World leaders take centerstage in high-level COP28 event

Update World leaders take centerstage in high-level COP28 event
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Participating world leaders and delegates pose for a family photo during the COP28 United Nations climate summit in Dubai on Dec. 1, 2023. (Handout via Reuters)
Update World leaders take centerstage in high-level COP28 event
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The COP28 conference notched an early victory on Thursday with the launch of a long-awaited fund to address growing loss and damage from natural disasters. (AFP)
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Updated 02 December 2023
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World leaders take centerstage in high-level COP28 event

World leaders take centerstage in high-level COP28 event
  • UAE ruler announces the establishment of a $30 billion fund for global climate solutions

DUBAI: More than 130 world leaders take centerstage as they address the United Nations climate conference in Dubai over the next two days to deliver national statements.

The high-level segment of COP28 would hear from heads of states and governments, including UAE President Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, Jordan’s King Abdullah, Qatar’s ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

READ MORE: Click here for our coverage of COP28

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1305 GMT




Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of Turkiye, speaks during a plenary session at the COP28 UN Climate Summit on Dec. 1, 2023. (AP)

“When it comes to combating climate change, even though our historical responsibility of global greenhouse emissions is less than 1 percent, we’re taking significant steps with our own means,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of Turkiye, said in his speech.

“We plan to reach the net zero emissions target by the year 2053, we have doubled our emission reduction target for the year 2030.”

“Within this scope, by the end of this year, we expect to have mitigated 66.6 million tons of equivalent carbon dioxide,” he added.

“The share of renewables in our installed power generation capacity has been increased up to 55 percent. With this rate, Turkiye currently ranks the fifth in Europe and the twelfth in the world in terms of installed renewable energy capacity.”

“In regard to geothermal energy capacity we are ranked the first in Europe and fourth in the world. And when it comes to hydropower, Turkiye ranks the second the Europe and ninth in the world.”

1238 GMT




Santiago Peña Palacios, President of Paraguay.

“In my country Paraguay, all energy is clean. 100 percent is clean and renewable,” according to Santiago Peña Palacios, President of Paraguay.

1230 GMT




to Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, President of Kazakhstan.

“We were the first country in the region to have ratified the Paris Agreement and adopted a carbon neutrality strategy by 2060,” according to Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, President of Kazakhstan.

“The resulting new environmental code of Kazakhstan will drive comprehensive adaptation of green technology in almost every sector in our economy.”

“There is extraordinary potential for wind and solar power in my country as well as green hydrogen. We will continue to work closely with our partners to unlock it,” he said.

“As the world’s leading exporter of uranium, providing 43 percent of global supply, Kazakhstan plays a crucial role in carbon free electricity generation on a global scale. As the world decarbonizes in the coming decades, critical minerals including rare earth metals will become indispensable, Kazakhstan is poised to become a major supplier of these transition minerals.”

“To build a momentum on climate action in central Asia, we decided to convene a regional climate summit in Kazakhstan in 2026 under the United Nations’ auspices.”

1218 GMT




Mohamed Cheikh El-Ghazouani, President of Mauritania.

“Climate change today is a battle for all of us, we either all win or all lose,” Mohamed Cheikh El-Ghazouani, President of Mauritania, said.

“It is clear to all, that this solidarity is still not to the required level, it is therefore essential to improve finance for environmental transformation and to provide support to developing countries without adding to their debt.”

1211 GMT




Denis Sassou Nguesso, President of Congo.

“I take this opportunity to reiterate the Republic of Congo’s steadfast commitment and determination to play an active role in the global effort to combat climate change,” Denis Sassou Nguesso, President of Congo, meanwhile said.

1205 GMT




Umaro Sissoco Embalo, President of Guinea-Bissau.

“Our coastal communities face rising sea levels and their harvests are impacted by increasingly unpredictable weather patterns and we face a loss of biodiversity,” according to Umaro Sissoco Embalo, President of Guinea-Bissau.

1202 GMT




Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, President of Zimbabwe

“We are offering diverse opportunities for carbon trading in the energy sector though investment in solar, wind, and geothermal power generation,” Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, President of Zimbabwe, pitched in his speech.

1159 GMT




Gitanas Nausėda, President of Lithuania.

“At first, Lithuania made a strategic decision to seek energy independence. We have built our own LNG terminal which decreased prices and turned Lithuania into a regional gas hub,” Gitanas Nausėda, President of Lithuania, said in his speech.

