Art and culture sectors crucial for economic growth, say business leaders at FII

Special Art and culture sectors crucial for economic growth, say business leaders at FII
Royal Commission for AlUla CEO Amr Al-Madani speaking on a panel at the FII forum in Riyadh.
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Updated 27 October 2023

Art and culture sectors crucial for economic growth, say business leaders at FII

Art and culture sectors crucial for economic growth, say business leaders at FII
  • The global art economy totaled $67.8 billion in 2022
  • Royal Commission for AlUla makes four announcements during FII

RIYADH: While globalization and technology continue to reshape the world’s social and economic frontiers, art and culture are also becoming key forces for economic growth and social progress.

Saudi Arabia is not immune from this, and the creative industries are a crucial part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 strategy for economic diversification and social transformation. 

The culture sector is expected to generate $20 billion in revenues and create hundreds of thousands of jobs under the plan, with the aim of increasing the contribution of the sector to Saudi Arabia’s gross domestic product to 3 percent.

Culture, whether in the form of art, fashion, food, entertainment and technology, is part of the country’s plans for a future beyond oil.

While governments around the world, particularly in the UK and the US, have been cutting state expenditure for the arts, Saudi Arabia has been increasing its investment to capitalize on the Kingdom’s great potential to become both a regional and global player in the cultural realm.

Speaking during a panel discussion at the Future Investment Initiative forum in Riyadh, Royal Commission for AlUla CEO Amr Al-Madani said Vision 2030 had made it clear the sector is an “indispensable driver for our quality of life.” 

He added: “We do believe that as the world moves on from institutional walls that used to hold the custody of culture – museums, galleries and research institutions – we all must believe that culture is not within these spaces anymore, but with the space in between, It is about people’s way of expression. 

“In Saudi Arabia we are capturing this by allowing culture to thrive in between institutions, in fashion, intangible histories, stories, leveraging the assets, but focusing on consumer economy and economic drivers.”

AlUla, Saudi Arabia’s ancient desert landscape, is one of the centers for the Kingdom’s cultural drive. 

It has a legacy, said Al-Madani, of more than 200,000 years of human presence and 8,000 years of civilizations that one can see through ruins and numerous excavations. 

There, he said, the RCU has found value in nature and in the intangible history and stories of the inhabitants. 

“We have called this ‘a cultural landscape’,” he said, adding: “We are creating a living museum, and we want people to experience it fully. We want every local in AlUla to become a storyteller and every visitor to become a co-producer of AlUla’s future legacy.”

During FII, RCU made four announcements over different sectors. These included agreements with two French companies to create a 22.5 km immersive tramway experience in AlUla, and a partnership with the Thales Group to use digital technology to protect AlUla’s collection of ancient artifacts and landmarks, 

There was also connectivity agreement with telecom giant stc to drive the area’s digital transformation and improve efficiency of technologies, and AlUla Film announced its partnership with American Company Stampede Ventures to develop and produce 10 feature films in the region over the next three years.

Also sitting under the Ministry of Culture is the Diriyah Biennale Foundation, responsible for arts exhibitions in the area.

“Through the inaugural editions of our Biennales in Diriyah and Jeddah, DBF not only enhances the local cultural landscape but also attracts international attention,” Aya Al-Bakree, CEO of the foundation, told Arab News, adding: “These events are more than just showcases; they are catalysts for growth.”

The success of the events is evident in the attendance numbers, with the Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale in 2021-2022 drawing over 100,000 visitors, while the Islamic Arts Biennale in 2023 welcoming more than 600,000.

“The creative economy stimulates various economic sectors by bringing together talent across generations and disciplines, from artists to scientists, challenging the status quo,” Al-Bakree added. 

Aya Al-Bakree, CEO of the Diriyah Biennale Foundation. Supplied.

The CEO was keen to highlight the influence of those in the artistic sector across many aspects of society.

