First day of Arab-China conference sees signing of 30 deals worth $10 billion

Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan and the vice chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, Hu Chunhua, attend 10th Arab-China Business Conference in Riyadh, on Sunday. Reuters
Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan and the vice chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, Hu Chunhua, attend 10th Arab-China Business Conference in Riyadh, on Sunday. Reuters
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Updated 12 June 2023
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First day of Arab-China conference sees signing of 30 deals worth $10 billion

First day of Arab-China conference sees signing of 30 deals worth $10 billion
  • Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman highlights synergies between Riyadh, Beijing

RIYADH: The first day of the 10th Arab-China Business Conference saw the signing of 30 investment agreements worth $10 billion across various sectors including technology, renewables, agriculture, real estate, minerals, supply chains, tourism, and healthcare.

According to the Investment Ministry, the Saudi government signed deals with several Chinese entities for projects including a joint venture for automotive research, development, manufacturing and sales, development of tourism and other apps, and production of rail wagons and wheels in the Kingdom.

Several business-to-business deals were also signed at the key business event that began in Riyadh on Sunday.

Speaking at the event, Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said: “I would not be surprised if you will hear more announcements soon on Saudi-Chinese investment.”

He said the Kingdom seeks collaboration with the world’s second-largest economy instead of competition.

HIGHLIGHTS

A $5.6 billion agreement between the Kingdom’s Investment Ministry and Human Horizons, a Chinese developer of autonomous driving technologies and manufacturer of electric cars under the HiPhi brand, to establish a joint venture for automotive research, development, manufacturing and sales.

A $266 million deal signed by Saudi Arabia with Hong Kong-based Android developer Hibobi Technology Ltd. to develop tourism and other apps.

A $250 million deal facilitated by Investment Ministry between Saudi railway company SABATCO and Chinese state-owned and publicly traded rolling stock manufacturer CRRC to manufacture rail wagons and wheels in the Kingdom.

A $150 million deal between Investment Ministry, the Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources and Chinese industrial manufacturer Sunda to manufacture caustic soda, chlorine and derivatives, chlorinated paraffin, calcium chloride, poly vinyl chloride, and related conversion products in the Kingdom.

Prince Abdulaziz said there are synergies between the two countries, as the Kingdom is progressing steadily with its Vision 2030 plan, while China is pursuing its Belt and Road Initiative.

The two-day event has been organized by Saudi Arabia’s investment and foreign ministries in collaboration with the General Secretariat of the Arab League, the Chinese Council for the Promotion of International Trade, and the Union of Arab Chambers.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, who inaugurated the conference on behalf of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, said: “The crown prince has continually amplified efforts to enhance the long-standing and advanced partnership between the Arab world and China in all sectors.”

He said the conference outlines methods for achieving mutual compatibility, exchanging experience, and launching new opportunities that enable growth and investment, resulting in prosperity and progress for all.

The program of plenaries, workshops, special meetings, and side events dedicated to topics such as environmental, social and governance, and supply chain resilience attracted more than 3,500 business leaders, innovators, and policymakers from 26 countries.

In a bid to further boost trade ties with China, Saudi Arabia announced the revival of the Silk Route on the sidelines of the event.

Saudi Investment Minister Khalid Al-Falih said the Kingdom can serve as China’s gateway to the Arab world as the world’s second-largest economy seeks to elevate trade ties with the region.

The Kingdom represents 25 percent of the $432 billion trade between China and Arab countries in 2022.

Commenting on the revival of the Silk Route, the minister said the initiative aligns with Saudi Arabia’s future vision that seeks to diversify its economy and use modern technology to elevate the skills of its youth.

The volume of trade between Saudi Arabia and China hit $106 billion in 2022, registering a 30 percent increase over 2021.

The second day of the program will include a closing keynote from Dilma Rousseff, former president of Brazil and current president of New Development Bank, a multilateral development bank established by Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa to mobilize resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in emerging markets and developing economies.

 


Gender equality is the cornerstone for development, says Saudi economy minister

Gender equality is the cornerstone for development, says Saudi economy minister
Updated 4 sec ago
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Gender equality is the cornerstone for development, says Saudi economy minister

Gender equality is the cornerstone for development, says Saudi economy minister

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia eyes increasing female representation across various sectors as the country considers gender equality as a cornerstone for sustainable development, said the minister of economy and planning.

Speaking at the Human Capability Initiative in Riyadh on Thursday, Faisal Alibrahim said the Kingdom has been witnessing a significant rise in female participation in the private sector.