1156 GMT




Samia Suluhu Hassan, President of Tanzania.

“At this COP28, we seek to mobilize the pot to increase the use of clean and affordable cooking fuel and technologies across Africa, especially for women,” Samia Suluhu Hassan, President of Tanzania, said at the High-Level Segment for Heads of State and Government session at the United Nations climate summit.

1150 GMT




Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission.

“Last September, at the climate action summit in New York, we called for concrete action. Now in Dubai we have to deliver,” Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, told the High-Level Segment for Heads of State and Government session at the United Nations climate summit.

“The European Union has peaked already, we have reduced emissions and we are on track to overshoot our target for 2030.”

1137 GMT




Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Vice President and Deputy Prime Minister of the UAE. (Abdulrahman Fahad Bin shulhub/AN)

“We work today for tomorrow, and we cooperate for the generations of the future,” Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Vice President and Deputy Prime Minister of the UAE, said in his speech.

“We were the first to pledge to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. We have allocated $163 billion for expansion of renewables and to transition towards renewable energies,” he added.

1130 GMT




Shavkat Mirziyoyev, President of Uzbekistan, at the High-Level Segment for Heads of State and Government session at the United Nations climate summit on Dec. 1, 2023.

“We commend the global initiative of the UAE in combating climate change and its significant contribution to green development,” Shavkat Mirziyoyev, President of Uzbekistan, said in his speech.

“Transition to a green economy and achieving carbon neutrality are the key strategic objectives of new Uzbekistan… We intend to organize a conference in Uzbekistan in 2024, on the topic of climate migration” in cooperation with the United Nations.”

1116 GMT




Kenyan president William K. Ruto speaks during the High-Level Segment for Heads of State and Government session at the United Nations climate summit on Dec. 1, 2023.

“As we convene here in Dubai, we must appreciate that the presence of almost 200 nations speaks volume about the magnitude of this event and what it stands for,” according to Kenyan president William K. Ruto.

“The long-standing adversarial dynamic between global north and global south proves practically counterproductive. This division has hindered our ability to unite and leverage our collective strength, and robs us of tremendous opportunities. Yet, in the face of a threat that endangers the health of our planet, and our very existence, we must find in collective action a force that neutralizes and transcends these divisions. Climate change does not respect artificial distinctions, traditional boundaries or old antagonisms. Instead, it should unite us against a shared borderless challenge,” according to Ruto.

“Turning Africa into a green powerhouse is not just essential for the continent, it is also vital for global industrialization (and) decarbonization.”

1114 GMT




Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei speaks during the High-Level Segment for Heads of State and Government session at the United Nations climate summit on Dec. 1, 2023. (AFP)

“Climate change has emerged as our generation’s most urgent challenge, threatening our existence,” according to Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei.

“We aim to plant half a million trees by 2035, expanding our carbon think further,” the Brunei leader said.

1101 GMT




Jordan’s King Abdullah II speaks during a plenary session at the COP28 UN Climate Summit on Dec. 1, 2023. (Abdulrahman Fahad Bin shulhub/AN)

“This year’s conference of the parties must recognize even more than ever that we cannot talk about climate change in isolation from the humanitarian tragedies unfolding around us,” King Abdullah II of Jordan said in his speech.

“As we speak, the Palestinian people are facing an immediate threat to their lives and wellbeing. In Gaza over 1.7 million Palestinians have been displaced from their homes. Tens of thousands have been injured or killed in a region already on the front line of the climate change.”

“As we meet here today to talk about inclusivity in climate response, let’s be inclusive of the most vulnerable: Palestinian civilians impacted by the war on Gaza, populations around the world affected by conflict and poverty,” he added.

“In a region already on the front lines of climate change, the massive destruction of war makes these environmental threats of water scarcity and food insecurity even more severe,” he said, in a clear reference to fighting between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza that resumed on Friday after a seven-day truce.

1055 GMT




Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi speaks during the high-level Segment session at the United Nations climate summit on Dec. 1, 2023. (Abdulrahman Fahad Bin shulhub/AN)

“COP28 is taking place amid dangerous and grave political challenges that are no less dangerous than climate change,” Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi said at high-level session at the United Nations climate summit.

“Egypt is well aware of the importance of reinforcing collective work to address the challenge of climate change and to guarantee eco -friendly development to preserve planet earth for coming generations.”