“Artists are risk-takers, knowledge producers and innovators at heart, and their work can inspire generations to shape the world according to their ambitions,” Al-Bakree said, adding: “A strong cultural sector can spark innovation and serve as a catalyst for growth, learning, social cohesion, and mutual understanding between peoples, locally and internationally.”

She stressed that a creative economy, such as the one being established in the Kingdom, is “a resilient one, fueling economic diversification and growth across industries.”

Fashion, another creative sector, is also deemed a key investment area to spur economic growth in the Kingdom. 

The Fashion Commission, which sits under the Saudi Ministry of Culture, is investing heavily in the sector, and according to a recently published report the sector contributed 1.4 percent to the nation’s GDP in 2021, amounting to $12.5 billion.

Burak Cakmak, CEO of the commission, said during the panel: “Culture is clearly the representation of values of the past present and in some ways the indication of what we want for the future as a community. 

“In the case of the Saudi community, clearly there's a big emphasis on the heritage and the way people have been dressed in different parts of the country. 

“Saudis want to represent their culture and their identity and showcase how it is evolving and what a better way to do this than through fashion.”

Fashion, emphasized Cakmak, will be a “core driver” for the Kingdom’s economic growth, but also serves as a representation of the values of the Saudi youth.

Of the Kingdom’s 32.2 million people, 63 percent are under the age of 30, according to the Saudi general authority for statistics, with the median age of the population standing at 29 – figures that emphasize the youth-oriented nature of the economic change.

Another sector that could add to the Kingdom’s transformation is art collectors.

The global market totaled $67.8 billion in 2022, growing 3 percent year-over-year and reaching its second-highest level to date, according to a report published by Art Basel in partnership with UBS.

Speaking during the panel at the FII event, Charles Stewart, CEO of auction house Sotheby’s, said Saudi Arabia is well placed to redefine its art market.

“Culture for us is about self-expression and dialogue,” he said, adding: “It is the in-between space between a creator and an audience. It is an experience that brings audiences together.”

The CEO continued: “More importantly, it's an amazing convener of audiences and people.

“I think the opportunity that the Kingdom has with its very ambitious plans to define what that looks like over the next 10 to 100 years is quite extraordinary.”

Technology revolution to transform 70% of global business practices, minister says

Technology revolution to transform 70% of global business practices, minister says
Updated 8 sec ago

Technology revolution to transform 70% of global business practices, minister says

Technology revolution to transform 70% of global business practices, minister says

RIYADH: Global estimates suggest that technology adoptions and expansion are set to transform 70 percent of business practices globally, according to a top official.

Speaking during the opening of the Human Capability Initiative held in Riyadh, Saudi Minister of Education Yousef bin Abdullah Al-Benyan highlighted that global estimates indicate a potential disruption of 40 percent of workers’ skills within the next four to five years thanks to these changes.

“During the next two days, over 250 global leaders and experts will join us to share their knowledge and insight on how to unleash potential for humankind capability and catalyzing international corporations to maximize resilience in times of uncertainty,” Al-Benyan said.

He added: “Technology adoptions and expansion are set to transform 70 percent of business practices globally. As economists continue to navigate these dynamic labor market landscape, it is more critical than ever to work inclusively to promote positive human capability outcomes.”

UAE economy to grow by 5% in 2024, minister reiterates 

UAE economy to grow by 5% in 2024, minister reiterates 
Updated 34 min 18 sec ago

UAE economy to grow by 5% in 2024, minister reiterates 

UAE economy to grow by 5% in 2024, minister reiterates 

RIYADH: The UAE’s economy is projected to grow by 5 percent in 2024, a leading member of the government has reiterated.

In an interview with Emirates News Agency, also known as WAM, Minister of the Economy Abdulla bin Touq Al-Marri said that more than 73 percent of the national economy is now non-oil, a historic first for the country.

His projection is in line with recent assessments by the Ministry of Finance and S&P Global, which forecast growth of 5.7 percent and 5 percent respectively.