“Gender equality is a cornerstone of our commitment to sustainable development. Increasing female representation is a critical macro goal supported by a multitude of initiatives,” said Alibrahim.

He added: “Women now hold 20 percent of seats in the Saudi Shoura Council and key positions in ministries and government bodies. Twenty-nine percent of middle and senior private sector management positions are held by women, and 45 percent of SMEs in the Kingdom are female-led.”

The minister added that human capital investment is crucial for Saudi Arabia and the Kingdom, with various initiatives, is trying to ensure a better future for its citizens.

“We regard human capital investment as a critical part of the Kingdom’s transformation. The Ministry of Economy and Planning considers human capital at the heart of policymaking,” said Alibrahim.

According to Alibrahim, Saudi Arabia is a young country, and with a majority of the population at the working age, the Kingdom has all the potential to boost its economy.

“Saudi (Arabia) is a young country. (With) the median age of just 29, 73 percent of the people are working age, and only 3 percent are above the age of 64. This means we have a unique window and demographic opportunity, offering a potential economic boost. During this period, countries can experience higher productivity, increased savings, and investment potentials,” added the minister.

Talking about human capability initiatives in the Kingdom, he said the Kingdom’s Healthcare Transformation Program will help 88 percent of the population gain access to inclusive healthcare services by 2030.

The minister further noted that the national housing program has a goal to increase homeownership in the Kingdom to 70 percent.

“Saudi Arabia’s Healthcare Transformation Program uses a host of innovation and digital solutions to provide a more comprehensive, personalized, and integrated healthcare system. 88 percent of the population will have access to inclusive health care services by 2030, and 100 percent will be covered by a unified digital medical record system,” said Alibrahim.

The minister also highlighted the role of the private sector in elevating human capability. According to the minister, governments should encourage reforms that will increase private investments in human capital.

“We must provide the right framework for private and social investments in human capital; tax investments, and public-private partnerships, there are a multitude of ways that the government can encourage reforms and innovation,” added Alibrahim.

He also added that Saudi Arabia’s progress will not end after achieving the goals outlined in Vision 2030.

“I promise you this, progress does not stop in 2030. We are developing a culture of continuous learning and improvement. When the Kingdom reaches one goal, it is always just a step on the ladder to the next. To achieve the best outcomes, it is critical to harness the power and dynamism of the private sector,” said the official.

He added: “Saudi Arabia is open to ideas, open to investments, and open for international collaborations.”


Red Sea Global launches national academy to train and upskill Saudis, CEO reveals

Red Sea Global launches national academy to train and upskill Saudis, CEO reveals
Updated 30 min 43 sec ago
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Red Sea Global launches national academy to train and upskill Saudis, CEO reveals

Red Sea Global launches national academy to train and upskill Saudis, CEO reveals

RIYADH: Young Saudis will soon be further qualified in terms of technical specializations as the Red Sea National Academy launches, according to the group CEO. 

In an interview with Arab News on the sidelines of the Human Capability Initiative in Riyadh, John Pagano explained that as the entity advances tourism destinations in the Red Sea and Amaala, there will be a requirement for additional participants within the industry to meet the demands of the labor market. 

This aligns with the Saudi Vision 2030 goal of ensuring that the Kingdom’s citizens have the capabilities to compete globally by instilling values, developing basic and future skills, and enhancing knowledge. 

“The industry needs 1.2 million new participants to help deliver this new industry, this new, exciting and important industry from an economic point of view, from a diversification point of view,” Pagano said. 

“We’ve decided that we need to provide the opportunities to train and upskill these young Saudis in an environment that is relevant to where they’re going to ultimately work,” the CEO added. 

He went on to say that the initiative will work on training a couple of thousand students per year, all of whom will ultimately graduate and get jobs within the Red Sea and Amaala projects.

In terms of location, Pagano disclosed that the newly inaugurated academy will reside in Al-Wajh, which sits between the Red Sea and Amaala. 

“It’ll become a hub for not only our training but also as a community center, where we’re going to continue to provide English language courses for the local population to, again, give them opportunities to find new jobs within this new burgeoning industry,” the CEO said. 

He clarified that the group will often bring in specialist providers to conduct the training. In some cases, the group will be doing the training directly themselves. 

“Our preference and our priority would be to give local community residents, you know, a priority if they’re interested in are willing to take on, you know, that burden of going through the training. But ultimately, it’s open for all nationalities that will ultimately work within the destination,” Pagano noted. 

Speaking during a session titled “Developing Human Capabilities – The Power of Tourism,” the CEO explained how the entity plans to propel the local community further. 