1041 GMT




Dennis Francis, president of the UN General Assembly, speaks during a plenary session at the COP28 UN Climate Summit on Dec. 1, 2023 in Dubai. (AP)

“The Paris agreement remains the best answer to the effects of the climate crisis,” according to Dennis Francis, President of the United Nations General Assembly.

“Progressive transformative action is needed now, to stabilize the atmospheric temperature and to insure sustainability of the planet and the human civilization,” he said during a plenary session at the COP28 UN Climate Summit.

“I am pleased to announce that I will convene the first ever general assembly sustainability week at UN headquarters in New York in April 2024.”

“This week will consolidate several high level already mandated events, promoting sustainability in transport, tourism and infrastructure sectors,” Francis added.

“We need to not only be risk informed but also resilient at every level and across all stakeholders, thus leaving no one behind.”

1032 GMT




Narendra Modi, India’s Prime minister speaks at the COP28 High-Level Segment National Statements event. (Reuters)

“Thanks to our collective efforts, today the world is convinced that for the welfare of humanity, everyone’s interest must be protected and everyone’s participation is essential,” Narendra Modi, India’s Prime minister, said at the COP28 High-Level Segment National Statements event.

“We have set targets to bring our emission intensity down to 45 percent by 2030, we have decided that we will increase the share on non-fossil fuel to 50 percent and we shall continue to move ahead in achieving our goal of net zero by 2070.”

“We have together recognized that there’s a need to take climate finance commitment from billions to several trillions. We do not have much time to correct the mistakes of the last century, over the past century a small section of humanity has indiscriminately exploited nature, however entire humanity is paying the price for this,” he said.

“Friends, we do not have much time to correct the mistakes of the last century. Over the past century, a small section of humanity has indiscriminately exploited nature. However, entire humanity is paying the price for this, especially people living in the global south.”

“We must resolve that every country shall fulfil the climate targets it is setting for itself and the commitments it is making.”

Modi also offered to host the UN’s COP33 climate conference in 2028. Speaking at COP28 talks in Dubai, Modi said every country must fulfil their climate targets and “work in unity.”

“Today the entire world is watching us. Mother Earth is looking toward us to protect her future. We have to succeed,” he said.

“From this platform today, I propose that India will host COP33 in 2028.”

Modi has sought to raise India’s profile on the world stage as leader of the planet’s most populous country, which hosted a G20 summit this year.

0920 GMT




President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil speaks during an opening ceremony at the COP28 UN Climate Summit on Dec. 1, 2023. (AP)

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil, home to most of the world’s biggest natural carbon-capture zone on land, the Amazon rainforest, said “the planet is tired of climate agreements that were not fulfilled” and he said he has had enough of “eloquent and empty speeches.”

“In the north of Brazil, the Amazon region suffers one of the most tragic droughts of its history. In the South, we are facing tempests and hurricanes that lead to a lot of destruction and death,” he said.

Lula, who a year earlier was treated like a rock star after his defeat of right-wing Jair Bolsanaro, called for climate justice for poorer nations that didn’t cause the problem and railed against $2 trillion spent on weapons last year when the money should be spent on fighting hunger and climate change, not wars.

He said Brazil will stop Amazon deforestation by 2030.

“No country will solve their problems alone. We are all obliged to act together beyond our borderlines. Brazil is willing to lead as a role model,” he said. “The world is already convinced of the potential of renewable sources of energy. Now is the time to face the debate about the slow-motion pace of the decarbonization of the planet, and to work towards an economy that will be less reliant on fossil fuel. We have to do it, and in a way that is urgent and fair.”

0850 GMT




King Charles III speaks during an opening ceremony at the COP28 UN Climate Summit on Dec. 1, 2023 in Dubai. (AP)

Britain’s King Charles III is praying that the UN’s COP28 climate talks will be a “critical turning point” in the fight against global warming, he told world leaders in Dubai on Friday.

“I pray with all my heart that COP28 will be another critical turning point toward genuine transformational action,” he told the World Climate Action Summit, held in parallel with COP28.

“We are seeing alarming tipping points being reached.”

“It worries me greatly that we remain so dreadfully far off track,” the King added, after the UN’s first official progress report in September found that the world remained dangerously off course.

“In your hands is an unmissable opportunity to keep our common hope alive,” said the British monarch, wearing a light suit with pink shirt and blue tie.