“This achievement reflects the confidence of the private sector and investors around the world in the UAE’s investment environment,” Al-Marri said. 

The minister added that the private sector is a key pillar in the new economic and investment landscape and is at the heart of global changes and challenges. 

“And in implementation of the directives of the wise leadership, the UAE has identified the most sustainable and flexible economic sectors, which have reached more than 16 sectors, including health technology, agriculture, education, financial services, artificial intelligence, and other sectors that contribute to the sustainability of economic sectors and enhance the strength of the national economy,” Al-Marri highlighted.

More opportunities for women awaiting in the petrochemical industry: SABIC official

More opportunities for women awaiting in the petrochemical industry: SABIC official
Updated 55 min 26 sec ago

More opportunities for women awaiting in the petrochemical industry: SABIC official

More opportunities for women awaiting in the petrochemical industry: SABIC official

RIYADH: Saudi women should explore more opportunities in the petrochemical industry, as only 25 percent of the sector’s workforce are female, said a top official. 

Speaking at the Human Capability Initiative in Riyadh on Feb. 28, Faisal Al-Suwailem, executive vice president of corporate human resources at Saudi Basic Industries Corp., said that the industrial sector in the Kingdom has been witnessing a sharp rise in female employment over the past three years. 

“If we take a look at the petrochemical industry, in the last 20 years, I have seen a great increase in the participation of females in the petrochemical industry. However, if you look at the number of women in the petrochemical industry, it is still about 25 percent. So, I believe we still have room to grow,” said Al-Suwailem. 

He added: “In the industrial sector, the hiring of females has increased 93 percent over the last three years. We have right now over 63,000 females working in plants around the Kingdom.” 

Al-Suwailem further pointed out that Saudi Arabia has surpassed the female workforce target outlined in the Kingdom’s Vision 2030. 

“Let us first look at Vision 2030, and under the thriving economy for female participation in the labor market, the baseline target was set at 22.8 percent, and now we are at 34.5 percent,” said Al-Suwailem. 

He added that SABIC stands out as one of the companies offering structured training programs aimed at nurturing and enhancing the skills of young individuals.

Al-Suwailem also underscored that SABIC offers scholarship programs that provide equal opportunities for both men and women. 

“SABIC is a national champion for sure in petrochemicals, but it also has a proven record of being a national champion for development, job creation, learning and contribution to the gross domestic product,” said Al-Suwailem. 

He added: “SABIC’s scholarship program, which is meant for Saudi bright young talents, is right now equally split between men and women.” 

For her part, during the same panel discussion, Cabinet Secretary and Minister of Labor and Social Protection of Kenya Florence Bore said that the country is preparing its youth to adapt themselves to procure jobs in the international market. 

“Our focus currently is on labor migration, and even as you focus on labor migration, it is one of the areas where we get foreign remittances,” said Bore. 

She added: “Kenya has been undergoing lots of changes in the workplace. We have both the informal and formal jobs. The informal sector is really growing at a faster rate than the formal jobs. And because of that, you will find most of our Kenyans are now venturing out for jobs in the international market.”

Saudi Arabia’s tourism fund signs agreement with New Murabba  

Saudi Arabia’s tourism fund signs agreement with New Murabba  
Updated 28 February 2024

Saudi Arabia’s tourism fund signs agreement with New Murabba  

Saudi Arabia’s tourism fund signs agreement with New Murabba  

RIYADH: Financing and investment opportunities are set to rise in Saudi Arabia’s new downtown project, with the Tourism Development Fund signing an agreement with New Murabba Development Co.   

This memorandum of understanding aims to foster cooperation and contribute to the Kingdom’s social and economic growth by developing New Murabba, situated northwest of Riyadh.  

According to the agreement, the fund will explore direct financing or investment opportunities in the project through its partners, investors, or contractors, aligning with its policies and procedures, the Saudi Press Agency reported. 

