RIYADH: Master developer Saudi Downtown Co. signed a memorandum of understanding with the Small and Medium Enterprises General Authority, also known as Monsha’at, to develop projects in 12 cities around the Kingdom.
The agreement will support the Kingdom’s entrepreneurial ecosystem by creating business opportunities for the SME sector in line with the goals of Vision 2030, reported the Saudi Press Agency.
Saudi Downtown Co., a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Public Investment Fund, will establish urban centers of sustainable economic and social impact in 12 cities – Madinah, Al-Ahsa, Al-Khobar, Buraidah, Taif, Arar, Hail, Tabuk, Dumat Al-Jandal, Jizan, Najran, and Al-Baha.
To be spread over a 10 million sq. m area, the scheme will contribute to stimulating the economy, improving the standard of living, and enabling opportunities in sectors like retail, entertainment, hospitality, tourism, and housing.
The MoU was signed by Nayef bin Saleh Al-Hamdan, acting CEO of Saudi Downtown Co., and Monsha’at Governor Sami bin Ibrahim Al-Husseini on the sidelines of Biban 23.
Al-Hamdan noted that the SME sector plays a vital role in the economy’s diversification, various sector development, and job creation, as well as in increasing the contribution to the country’s gross domestic product.
SME opportunities in retail sector
During the event, the Ministry of Commerce also discussed SME opportunities in Saudi Arabia’s retail sector to help achieve the socioeconomic goals set by Vision 2030.
The ministry’s E-Commerce Council examined promising investment opportunities for SMEs in the retail sector, the largest female-empowering sector and the second largest non-oil economic sector in Saudi Arabia.
In collaboration with Monsha'at, the council went over the enablers and incentives for entrepreneurs to invest in the retail sector.
As per the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, the retail sector plans to increase its proportion of modern trade to 80 percent and to provide 1 million employment opportunities to its locals.
In 2022, the aggregate SMEs in the retail sector reached more than 440,000, whereas employment exceeded 1.7 million people during that period.
During the fourth quarter of 2022, the sector's contribution to GDP was 8.7 percent, reaching approximately SR89.5 billion ($23.83 billion).
COFE raises $15 million
COFE, an online coffee marketplace, successfully raised $15 million of investment in its Series B funding round during Biban 23.
Aramco-owned WAED Ventures was the lead investor with a $500 million venture capital fund focused on tech-based startups.
The Riyadh-based VC firm eWTP Arabia Capital also participated in COFE’s Series B funding round.
The company has also attained significant funding support from the eWTP Capital initiated by Alibaba Group in the Middle East region, in addition to the PIF.
Red Sea Farms to design, build greenhouses
Red Sea Farms, a sustainable science and tech company, also announced plans to design, build and operate greenhouses in all of Saudi Downtown Co.’s projects.
“The greenhouses will not only be sustainable and incorporate the latest technologies, but will also be facilities designed to enrich the visitor’s experience for the local communities in which these facilities will be located in addition to their economic benefits and cultural development” said Ryan Levers, CEO and co-founder.
In line with Vision 2030, the collaboration will examine ways to adopt sustainable large-scale farming techniques and develop sustainable urban living experiences in Saudi Arabia.