The lifelong environmentalist spoke at COP26 in Scotland in 2021 but did not attend the last conference in Egypt.

The British monarch also said that “unless we rapidly repair and restore nature’s unique economy, based on harmony and balance, which is our ultimate sustainer, our own economy and survivability will be imperiled.”

“I have seen across the commonwealth and beyond, countless communities which are unable to withstand repeated shocks triggered by climate change.”

0830 GMT




UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks at the opening ceremony of the high-level COP28 event in Dubai. (AP)

“We are miles from the goals of the Paris Agreement – and minutes to midnight for the 1.5°C limit. But it is not too late,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in his speech.

“You can prevent planetary crash and burn. We have the technologies to avoid the worst of climate chaos, if we act now,” he said.

“The global shift to renewables is inevitable. The only question is how much heating our planet will endure before it happens,” Guterres added. “I urge countries to speed up their net zero timelines, to get there as close as possible to 2040 in developed countries and 2050 in emerging economies.”

“Climate chaos is fanning the flames of injustice,” Guterres said. “Global heating is busting budgets, ballooning food prices, upending energy markets, and feeding a cost-of-living crisis. Climate action can flip the switch.”

Guterres, a long-time critic of oil, gas and coal use that is causing climate change, fired his strongest shots yet against the industry, saying, “we cannot save a burning planet with a firehose of fossil fuels.”

In a direct contradiction to fossil fuel-aligned nations and even the presidency of the talks, he said the only way to limit warming to the goal set in 2015 requires eliminating oil, coal and gas use, saying “not reduce, not abate, phase out.”

“I urge governments to help industry make the right choice – by regulating, legislating, putting a fair price on carbon, ending fossil fuel subsidies, and adopting a windfall tax on profits.”

“Developed countries must show how they will double adaptation finance to $40 billion a year by 2025, as promised, and clarify how they deliver on the $100 billion, as promised,” Guterres said. “The climate challenge is not just another issue in your inbox. Protecting our climate is the world’s greatest test of leadership. I urge you to lead,” he added.

0815 GMT




UAE President Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan speaks during an opening ceremony at the COP28 UN Climate Summit on Dec. 1, 2023 in Dubai. (AP)

UAE President Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan said that the UAE has set a national goal to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. He highlighted the country’s strong commitment to climate action, emphasizing decades of effort in diversifying the economy and advancing capabilities in renewables.

“The UAE is committed to a 40 percent reduction in emissions by 2030. To date, we have invested $100 billion in financing climate action, focusing on renewable and clean energy. We are also committed to investing approximately US$130 billion over the next seven years,” he said in his speech

“We are finding practical ways to accelerate the world’s transition to low-emission economy,” the UAE leader said, and noted that the lack of financing has long been one of the biggest obstacles to advancing climate action globally.

Sheikh Mohamed also announced the establishment of a $30 billion climate fund for global climate solutions.

The fund is designed to bridge climate finance gap and aims to stimulate $250 billion of investment by 2030, he said.

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Participating world leaders pose for a family picture at the COP28 United Nations climate summit in Dubai on Dec. 1, 2023. (AFP)
Participating world leaders pose for a family picture at the COP28 United Nations climate summit in Dubai on Dec. 1, 2023. (AFP)
Participating world leaders and delegates arrive for the COP28 United Nations climate summit in Dubai on Dec. 1, 2023. (Abdulrahman Fahad Bin shulhub/AN)
Participating world leaders and delegates arrive for the COP28 United Nations climate summit in Dubai on Dec. 1, 2023. (Abdulrahman Fahad Bin shulhub/AN)
Participating world leaders and delegates arrive for the COP28 United Nations climate summit in Dubai on Dec. 1, 2023. (Abdulrahman Fahad Bin shulhub/AN)
Participating world leaders and delegates arrive for the COP28 United Nations climate summit in Dubai on Dec. 1, 2023. (Abdulrahman Fahad Bin shulhub/AN)
Participating world leaders and delegates arrive for the COP28 United Nations climate summit in Dubai on Dec. 1, 2023. (Abdulrahman Fahad Bin shulhub/AN)
Participating world leaders and delegates arrive for the COP28 United Nations climate summit in Dubai on Dec. 1, 2023. (Abdulrahman Fahad Bin shulhub/AN)
Participating world leaders and delegates arrive for the COP28 United Nations climate summit in Dubai on Dec. 1, 2023. (AFP)
Participating world leaders and delegates arrive for the COP28 United Nations climate summit in Dubai on Dec. 1, 2023. (AFP)
Participating world leaders and delegates arrive for the COP28 United Nations climate summit in Dubai on Dec. 1, 2023. (AFP)
Participating world leaders and delegates arrive for the COP28 United Nations climate summit in Dubai on Dec. 1, 2023. (AFP)
Participating world leaders and delegates arrive for the COP28 United Nations climate summit in Dubai on Dec. 1, 2023. (Abdulrahman Fahad Bin shulhub/AN)
Participating world leaders and delegates arrive for the COP28 United Nations climate summit in Dubai on Dec. 1, 2023. (Abdulrahman Fahad Bin shulhub/AN)
Participating world leaders and delegates pose for a family photo during the COP28 United Nations climate summit in Dubai on Dec. 1, 2023. (AFP)
Participating world leaders and delegates pose for a family photo during the COP28 United Nations climate summit in Dubai on Dec. 1, 2023. (AFP)
Participating world leaders and delegates pose for a family photo during the COP28 United Nations climate summit in Dubai on Dec. 1, 2023. (AFP)
Participating world leaders and delegates pose for a family photo during the COP28 United Nations climate summit in Dubai on Dec. 1, 2023. (AFP)

