Saudi Arabia launches business incubator, accelerator programs to support SMEs

Saudi Arabia launches business incubator, accelerator programs to support SMEs
Under the Vision 2030 goals, the SME sector is working to contribute 35 percent to Saudi Arabia’s gross domestic product by 2030 (Shutterstock)
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Updated 10 May 2023

Saudi Arabia launches business incubator, accelerator programs to support SMEs

Saudi Arabia launches business incubator, accelerator programs to support SMEs

RIYADH: Entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia are set to receive a boost from the new Industrial Business Accelerator and Incubator Initiative launched by the Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources.

The new drive aims to meet the specific needs of small and medium enterprises and industrial project owners in the Kingdom, according to a statement.

Incubators primarily concentrate on entrepreneurs in the early stages, according to the official spokesman of the Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources Jarrah bin Muhammad Al-Jarrah.

They tend to sponsor businesses, from those at the stage of generating ideas to emerging companies, while helping them to establish and further accelerate in terms of future growth and success, the spokesman added.

On the other hand, accelerators mainly focus on late-stage startups which have high growth potential.

They pose as short-term programs that offer business consulting, training, mentorship, as well as optional financial support while aiming at further expanding their scope.

The new initiative will benefit from the experience and joint resources of the industry system as a whole, in addition to other government agencies, leading national universities, and large industrial companies.

The program will also see the participation of financial investors, leading international operators of incubators, and accelerator networks.

All parties involved are expected to work hand-in-hand to provide comprehensive, high-quality support to the industrial entrepreneurs registered to the program.

The initiative also falls in line with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and the objectives of the National Industrial Strategy by increasing the base of mature, innovative, and globally competitive SMEs, Jarrah stressed.

In return, this will effectively help address the challenges of industrial entrepreneurs and SMEs  in the Kingdom, thereby encouraging more industrial entrepreneurship and improving continuity of  industrial startups in the long run, he added.

The SME sector is perceived as a vital economic engine, a key generator of new employment, and the foundation of a global economy, Senior Vice President of Technical Services at Aramco Ahmad Al-Sa’adi said in an interview with Arab News in 2022.

Under the Vision 2030 goals, the sector is working to contribute 35 percent to Saudi Arabia’s gross domestic product by 2030.

In addition to this, SMEs are set to play a significant role in achieving the Kingdom’s objectives of lowering the unemployment rate from 11.6 percent to 7 percent, and increasing women’s participation in the workforce from 22 percent to 30 percent.

Oil Updates – prices rise, tight supply back in focus

Oil Updates – prices rise, tight supply back in focus
Updated 14 sec ago

Oil Updates – prices rise, tight supply back in focus

Oil Updates – prices rise, tight supply back in focus

LONDON: Oil prices rose on Monday as investors focused on a tighter supply outlook after Moscow issued a temporary ban on fuel exports while remaining wary of further rate hikes that could dampen demand, according to Reuters.

Brent crude futures climbed 69 cents, or 0.7 percent, to $93.96 a barrel by 9:46 a.m. Saudi time after settling 3 cents lower on Friday.

US West Texas Intermediate crude futures extended gains for a second session, trading at $90.57 a barrel, up 54 cents, or 0.6 percent.

“Crude oil prices have started the week on the front foot, as the market continues to digest Russia’s temporary ban on diesel and gasoline exports, into an already tight market, offset with the Fed’s hawkish message that rates will stay higher for longer,” IG Markets analyst Tony Sycamore said.

Both contracts fell last week, snapping a three-week winning streak, after a hawkish Federal Reserve stance rattled global financial sectors and raised oil demand concerns.

Prices had rallied more than 10 percent in the previous three weeks on forecasts of a wide crude supply deficit in the fourth quarter after Saudi Arabia and Russia extended additional supply cuts to the end of the year.

Last week, Moscow temporarily banned gasoline and diesel exports to most countries in order to stabilize the domestic market, fanning concerns of low supply especially for heating oil as the Northern Hemisphere heads into winter.

