UAE announces $4.5bn finance initiative for African clean energy 

Update UAE announces $4.5bn finance initiative for African clean energy 
COP28 President-Designate Sultan Al Jaber. File/AFP
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Updated 05 September 2023
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UAE announces $4.5bn finance initiative for African clean energy 

UAE announces $4.5bn finance initiative for African clean energy 

 

RIYADH: The UAE will give $4.5 billion to Africa’s clean energy initiatives, COP28 President-designate Sultan Al-Jaber said on Tuesday as he urged the continent to set out long-term transition plans. 

Speaking at the African Climate Summit in Nairobi, the high-ranking UAE politician revealed the money would come from the country’s public and private sector, with Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, Etihad Credit Insurance, Masdar, and AMEA Power notable contributors. 

The funds will be distributed in collaboration with Africa50, an investment platform established by African governments and the Africa Development Bank. 

In his keynote address announcing the money, Al-Jaber called on the continent’s leaders to set out clear transition and investment plans, along with policy and regulatory frameworks to unlock commercial finance for clean energy projects. 

He said: “The initiative will prioritize investments in countries across Africa with clear transition strategies, enhanced regulatory frameworks and a master plan for developing grid infrastructure that integrates supply and demand.  

“In short, this initiative is designed to work with Africa, for Africa.  

“It aims to clearly demonstrate the commercial case for clean investment across this continent and it will act as a scalable model that can be replicated to help put Africa on a superhighway to low carbon growth.” 

He acknowledged that “Africa contributes just 3 percent of global emissions, yet suffers some of the worst consequences. Droughts, floods and failed harvests have exposed one fifth of Africa’s people to hunger, tripled the number of people displaced in the last three years, and is dragging down Africa’s GDP growth by at least 5 percent every year.

The UAE official also recognized the scale of energy poverty within Africa, acknowledging that “almost half of Africa’s population still have no access to electricity, almost 1 billion people lack clean cooking fuels, and this energy gap will only increase as Africa’s population grows.”

Al-Jaber used his speech to flag up areas of governance that need improving in Africa in order for the money to make a real difference to the creation of clean energy sources.  

These include restoring the financial sustainability of local utilities, modernizing basic energy infrastructures,  and clarifying development processes and eliminating the red-tape delaying market lead-time. 

The Abu Dhabi Fund for Development is contributing $1 billion, while Etihad Credit Insurance is providing $500 million of credit insurance to de-risk and unlock private capital. 

Energy firm Masdar, which is active in 22 countries in Africa, is committing an additional $2 billion of equity as part of the new initiative. It will also mobilize an additional $8 billion in project finance and through its Infinity Power platform and will target the delivery of 10 gigawatts of clean energy capacity in Africa by 2030. 

AMEA Power is targeting 5 GW of renewable energy capacity in the continent by 2030, mobilizing $5 billion, of which $1 billion will come from equity commitment, and $4 billion from project finance. 

The initiative will sit under the umbrella of Etihad 7, a development platform championed by the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs that aims to provide 100 million people across the African continent with clean electricity by 2035. 

 Al-Jaber emphasized his plan to fix climate finance. He urged donors to “close out the $100 billion pledge they made over a decade ago and to replenish the green climate fund. In parallel, we need a complete upgrade of the global financial architecture that was built for a different era.”

Addressing the imbalance between financing for mitigation and adaptation, he called on donors to “double adaptation finance by 2025,” and to “transform the Global Goal on Adaptation from theory and text into tangible action and real results.”

COP28 UAE will take place at Expo City Dubai from Nov. 30 to Dec. 12 and is expected to convene over 70,000 participants, including heads of state, government officials, and international industry leaders.

The COP28 President-designate stated: “What was promised in Sharm El Sheikh, must be fully operational in Dubai.”

Al-Jaber concluded his remarks at the summit by saying that climate change is a "global fight and demands a global solution.” “If Africa loses, we all lose, If Africa succeeds, we all succeed. Progress for one is progress for all,” he said.