The COP28 conference notched an early victory on Thursday with the launch of a long-awaited fund to address growing loss and damage from wilder weather and rising sea in vulnerable countries.

Initial pledges have been made to the fund to officially put it into operation, with a $100-million contribution from the UAE matched with the same from Germany.

Britain gave just over $50 million, while the United States offered $17.5 million and Japan $10 million.

The European Union and its member states later confirmed a further $145 million, bringing the total to more than $420 million so far.

Delegates however face two weeks of tough negotiations on an array of issues that have long bedeviled climate talks, starting with the future of fossil fuels.

Saudi Arabia is hosting the third edition of the Saudi Green Initiative Forum on Dec. 4, alongside UN’s COP28 event, to highlight its dedication to build a greener future at a time of multibillion dollar giga-projects.

 

 

The SGI forum will gather influential figures, climate experts and thought leaders to present their insights and recommendations for tackling climate change as well as showcase the initiative’s achievements and plans.

with agencies


Diriyah Square details to be unveiled at World Retail Congress

Diriyah Square details to be unveiled at World Retail Congress
Updated 12 April 2024
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Diriyah Square details to be unveiled at World Retail Congress

Diriyah Square details to be unveiled at World Retail Congress

RIYADH: Plans for a lifestyle hub in Diriyah boasting more than 400 shops and over 100 restaurants and cafes will be unveiled at the World Retail Congress in Paris.

Details around the development will be on show at the event, set to be held from April 16 to 18,  Diriyah Co. have announced.

The destination – known as Diriyah Square – is part of a $62.2 billion refurbishment and renovation of the area, which has been designated as one of Saudi Arabia’s giga-projects.

In a statement announcing the presence at the World Retail Congress, Group CEO of Diriyah Co. Jerry Inzerillo said: “Diriyah Square is more than just a shopping destination—it is a symbol of Saudi Arabia's commitment to driving economic growth and fostering creativity and innovation.”

He added: “That is why we are so excited to invite investors and stakeholders from around the world to join us in this exciting journey, and to be a part of shaping the future of retail. 

“With its pedestrian-centric design, direct access to Wadi Hanifah, and close vicinity to the breathtaking At-Turaif UNESCO World Heritage Site, the district will be a world-leading lifestyle destination.”

Diriyah is a key component of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 initiative to diversify the Kingdom’s economy away from oil.

Upon completion, it will host 100,000 residents, workers, students, and visitors.

In February, Inzerillo told Arab News that Diriyah Co. is aiming to break ground on 11 new assets by the end of 2024.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Public Investment Fund’s Private Sector Forum held in Riyadh, the CEO said that among the upcoming initiatives is the King Salman Boulevard, which he deemed Saudi Arabia’s version of Paris’ Champs-Elysees. 

It will be revealed in December, when the company holds its “Bashayer” event to announce its upcoming initiatives. 

The last meeting saw the unveiling of the Diriyah Art Futures museum.