“The Russian fuel export ban news appears to be priced in for the time being but the undercurrent of global oil supply tightness runs deep, with an intense focus on diesel shortages and fears over unanticipated LNG (liquefied natural gas) supply disruptions likely to persist, especially in the European markets,” said Vandana Hari, founder of oil market analysis provider Vanda Insights.

In the US the number of operating oil rigs fell by eight to 507 last week, their lowest since February 2022, despite higher prices, a weekly report from Baker Hughes showed on Friday.

Expectations of better economic data this week from China, the world’s largest crude importer, also lifted sentiment. However, analysts flagged that oil prices face technical resistance at the November 2022 highs that were hit last week.

The Asian country’s manufacturing sector is expected to return to expansion mode in September, with the purchasing manufacturing index forecast to rise above 50 for the first time since March, Goldman Sachs analysts said.

In a positive sign, China’s oil demand increased 0.3 million barrels per day to 16.3 million bpd last week, partly due to a gradual recovery in jet fuel demand for international flights, they added.

ADNOC, Abu Dhabi’s TAQA secure financing for $2.2bn water project 

ADNOC, Abu Dhabi’s TAQA secure financing for $2.2bn water project 
Updated 8 min 19 sec ago

ADNOC, Abu Dhabi’s TAQA secure financing for $2.2bn water project 

ADNOC, Abu Dhabi’s TAQA secure financing for $2.2bn water project 

DUBAI: State oil giant Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. and Abu Dhabi National Energy Co., also known as TAQA, said on Monday they secured the financing for a $2.2 billion project to provide sustainable water supply to ADNOC’s onshore operations. 

The project, which was announced in May, will comprise a centralized seawater treatment facility for ADNOC’s operations at the Bab and Bu Hasa fields in Abu Dhabi, as part of the oil giant’s efforts to decarbonize its business. 

A group of nine local banks and international banks will finance the project, through a combination of commercial and Islamic finance facilities, ADNOC and TAQA said in a bourse statement. 

The banks to finance the project are First Abu Dhabi Bank, Gulf International Bank, Natixis, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, Commercial Bank of Dubai, Emirates NBD, Emirates Development Bank and Warba Bank. 

A consortium comprising Orascom Construction and Metito will construct a seawater treatment facility and transportation and distribution network. 

ADNOC and TAQA each own a 25.5 percent stake in the project, resulting in a combined 51 percent majority, while the consortium will own the remainder under a build, own, operate and transfer model. 

Alpha Dhabi to buy majority stake in Metito 

Alpha Dhabi said on Monday it plans to acquire a majority stake in the UAE-based water and wastewater project developer Metito Holdings. 

Pending regulatory approvals, Alpha Dhabi said it plans to acquire the stake from Metito’s selling shareholders Mitsubishi Corp., Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and Gulf Capital. 

Alpha Dhabi did not disclose the size of the stake it would take in Metito, which has around 20 offices and 4,500 employees across the world. Alpha Dhabi also did not disclose the value of the transaction or how the transaction would be funded. 

The Ghandour family, Metito’s founding shareholders, will retain their leadership roles, Alpha Dhabi said in the statement on Monday. 

Alpha Dhabi is linked to Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the UAE’s national security adviser and a brother of the country’s President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan. Sheikh Tahnoun owns the Royal Group, which has a 74 percent stake in the parent of Alpha Dhabi, the International Holding Co. 

EU says no intention of cutting ties with China, but urges Beijing to reduce risk perception

EU says no intention of cutting ties with China, but urges Beijing to reduce risk perception
Updated 25 September 2023

EU says no intention of cutting ties with China, but urges Beijing to reduce risk perception

EU says no intention of cutting ties with China, but urges Beijing to reduce risk perception

BEIJING: The European Union has no intention of cutting ties with China even as the bloc takes steps to lower economic dependencies and de-risk, but China “could do a lot” to help reduce the perception of risk, the EU trade chief said on Monday.

