Kingdom’s FDI in 2022 witnessed a 60 percent fall compared to 2021. This massive figure of net FDI in 2021 was primarily attributed to a $12.4 billion infrastructure deal between Aramco and a global investor consortium, in which the consortium acquired a 49 percent stake in Aramco Oil Pipelines Co. 

Excluding this mammoth transaction, FDI inflows in 2022 increased by 14.5 percent compared to the year earlier, the SAMA report noted. 

Saudi Ports Authority unveils plans to cut emissions by 1,046 tons 

Saudi Ports Authority unveils plans to cut emissions by 1,046 tons 
Updated 14 min 35 sec ago

Saudi Ports Authority unveils plans to cut emissions by 1,046 tons 

Saudi Ports Authority unveils plans to cut emissions by 1,046 tons 

RIYADH: Crane movements in Saudi ports will be reduced in order to cut carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 1,046 tons by the end of the year, the organization responsible for the transit hubs has announced. 

The Saudi Ports Authority, also known as Mawani, is working on reducing the average movement of yard cranes per incoming container required for manual inspection by 33 percent. In addition, it is also working on reducing the turnover rate of trucks within the Jeddah Islamic Port by 17 percent. 

These initiatives will help improve the port’s operational performance, reduce carbon emissions, and lower the logistical cost for port and maritime transport sector customers.  

They will also assist the authority to keep pace with the Kingdom’s initiatives to preserve the environment and establish a prosperous and sustainable marine sector. 

These initiatives fall within the framework of the Green Ports Initiative which aims to diminish energy consumption by 15 percent by reducing dependence on diesel in order to lower carbon footprint. 

Mawani is known to present pioneering initiatives that are directly linked in one way or another to the Saudi Green Initiative which focuses on reducing emissions, supervising work to combat climate change, and facilitating community cooperation. 

The authority also works to strengthen partnerships between the public and private sectors to expand the scope of work in this field. 

The authority is seeking to boost the level of customer and beneficiary satisfaction, decrease logistical costs, and enhance the commercial attractiveness of the port on a global level. 

In 2022, Mawani, represented by the Jeddah Islamic Port, won the “Best Port in 2022” award, and the “Digital Transformation” award at the International Green Shipping Summit Awards. 

Al Rajhi Bank to issue first US dollar-denominated sukuk

Al Rajhi Bank to issue first US dollar-denominated sukuk
Updated 31 min 32 sec ago

Al Rajhi Bank to issue first US dollar-denominated sukuk

Al Rajhi Bank to issue first US dollar-denominated sukuk

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul-listed Al Rajhi Bank has announced the commencement of its US dollar-denominated sukuk program with a minimum subscription of $200,000.

Sukuk, also called an Islamic bond, is a debt product issued in line with the principles of Islamic laws.

The offering, open to eligible local and international investors, is expected to be facilitated through a special-purpose vehicle.

The bank has mandated Al Rajhi Capital Co., Citigroup Global Markets Ltd., Emirates NBD Bank PJSC, Goldman Sachs International, HSBC Bank, J.P. Morgan Securities, KFH Capital Investment Co., and Standard Chartered Bank as joint lead managers and book-runners.

Last week, Saudi Arabia’s National Debt Management Center announced the closure of its riyal-denominated sukuk program issuance for March with a total bid amount worth SR8.34 billion ($2.2 billion).    

The total amount allocated was SR3.37 billion with the sukuk issuance divided into tranches — the first has a size of SR2.77 billion maturing in 2031 and the second at SR600 million maturing in 2037.

PIF’s SALIC supplies 30% of Saudi Arabia’s wheat demand

PIF’s SALIC supplies 30% of Saudi Arabia’s wheat demand
Updated 56 min 54 sec ago

PIF’s SALIC supplies 30% of Saudi Arabia’s wheat demand

PIF’s SALIC supplies 30% of Saudi Arabia’s wheat demand

RIYADH: The Saudi Agricultural and Livestock Investment Co., known as SALIC, met 30 percent of Saudi Arabia’s demand for wheat in 2022, it has announced.

Wholly owned by the Public Investment Fund, SALIC supplied more than 1 million tons of wheat through direct and indirect contracts and exceeded 1.2 million tons in strategic commodities last year. 

“We are proud to supply 30 percent of the Kingdom’s wheat needs through direct and indirect contracts, in addition to a number of other essential food commodities,” SALIC CEO Sulaiman Al-Rumaih said.  

The company managed to directly supply 720,000 tons of wheat, which represents 20 percent of the Kingdom’s annual purchase, and more than 300,000 tons of indirectly supplied wheat.  

SALIC achieved this by winning tenders launched by the General Food Security Authority as part of a program to encourage and support Saudi investors abroad in diversifying sources of wheat to enhance food security in the Kingdom.  

“These efforts contribute to the company’s goal of achieving the national objective of reaching food security by providing strategic commodities through SALIC’s investments in countries with competitive advantages around the world,” Al-Rumaih explained.

SALIC also supplied 120,000 tons of barley, 70,000 tons of soybeans, 12,000 tons of red meat and 11,000 tons of rice through its subsidiaries.  

Al-Rumaih pointed out that “one of the supply contracts, for 60,000 tons of barley, is unprecedented in the process of ensuring local food security, as efforts between the government and private sectors have been integrated across all stages of the supply chain, in line with the goals of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 to ensure food security.”  

He added: “SALIC has contracted to supply barley for Mansour Al Mosaid Co., which was funded by the Agricultural Development Fund, and the shipment was delivered from Australia through one of Bahri’s vessels.” 

The company aims to achieve its strategic goals through investments in the sector. It has completed the acquisition of 35.43 percent of Olam Agricultural Holding and 100 percent of the Australian Lamb Co. along with Minerva Foods. It also acquired 9.2 percent of LT Foods, which trades in Basmati rice.