Saudi banks’ money supply surges 10% to reach $726bn in January

Saudi banks’ money supply surges 10% to reach $726bn in January
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Saudi banks’ money supply surges 10% to reach $726bn in January

Saudi banks’ money supply surges 10% to reach $726bn in January

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s money supply surged 10 percent in January to reach SR2.72 trillion ($726 billion), the central bank data showed.

The growth was primarily driven by a substantial rise in banks’ term and savings accounts, which recorded a rise of 31 percent to reach SR864.32 billion. The overall figure, however, also includes currency outside banks, demand deposits, and other quasi-money deposits.

Since the Saudi riyal is pegged to the US dollar, the rise in interest rates is also seen as a source of motivation for depositors who want to pursue more profitable avenues particularly term deposits known for their higher-yielding nature.

Fitch Ratings also noted that the liquidity boost in Saudi Arabia could be linked to a significant rise in funds from government-related entities.

According to the agency, the rise in these GRE accounts suggests that these entities chose to invest their surplus liquidity in higher income-generating deposits with commercial banks, rather than with the Saudi Central Bank, also known as SAMA.

It highlighted that these deposits serve as an expensive source of funding for banks, which has significantly increased the average cost of funding due to heightened competition in the financial market.

Reflecting on the changes, demand deposits, which constituted a 53 percent share of the money supply a year ago, now stand at 48.42 percent, with a growth rate of only 1 percent during this period.

Despite the elevated cost of funding for Saudi banks, the increase in interest rates also bolstered profits on their asset side, as higher borrowing rates resulted in greater income.

Based on data from Bloomberg compiled by Arab News, the net income of listed Saudi banks surged by 12 percent annually in 2023, reaching SR69.96 billion.

Among these, the Saudi National Bank held the largest share at 29 percent, equivalent to SR20 billion. Notably, the most significant growth in net income was observed in Saudi Awwal Bank, with profits soaring by 45 percent to reach SR7 billion.

During 2022, SAMA increased key policy rates seven times followed by an additional four times in 2023. In its July 2023 meeting, the central bank last raised its repo rate by 25 basis points to 6 percent, reaching its highest level since 2001. This move was in line with the measures taken by the US Federal Reserve as part of its efforts to combat inflation.

Saudi Arabia has nevertheless demonstrated exceptional resilience and stability in managing inflation. This success can be attributed to the steadfast implementation of robust government policies designed to safeguard the economy.

Central to this stability is the Saudi Consumer Protection Association, a vigilant guardian of fair pricing practices for essential goods and services. The Kingdom’s strong regulatory framework ensures that consumers are shielded from unwarranted price escalations, fostering an environment conducive to business.

Furthermore, Saudi Arabia’s commitment to social welfare is evident in its comprehensive policies. The Kingdom has strategically invested in initiatives such as subsidies on essential goods, affordable housing schemes, quality education programs, and accessible healthcare services.

A prime example of this commitment is the Citizen Account Program, a cornerstone of support for low- and mid-income families. Through this program, the government provides crucial cash transfers, alleviating the financial strains caused by the rising cost of living.

In January, Saudi Arabia maintained stable inflation at 1.6 percent, holding steady from December 2023, as reported by the General Authority of Statistics.

The primary driver of the inflation rate was the cost of rent, given their significant weight of 21 percent in the Saudi consumer basket.

Nevertheless, according to data from Trading Economics, the Kingdom ranked the second-lowest among G20 countries in terms of inflation, following Switzerland, which recorded a rate of 1.3 percent.

Looking ahead, Fitch Ratings anticipates that the cost of funding will continue to be sensitive to shifts in the Fed rate. However, the agency expects the average net interest margin, a crucial measure of banks’ core profitability, to stay at approximately 3 percent.

Fitch also projects a 10 percent growth in deposits for 2024, driven primarily by term accounts. The proportion of demand deposits will likely decrease, falling below 50 percent of total deposits.