The EU has long complained about a lack of level playing field in China and the politicization of the business environment. Concern turned to wariness after Beijing’s move to strengthen ties with Moscow despite the war in Ukraine.
Europe’s economic ties with China are deep, but China “could do a lot to help reduce our perception of risk,” Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis said in a speech delivered at the Tsinghua University in Beijing.

Industry heavyweights focus on talent acquisition, retention

Industry heavyweights focus on talent acquisition, retention
Updated 24 September 2023

Industry heavyweights focus on talent acquisition, retention

Industry heavyweights focus on talent acquisition, retention

RIYADH: Talent acquisition, retention, and mentoring will be in the spotlight at the upcoming hospitality summit in the UAE as industry heavyweights gather to discuss the significance of investing in human resources and incorporate the concepts of environmental, social, and governance in the recruitment process.

The Future Hospitality Summit scheduled to be held on Sept. 25-27 at Hilton Yas Island in Abu Dhabi under the theme “Focus on Investment” will focus on the importance of prioritizing human capital investment, addressing talent shortage, recruiting, and retaining suitable workforce.

According to Mariam Al-Musharrekh, executive director of human resources at Miral — the summit’s host sponsor — recruitment retention, and development of talent are essential to meeting the increasing demand for sustainable, digitalized, and hyper-personalized guest experiences in the leisure, entertainment, and tourism industry.

“A heightened focus on attracting and retaining top talent, while cultivating and investing in their long-term growth and ensuring they have the best possible start to their careers will remain paramount for the growth of the industry,” Al-Musharrekh said.

“An organization’s workforce must be empowered to contribute meaningfully to sustainable practices by cultivating a culture of ethical governance, community engagement, and continuous learning,” she added.

Hospitality leaders will offer their perspectives on key aspects such as workforce skills, finding and keeping talent, and attracting Emirati and Saudi nationals in the hospitality sector.

As guest preferences continue to evolve and technology becomes more prominent in the hospitality industry, it’s essential to ensure that workforce skills stay current.

“The hospitality sector has gone through a revolution over the past few years through the integration of digital ecosystems within its operations. Following this revolution, recruitment, retention, and development remain a focal point for success within the industry, as hospitality professionals are key to driving hyper-personalized experiences,” Al-Musharrekh added.

“It requires passionate individuals who understand the delicate balance between technology and hospitality, and by dedicating more of our time and budgets toward mentorship programs, cross-training, and tailored development paths,” Dimitris Manikis, president of Wyndham Hotels and Resort in Europe and MEA, said in a statement.

Manikis said that increased investment is required in the recruitment and retention of individuals with the right qualifications and adaptability to meet the changing demands of the sector.

It involves supporting the upcoming generation and commencing from the foundational level. This entails collaborating with educational institutions such as schools and universities to establish internship initiatives that enable young talents to learn insights from industry experts and prepare for the future.

Paul Griep, director of Industry and Alumni Relations at Hotelschool The Hague, said: “I believe both education as well as the industry can make a true competitive difference by assessing which aspects of the hospitality journey can be resolved by technology and which aspects will need a more ‘human’ touch.” 

The Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia, is making record-level investments in the tourism and hospitality sector. It is estimated that by 2026, there will be a demand for nearly 100,000 well-trained hospitality experts.

“Over the last few years, we have seen notable transformations in recruitment and retention practices, with the shift attributed to various factors including technological advancements and changing market dynamics,” Al-Musharrekh commented.

She also added that recruitment has become more focused and personalized as a result of the use of data-driven methodologies, assisting in the discovery of more suitable individuals

Sunil John, president of ASDA’A Burson Cohn & Wolfe in the Middle East and North Africa, said that the hospitality sector has emerged as one of the top areas for creating new jobs, especially for the youth but added: “To attract regional talent, the hospitality sector must underline the growth opportunities it provides.”