Vision 2030 putting Saudi Arabia on the map for global investors, experts say

Vision 2030 putting Saudi Arabia on the map for global investors, experts say
Updated 12 April 2024
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Vision 2030 putting Saudi Arabia on the map for global investors, experts say

Vision 2030 putting Saudi Arabia on the map for global investors, experts say

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s investment landscape is poised for a prosperous future, fueled by its equity and debt markets, a range of economic experts have told Arab News.

Senior figures from the Kingdom’s branch of investment bank J.P. Morgan, financial media outlet Bloomberg, and Saudi tourism funding firm ASFAR all spoke of the positive impact of the Vision 2030 economic diversification strategy. 

By focusing on the growth of various sectors, such as tourism, healthcare, and renewable energy, the Kingdom aims to reduce its economic reliance on fossil fuels, foster innovation, create jobs, and enhance citizens’ quality of life. 

This is already bearing fruit, according to Amine Fichtali, head of investment banking at J.P. Morgan Saudi Arabia.

He told Arab News that the Kingdom stood out as an exciting, compelling investment story for investors.

Fichtali added that Saudi Arabia is a top-down, long-term structural story underpinned by socio-economic transformation and the execution of several regulatory reforms that help to promote the Kingdom globally.

These sentiments were echoed by European Director of Bloomberg Constantin Cotzias. 

He believes that Saudi Arabia — with various reforms in its regulatory framework — is emerging as a favorite destination for international investors. 

Cotzias told Arab News that international investors want three things.

“They want liquidity, a framework of governance and regulation that works, and a balance of good supervision and innovation to be properly balanced. And then they want that framework to encourage them with investment and the growth in that investment,” he said, adding that Saudi Arabia is on the right path.

One of the initiatives to attract businesses to the Kingdom was to offer tax breaks and other incentives to companies that applied to move their regional headquarters to Riyadh before the end of 2023.

This helped encourage some 200 firms to make the shift, including Northern Trust, Bechtel and Pepsico from the US, and IHG Hotels and Resorts, PwC, and Deloitte from the UK.  

Google, Microsoft and IBM as well as Oracle, Pfizer and Amazon, also have regional headquarters in Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Investment Khalid Al-Falih presented IBM executives with the regional HQ license in January. IBM

Tourism strategy 

Tourism is one of the key sectors driving the economic shift in the Kingdom, and Saudi Arabia has launched several initiatives to grow the industry.

These include the opening of historical sites, easing of visa restrictions, and the promotion of cultural heritage to attract international visitors. 

All these measures are expected to have huge economic returns and boost the tourism sector resulting in the creation of direct and indirect jobs.

The Kingdom is targeting more than 30 million pilgrims and 150 million tourists every year as part of its ambitious Vision 2030, having already met its original goal of 100 million visitors.

Speaking during a ministerial panel session at the Private Sector Forum held in Riyadh in February, Tourism Minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb said that the total number of hotel rooms in the Kingdom reached 280,000 in December.

“The quality of rooms and projects is excellent and will place the Kingdom among the best in the world. The target for 2030 is approximately 550,000 hotel rooms,” the minister informed.

Moreover, the Ministry of Tourism recently unveiled the Tourism Investment Enablers Program, aimed at streamlining business practices and bolstering investment appeal for both local and international investors.

As part of the program, the Ministry of Tourism, in collaboration with the Ministry of Investment, announced the Hospitality Sector Investment Enablers Initiative, aiming to increase and diversify tourism offerings and bolstering the capacity of hospitality facilities in targeted tourist destinations across the Kingdom.

This initiative aims to attract investments in the hospitality sector, with a value of approximately SR42 billion ($11.46 billion), projecting estimated revenues of about SR16 billion to the Kingdom’s gross domestic product by 2030, reported SPA.

Al-Khateeb stated: “We witnessed a 390 percent increase in demand for tourism activity licenses last year, marking the beginning of the Kingdom’s significant investment in the tourism sector over the next decade, providing opportunities and a conducive investment environment for both local and international investors.”

Meanwhile, ASFAR CEO Fahad bin Mushayt told Arab News many regulations have recently changed, and more are yet to come, including the facilitation of visa issuance, be it for business, religious, or tourism purposes.

ASFAR is a company owned by the Public Investment Fund to drive investments in tourist destinations and projects across the Kingdom. 

“The other target that the country has set as part of Vision 2030 is to drive the contribution of tourism to the gross domestic product from 3 percent to 10 percent by 2030,” he added.