The agency’s predicted Saudi banking sector financing growth stood at 10 percent in 2024, well above the Gulf Cooperation Council average of 5 percent but down from an estimated 12 percent in 2023 and 14 percent in 2022.


RSG partners with Amazon Payment Services to introduce online transactions

RSG partners with Amazon Payment Services to introduce online transactions
Updated 36 min 38 sec ago
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RSG partners with Amazon Payment Services to introduce online transactions

RSG partners with Amazon Payment Services to introduce online transactions

RIYADH: Saudi tourist destinations, The Red Sea and AMAALA, will soon offer online transaction options through a recent partnership with Amazon Payment Services. 

Initiated by its developer Red Sea Global, the deal aims to provide a comprehensive suite of payment solutions tailored to meet the needs of RSG’s customers, according to a statement. 

This aligns with RSG’s vision of providing exceptional experiences for its travelers, as stated by Ahmed Ali Al-Sohaily, group head of technology at RSG. 

He said: “By collaborating with Amazon Payment Services, its best-in-class technology ensures convenient, secure, and efficient payment processes for our guests.”  

RSG said it seeks to collaborate with partners who share similar values in making a positive impact on both people and the planet. Currently, more than 90 percent of Amazon Payment Services’ electricity comes from renewables, with a goal to reach 100 percent by 2025, the release added. 

“We are excited to support Red Sea Global and its customers through this new partnership that allows us to enhance the payment experience for luxury travelers through our innovative and tailor-made payment solutions,” said Peter George, managing director at Amazon Payments Services.


Australia’s University of Wollongong joins top global institutes in Riyadh expansion 

Australia’s University of Wollongong joins top global institutes in Riyadh expansion 
Updated 3 min 21 sec ago
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Australia’s University of Wollongong joins top global institutes in Riyadh expansion 

Australia’s University of Wollongong joins top global institutes in Riyadh expansion 

RIYADH: Saudi students will gain increased access to high-quality higher education as reputable institutes, including Australia’s University of Wollongong, secure licenses for branches within the Kingdom. 

The Saudi Ministry of Education and its investment counterpart announced the issuance of an approval to the Australian public research university during the recently concluded Human Capability Initiative Conference in Riyadh, the Saudi Press Agency reported.  

This move is a part of the preparations to establish its branch in the Kingdom, in collaboration with the Digital Knowledge Co., to provide innovative, globally recognized education for international and local students across various higher schooling levels. 

The collaboration with Digital Knowledge Co., known for its high-quality expertise in schooling and training, aligns with Saudi Vision 2030, aiming to attract foreign university branches and increase private sector involvement in higher education by 2030. 

The University of Wollongong holds the 14th position among the best modern universities worldwide, ranking in the top 1 percent of institutes according to the 2024 QS World Index. 

The SPA report added that, during the same event, the two ministries also signed a memorandum of understanding with Arizona State University and Cintana Education to establish a new institute and an affiliated school in Riyadh. 

The MoU with ASU and Cintana Education outlines the framework for these institutions, emphasizing high-quality education, research, and innovative programs to contribute to economic success and influence future generations in the Kingdom. 

The tailored programs aim to meet the increasing demand for international education in Riyadh, aligning with the priorities of Saudi Vision 2030. This includes specializations in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, as well as economics, along with the training of educational staff. 

SPA added that the launch is scheduled after the completion of the required studies by the signing parties of the MoU. 

In 2005, ASU had 20 undergraduate and four graduate students from Saudi Arabia. By 2017, these numbers surged to 682 undergraduate and 103 graduate students, according to its website. 

The university emphasizes 13 areas of study, with engineering being the most popular among half of the students, while one in five are pursuing degrees in business. Other fields of study include liberal arts, global management, public service, and education. 

AUS adds that the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission and Aramco have sent multiple delegations to the educational institution to explore how the university accommodates sponsored Saudi students. Such cultural missions have resulted in 126 Aramco-sponsored scholars currently enrolled at ASU.