“Our first class of vocational students, 430 of them, graduated last July. Almost 40 percent of them came from our local communities on the West Coast and that’s because we aim to benefit those communities where opportunities for advancement have historically been scarce,” he clarified. 

“Our program in airport services is the first of its kind in the nation. We’re also the first in the country to provide vocational training and tourism security. We already have 400 students enrolled and they’re on track to graduate next year, again in time for opening up our resorts,” he also underlined.

“In total, more than 1,300 talents are either studying in our programs or have already graduated from them. And these numbers will add up quickly. By 2030, we expect to have graduated 10,000 vocational students,” Pagano said in his speech.

With regards to the performance of the group in general, the CEO highlighted during the interview with Arab News that: “Last year and into the beginning of this year has been a pivotal, momentous period for us, a milestone.”

This comes as Red Sea has recently opened its first two resorts, including The Six Senses Southern Dunes and the Saint Regis Red Sea Resort. By the end of this year, the group intends to launch four additional resorts, he disclosed. 

“Meanwhile, we’re busy working on 19 other resorts, 11 at Red Sea and eight at Amaala, all of which are going to open next year,” Pagano revealed. 

In terms of operations, the CEO said: “We’re open for business today. The airport is running. So, we have eight flights a week in and out of the Red Sea direct.” 

That said, the destination is currently receiving guests regularly from the local and regional market, including Europeans as well, he added.

“So, we’re in that capacity-building mode where people are now starting to learn about the destination,” Pagano concluded. 

HCI is the first-ever global cooperative platform designed to unify international efforts and enrich the global dialogue on the challenges and opportunities for developing human capabilities. 

According to the HCI website, the two-day event will explore opportunities in various areas, including skill development, the future of work, education, talent, and technology.   

It will bring together policymakers, thought leaders, investors, and entrepreneurs to catalyze international collaboration. It also caters to participants who want to maximize resilience, explore opportunities, and promote innovative policy design and solutions.


Jordan set to receive investments of up to $100m annually from the EBRD

Jordan set to receive investments of up to $100m annually from the EBRD
Updated 49 min 11 sec ago
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Jordan set to receive investments of up to $100m annually from the EBRD

Jordan set to receive investments of up to $100m annually from the EBRD

RIYADH: Jordan’s energy and green economy sectors are set to receive over $100 million in investment annually, according to a top official.

The First Vice President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development Jurgen Rigterink revealed to the Jordan News Agency that the bank looks forward to expanding its activities and investments in the country to reach over $100 million annually, covering areas such as energy, water, clean energy, and the green economy.

Regarding the bank’s investments in the country, Rigterink mentioned that over the past 12 years, the bank has invested in 71 projects totaling an estimated €2.1 billion ($2.2 billion), with €268 million in concessional financing. 

He added that last year, the bank invested in five projects worth €62 million.

Rigterink affirmed that Jordan’s economy is performing well in the medium term and is moving at a stable pace despite the crises facing the region. He attributed the performance to successfully implementing the economic modernization vision and attracting foreign direct investment.

In an interview with the agency, also known as Petra, he highlighted the economic modernization vision launched by the government last year.

The vision includes developmental and strategic projects to increase economic growth, reduce unemployment rates, and issue laws and legislation supporting this vision, including investment regulations, public-private partnerships, and combating tax evasion.

The VP is visiting Amman to familiarize himself with the bank’s activities in Jordan and identify economic and investment opportunities in the country to determine potential areas for future bank support.

He reiterated the bank’s support for Jordan during this challenging time for the region and emphasized that discussions were held with Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Nasser Shraideh and Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Zeina Toukan regarding current and future investments to support the country’s economic growth and stimulate job creation.

Regarding the impact of the Gaza war on the country’s economy, Rigterink expected it to affect the local economy, which has shown resilience against challenges, stable growth, and low inflation rates due to the pegging of the dinar to the dollar.

He explained that the private sector would remain cautious about initiating new investments or expanding existing ones due to the uncertain situation.

Regarding the Green Star Venture programme, Rigterink affirmed its aim to enhance the competitiveness and growth of small, medium, and start-up companies in Jordan, contributing to the country’s green transformation.

He highlighted the role of small and medium-sized enterprises in achieving a greener economy by providing innovative eco-friendly products and services, noting that the bank has provided technical and advisory support to 500 SMEs, considering them as the backbone of economies and job providers.

The VP confirmed the bank’s support for SMEs by providing banking facilities via local financial institutions, mentioning the launch of green economy financing to boost green investments in Jordan’s private sector through partner local financial institutions.