“Typically, in the region, the hospitality sector has been dominated by expatriate professionals — and there is an urgent need to nurture and build robust career choices for nationals,” John continued.

Griep added that the industry has a chance to do this “right” this time, viewing the demand for 100,000 skilled professionals as both the most significant challenge and the “greatest” opportunity.

However, he said that “this may not be the most sustainable and/or ethical which will be accepted at a lesser extent by newer generations.”

“Saudi Arabia can be the ‘lab’ where an array of new techniques, approaches to talent, and recruitment can be tested in action,” Manikis said.

Attracting and retaining talent in the hospitality industry requires a holistic approach that addresses compensation, work-life balance, career development, workplace culture, and societal responsibility.

Jeroen Greven, the managing director of the Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management, explained different approaches to attracting and retaining talents.

He said it is important to showcase “the unique opportunities and experiences” that the Middle East has to offer to attract potential candidates. Another approach, he added, is to increase collaboration with educational institutions to provide specialized hospitality programs.

Greven also added: “As the industry expands, a strategic mix of appealing incentives and employee-centric policies will remain central to securing and nurturing a skilled workforce.”

“Our approach to nurturing Arab youth talent involves forging partnerships with educational institutions, continuing to offer internships and mentorship programs, and remaining committed to creating an environment where young local talents can flourish and contribute meaningfully to the industry,” Manikis commented.

Moreover, ensuring the development of talent in a responsible ESG-driven environment is also important to ensure sustainable growth of the industry. Greven added: “Start by incorporating sustainability modules into training programs to raise awareness and foster a culture of responsible practices through continuous education on environmental and social issues.”

This can also be done by implementing mentorship programs where seasoned professionals guide talent in ESG considerations.

In May, the summit was held in Riyadh under the theme “Invest in Change,” as it emphasized the importance of the positive change that can be brought about by investing in time, intellect, and experience to keep up with the changing times and trends.

The summit focused on creating job opportunities for young Saudis by fostering the development of a skilled and talented workforce for the hospitality sector.

Sustainability tops agenda as summit set to begin in Abu Dhabi

Sustainability tops agenda as summit set to begin in Abu Dhabi
Updated 24 September 2023

Sustainability tops agenda as summit set to begin in Abu Dhabi

Sustainability tops agenda as summit set to begin in Abu Dhabi

RIYADH: Principles related to environmental, social, and governance are top of the agenda as top names in the hospitality sector meet in Abu Dhabi for the Future Hospitality Summit on Sept. 26.

From increased calls on climate action in the tourism and hospitality sector to Dubai hosting the COP28 this winter, most of the discussions at this year’s event are expected to be centered around measures to reduce the industry’s carbon footprint.

According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, the sector contributes up to 11 percent of the total emissions in the world, and this figure is predicted to double by 2050.

With this in mind, industry leaders and most of the key players in the sector have already taken measures to ensure a greener future

Sustainability factor

Haitham Mattar, managing director of India, Middle East and Africa at IHG Hotels and Resorts, believes the tourism and hospitality sectors play a pivotal role in working toward a sustainable future.

“At IHG, we embrace our responsibility and opportunity to make a positive difference and (are) helping to shape the future of responsible travel,” said Mattar.

He added: “We are determined to contribute toward positive social and economic change, to stand up for key issues such as diversity, equity and inclusion, and human rights, and to make more responsible environmental choices.”

Mattar said IHG is working toward reducing carbon emissions, along with eliminating single-use items and moving to reusable and recyclable alternatives, as well as reducing the food waste from its hotel chain.

Jonathan Brown, chief portfolio officer of Miral Group, the host sponsor of FHS, believes the path to sustainability across the UAE’s leisure, entertainment, and tourism industry has been emboldened by a national strategy accentuating clean energy sources together with net-zero objectives.

Brown said: “Our ambition to accelerate the realization of the Emirate’s tourism growth and contribute to the industry’s ecosystem underpinned by a commitment to creating value for our customers, partners, and society, and positively impacting the communities in which we operate.”