WTO’s Abu Dhabi Declaration to empower least developed nations  

WTO’s Abu Dhabi Declaration to empower least developed nations  
Updated 58 min 50 sec ago
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WTO’s Abu Dhabi Declaration to empower least developed nations  

WTO’s Abu Dhabi Declaration to empower least developed nations  

RIYADH: The least developed countries are set to benefit from the Abu Dhabi Declaration at the 13th WTO Ministerial Conference, improving global supply chain access. 

Trade deals, aimed at fostering new agreements, will extend international trading system benefits to more nations, following intensive negotiations, as reported by the UAE’s official news agency, WAM. 

Members have agreed to implement Special and Preferential Treatment for Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures and Technical Barriers to Trade. This effort supports producers in the least developed countries, facilitating their global supply chain access, the WAM report stated. 

The report added that the current measures of SPS constitute a staggering 90 percent of non-tariff trade barriers, posing a significant obstacle for smaller nations and being viewed as discriminatory. 

In a significant development for developing countries, ministers approved a decision responding to a 23-year-old mandate. The aim is to revamp special and differential treatment provisions for improved precision, effectiveness, and operational functionality. 

The UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade and MC13 Chair, Thani Al-Zeyoudi, described the declaration as a significant milestone for the UAE and global trade. 

“It has been a momentous week for Abu Dhabi, for the UAE, and for global trade. I would like to thank the delegations from every member for their diligence and dedication to the negotiation and for their ceaseless efforts in making the global trading system more robust, more efficient and, most importantly, more accessible,” he said. 

The minister added that even in areas where final agreements have not been reached, issues that previously seemed unsolvable can now be unlocked — clearing the way for further progress in the coming months.  

Substantial progress has also been achieved in dispute resolution, as there is now an agreement to fulfill the MC12 mandate by establishing a comprehensive and efficient Dispute Settlement system by the end of 2024. This entails the adoption of various reform pathways by the participating members. 

Regarding e-commerce, members have agreed to extend the moratorium on customs duties for electronic transmissions for an additional two years. This decision implies that trade involving purely digital products and services will remain tariff-free until MC14 in Cameroon. 

Ministers also adopted a ministerial decision to extend the moratorium on non-violation and situation complaints related to the agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights until MC14. 

“Delivering the Abu Dhabi Declaration of outcomes is a true testament to the value that members continue to attach to the WTO and its pivotal role in ensuring an orderly global system of trade rules,” said Al-Zeyoudi. 

“With the adopted Abu Dhabi Declaration, we have demonstrated that we can deliver to ensure the global trading system remains a vital engine of growth and development for nations around the world. We must build on these significant achievements and remain united for global trade,” he added.  

The WAM report quoted Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, director-general of the World Trade Organization, stating that the global body serves as a foundation of stability and resilience in an economic and geopolitical landscape filled with uncertainties and exogenous shocks. 

“Trade remains a vital force for improving people’s lives, and for helping businesses and countries cope with the impact of these shocks. Let us get some rest, then regroup and resume,” she said. 

MC13, hosted by the UAE’s Ministry of Economy and the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development, took place at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center from Feb. 26 to March 2. 


Larger declines in oil prices or extended OPEC+ cuts could weigh on Iraq’s fiscal account, IMF says 

Larger declines in oil prices or extended OPEC+ cuts could weigh on Iraq’s fiscal account, IMF says 
Updated 03 March 2024
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Larger declines in oil prices or extended OPEC+ cuts could weigh on Iraq’s fiscal account, IMF says 

Larger declines in oil prices or extended OPEC+ cuts could weigh on Iraq’s fiscal account, IMF says 

CAIRO: The International Monetary Fund said on Sunday that larger declines in oil prices or extended OPEC+ cuts could weigh on Iraq’s fiscal and external accounts. 

“Iraq needs to increase non-oil exports and government revenue, and reduce the economy’s vulnerability to oil price shocks,” they said in a concluding statement.