The MoU was signed by Qusai Al-Fakhri, CEO of TDF, and Michael Dyke, CEO of New Murabba Development Co., a subsidiary of the Public Investment Fund. 

The collaboration will also include workshops to discuss potential cooperation opportunities, while New Murabba Development Co. will be responsible for qualifying the project’s infrastructure and foundation.  

Al-Fakhri emphasized the deal's significance in achieving the goals of Saudi Vision 2030, noting that New Murabba aims to provide an exceptional lifestyle, work, and entertainment experience.  

The MoU is an extension of several memoranda and cooperation agreements the fund has signed with the private sector, emphasizing the importance of collaborative work to achieve shared goals.   

Al-Fakhri noted that these agreements would support the TDF’s efforts to promote the tourism sector’s growth and diversity, attracting domestic and foreign investments to make tourist destinations a modern lifestyle model that attracts tourists and offers quality experiences.  

Dyke said that the deal aims to develop a modern downtown in line with Saudi Vision 2030’s goals noting that New Murabba’s design focuses on sustainability standards and life quality improvement, including green spaces, walking paths, and promoting health and sports concepts.   

He added that the project also aims to offer a unique living, working, and entertainment experience within a 15-minute walking radius, along with internal transportation means.  

Established in 2022 by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, New Murabba Development Co. plays a crucial role in realizing Saudi Vision 2030. It focuses on developing a modern downtown centered around the iconic Cube building, redefining Riyadh’s cityscape. 

This initiative is designed to be a cultural symbol for Riyadh, featuring hotel and residential units, office spaces, and entertainment facilities, all incorporating the latest digital technologies. 

Central Bank of Jordan introduces new Shariah-compliant monetary policy tools 

Central Bank of Jordan introduces new Shariah-compliant monetary policy tools 
Updated 28 February 2024

Central Bank of Jordan introduces new Shariah-compliant monetary policy tools 

Central Bank of Jordan introduces new Shariah-compliant monetary policy tools 

RIYADH: Liquidity management in Jordan’s cash market is set to undergo a significant transformation as the country’s central bank introduces new tools for monetary policy. 

Aligned with Shariah laws, the Central Bank of Jordan has introduced these instruments in collaboration with Islamic banks operating within the country. The goal is to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of liquidity management in the cash market, the Jordan News Agency reported. 

These new measures will not only assist Islamic banks in achieving more flexible liquidity management but also contribute to the establishment of an effective interbank market among them. 

Under the framework of these tools, the central bank will be able to provide Islamic banks with daytime liquidity, overnight liquidity, and liquidity extending up to one week.

This will be done based on the banks’ requests or at the apex bank’s initiative, allowing flexibility in terms of timing, amount, and duration. The Central Bank of Jordan will determine these parameters to align with its operational objectives in implementing monetary policy.  

This move by the central bank comes as part of its efforts to develop the operational framework of monetary policy and diversify the tools at its disposal. The decision is in line with the best practices of central banks and addresses the specific needs of the local cash and banking market, as reported by PETRA. 

In a related development, earlier in January, 16 Jordanian banks jointly launched the first private sector investment fund, committing $388 million to foster the growth of local businesses. 

The Jordan Capital and Investment Fund, established in 2021 with a capital commitment of 275 million dinars ($387.6 million), was officially registered under the 2022 Investment Environment Law, the state news agency reported. 

The instrument aims to inject money into emerging firms with growth, development, and expansion prospects, providing financing to enhance job opportunities and propel nationwide growth, as stated in an official statement reported by the Jordan News Agency. 

As the country’s first and largest private sector investment fund, it is designed to allocate funds to vital and promising sectors, such as food and health security, manufacturing, and information and communication technology. The objective is to harness Jordan’s potential in building the future, it added. 

At that time, Hani Al-Qadi, the chairman of the Jordan Capital and Investment Fund, had said the fund is crucial for achieving “accelerated growth” by fully leveraging Jordan’s economic potential.