He added: “Ultimately, the key to balancing growth with sustainable development lies in collective action, strategic partnerships, and long-standing investments.”

Richard Williamson, chief operating officer of Considerate Group, said the interest and investments surrounding ESG principles in the hospitality sector have picked up pace in recent years, and are a significant part of the agenda at events such as FHS.

“In 2023, we more often find a chief sustainability officer owning the agenda, with a dedicated ESG budget. Our role has evolved so that we now habitually provide advice and support to the CSO,” said Williamson.

He added: “This reflects the change in ESG engagement moving from a warm, slightly ‘wooly’ industry, to a more quantitative, data-led stage.”

Williamson believes the ESG evolution in the hospitality sector is being driven by four crucial factors: tightening regulations, stakeholder reporting requirements, asset-level carbon footprint analysis, and climate risk and resilience.

Fahad Abdulrahim Kazim, CEO of Millennium Hotels & Resorts, echoed those views and noted the hospitality industry’s investment in ESG and sustainability is becoming increasingly robust and essential.

“We are witnessing a significant shift as more hotels and resorts recognize the long-term benefits of incorporating environmental, social, and governance considerations into their business strategies,” said Kazim.

The executive added that industry leaders in the hospitality sector are steadily adopting energy efficient technologies, waste reduction initiatives, community engagement programs, and responsible sourcing practices.

“As consumer preferences align more with sustainable choices, the hospitality sector’s commitment to ESG is not just a trend but a necessary path to secure a greener and more resilient future,” Kazim noted.

Millennium Hotels & Resorts aims to reduce environmental impact through sustainable practices, including a reduction in single-use plastics, Kazim added.

“We seek to establish and nurture long-term relationships with residents and organizations by supporting local small and medium-sized enterprises. At Millennium Hotels & Resorts, we remain dedicated to leading this charge and setting a strong example for sustainable hospitality practices,” he said.

Kazim further pointed out that the biggest priority in the hospitality sector is striking the right balance between exceptional guest experiences and minimizing the environmental footprint.

Radisson Hotel Group’s Vice President of Business Development Elie Milky noted that the hospitality sector is witnessing a paradigm shift from sustainability being a “nice-to-have” to a fundamental core value.

“Investments in ESG reflect our ethical responsibilities and become vital for business resilience and long-term success,” said Milky.

He added: “As an industry that primarily revolves around physical locations, buildings, and transportation, we have a significant role in driving forward green building practices, efficient energy consumption, and sustainable transportation solutions for our guests.”

Paul Stevens, chief operating officer of the premium, midscale and economy division for Middle East, Africa and Turkiye at Accor, said the company has been a pioneer in bringing sustainable development to the hospitality industry for more than 30 years.

 “We drive transformation by collaborating closely with our hotel owners, partners and stakeholders to embed sustainability across all activities, making a positive impact on people and nature, which are two fundamentals at the core of our practices,” added Stevens.

According to the executive, the sustainable transition is not only just a strategic priority but is a fundamental necessity.

“ESG practices are no longer optional; they have evolved into essential requirements for staying competitive, attracting guests, and maintaining long-term viability,” he said.

Possible challenges

Talking about the challenges faced by the hospitality sector while reducing sustainability, IHG Hotels’ Mattar noted the most crucial to tackle is the lack of standardization.

He said: “For governments to set ESG targets, industry level standards are pivotal to mandate across different areas of sustainability. As an industry, standardization is a recurring topic of importance that appears in virtually every conversation, as well as across customer forums.

Mattar added: “It is the need of the hour for governments, businesses and trade bodies to harmonize efforts and as a result, maintain effective tourism and hospitality ESG standards.”

Stevens believes the hospitality sector faces intricate challenges when it comes to the development and execution of ESG strategies and deviating from traditional ways of doing things.

“The strategies are not one-size-fits-all solutions, each destination possesses its own unique challenges and opportunities, demanding a customized approach,” added Stevens.