He also emphasized the bank’s commitment to supporting Jordan’s transition to a comprehensive, competitive, and sustainable economy, mentioning several Aqaba Special Economic Zone projects, such as an eco-friendly electric bus initiative and a solid waste management undertaking.

Jordan joined the bank as a member in 2011, was granted recipient country status for aid in 2013, and has a permanent office to manage its operations in Jordan, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and Lebanon.


Saudi digital economy accounts for 14% of Kingdom’s GDP, new GASTAT analysis reveals

Saudi digital economy accounts for 14% of Kingdom’s GDP, new GASTAT analysis reveals
Updated 29 February 2024
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Saudi digital economy accounts for 14% of Kingdom’s GDP, new GASTAT analysis reveals

Saudi digital economy accounts for 14% of Kingdom’s GDP, new GASTAT analysis reveals

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s digital economy contributed 14 percent to the Kingdom’s gross domestic product, according to a first-of-its-kind survey conducted by the General Authority for Statistics. 

The study, which was carried out in 2023 and covers the previous 12-month period, set out the areas that have seen significant growth in this field.  

The survey aligns with recommendations from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the UN Conference on Trade and Development. 

According to the Digital Economy Survey, nearly half of all establishments, at 48 percent, invested in cloud computing services, encompassing various offerings like postal services, security software applications, file storage, and database hosting. 

Information and communication activities led the pack, with 68.3 percent of institutions in this sector purchasing cloud services, followed by education at 66.9 percent, and professional, scientific, and technical activities at 59.5 percent. 

Around 20.3 percent of establishments provided services via electronic applications, with education leading at 44.5 percent, followed by accommodation and food services at 39.9 percent, and arts and entertainment at 31.9 percent. 

In terms of electronic purchases, 18.5 percent of institutions placed orders for goods and services online, with information and communication establishments leading at 40.1 percent. They were followed by professional, scientific, and technical activities, as well as financial and insurance activities, both at 35.7 percent. 

Moreover, 60.1 percent of institutions utilized internet-connected devices or systems, encompassing smart alarm systems, meters, lamps, and surveillance cameras. 

Health and social work activities establishments were the highest users at 67.4 percent, followed by financial and insurance activities, and education activities, each at 65.2 percent. 

The survey aims to provide a database for conducting studies and developing indicators about the digital economy sector in Saudi Arabia. It serves as a reliable basis for research and provides decision-makers with valuable data for local, regional, and international comparisons. 


Private investment in emerging sectors to create ‘tremendous opportunities,’ says Saudi minister

Private investment in emerging sectors to create ‘tremendous opportunities,’ says Saudi minister
Updated 19 min 37 sec ago
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Private investment in emerging sectors to create ‘tremendous opportunities,’ says Saudi minister

Private investment in emerging sectors to create ‘tremendous opportunities,’ says Saudi minister

RIYADH: Private sector investment in Saudi Arabia is poised to create “tremendous opportunities” across the digital economy, tourism, financial services, and biotech sectors, said a top minister. 

During the second day of the Human Capability Initiative in Riyadh, the Kingdom’s Minister of Investment Khalid Al-Falih highlighted that by the end of this decade, the economy aims to grow two and a half times its pre-Vision 2030 level, with private sector participation increasing from 40 percent to 65 percent. 

He said: “Because of that, the size and scale of the private sector will be four times what it was during this decade alone, adding more than $3 trillion of investments to the domestic economy through the national investment strategy and other initiatives.” 

The minister underscored that a significant portion of those investments will be in new and developing economic sectors including the digital economy, tourism, and financial and professional services.

Healthcare, pharma, and biotech were also highlighted.

“These sectors will create tremendous opportunities for human capital development, as they will require a completely different set of skills and a fresh worldview and outlook,” said Al-Falih, adding: “The world is undergoing significant structural shifts marked by the energy transition, automation, and digitalization, new and shifting supply chains, and emerging disruptive technology.”  

The minister explained that while it may not be possible to predict precisely how much these macro trends will affect human capital and which jobs will be in demand, it is clear they will have a tremendous impact. 

“Since the beginning, we’ve seen firsthand what happens when investments catalyze human potential. The 90 years of development in the energy sector, sparked by the Aramco investment, is perhaps the best example but far from the only one,” Al-Falih said. 

“So when a new sector emerges, such as renewable energy, fintech, or biotech, the skills gap that arises will be filled through training, upskilling, or, in the case of Saudi Arabia, an open country, by inviting skilled people from around the world to meet that demand. Before you know it, you have an entirely new skill pool ready to be deployed,” he added.