Fahad bin Mushayt, CEO of ASFAR. (Supplied)

National industrial program 

The Saudi industrial sector is significantly contributing to economic diversification through various programs and initiatives.

One of these is the National Industrial Development and Logistics Program, which seeks to elevate the Kingdom into a premier industrial powerhouse and a worldwide logistics center.

NIDLP focuses on optimizing the mining and energy sectors’ value while harnessing the full potential of other local resources. 

Speaking at the NIDLP annual ceremony in December, Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources Bandar Alkhorayef explained that the program acquired five new renewable energy projects to ensure reasonable costs.  

He noted that the NIDLP program has significantly contributed about 35 percent of the non-oil GDP, making up to SR345 billion. 

Furthermore, NIDLP announced investments worth SR206 billion in non-oil exports and SR97 billion in nongovernmental funds.

Alkhorayef also highlighted the mining sector’s record revenues of over SR1.45 billion in 2023. 

Economic journalist Jamal Banoon told Arab News that diversifying the industrial base is a strategic challenge for Saudi Arabia, as it seeks to develop this sector sustainably and achieve economic diversification.

“One of the most important aspects is investing in infrastructure and research and development, while enhancing industrial infrastructure to accommodate investments and develop industrial projects, with the aim of improving production techniques and processes and enhancing efficiency,” he said.

Banoon added that, in recent years, Saudi Arabia has focused on emerging industries, including renewable energy, information and communications technology, robotics, and smart manufacturing. 

Consequently, this direction will drive it toward more alliances with international companies to transfer technologies and experiences, enhance competitiveness, and expand markets.

Furthermore, he added that Saudi Arabia has invested around $50 billion in infrastructure and research and development so far, especially in the field of emerging industries. It has also achieved significant growth in sectors such as aviation, space, and maritime industries.

Renewable energy drive 

Saudi Arabia has been actively pursuing renewable energy initiatives to diversify its energy mix and reduce its reliance on fossil fuels, with Vision 2030 outlining ambitious goals for the Kingdom's renewable energy sector.

The vision aims to increase the share of renewable power in the energy mix to 50 percent by 2030.

NEOM, for instance, is a flagship project aimed at developing a futuristic city powered entirely by renewable energy. It envisions a sustainable and environmentally friendly urban center with a focus on renewable energy and innovation.

Moreover, the Green Riyadh Initiative aims to transform the capital city into a more sustainable and environment-friendly metropolis. It includes plans for expanding green spaces, promoting energy efficiency, and implementing renewable energy projects.

Furthermore, Saudi Arabia has been investing in research and development of renewable energy technologies to drive innovation and enhance the efficiency of renewable power generation.

According to Banoon, Saudi Arabia is expected to become a leader in clean energy and achieve environmental sustainability.

“Within its plans and programs toward further economic liberalization and income source diversification, the Kingdom has invested in renewable energy sources. It aims to increase productivity from the current 300,000 megawatts through the Sakaka solar power plant and the Dumat Al-Jandal wind farm, expecting to reach 2 gigawatts of renewable resources,” he said, adding this project relies on generating electricity from traditional fuel sources.

Healthcare development 

Saudi Arabia’s efforts to diversify its economy through healthcare are commendable and strategically significant.

By focusing on the healthcare sector as a key driver of economic diversification, the Kingdom aims to enhance the quality of healthcare services, improve accessibility, and foster innovation and technological advancement within the industry.

Banoon commented that the healthcare sector diversification strategy is crucial for Saudi Arabia’s economic resilience and sustainability.

“Saudi Arabia’s investments in healthcare infrastructure are pivotal for attracting foreign investment and talent, driving economic growth in the long term,” the economist said, adding that investing in preventive healthcare not only improves public health outcomes but also reduces costs in the long run, contributing to economic stability.


Saudi Arabia’s tech landscape flourishes with innovative initiatives 

Saudi Arabia’s tech landscape flourishes with innovative initiatives 
Updated 12 April 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s tech landscape flourishes with innovative initiatives 

Saudi Arabia’s tech landscape flourishes with innovative initiatives 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s strategic location, thriving economy, and strong government support have attracted a diverse range of funding partners keen on assisting startups and entrepreneurs.

The Kingdom, according to Houssem Jemili, partner at management consulting firm Bain and Co., has one of the highest technology spends in the Middle East and North Africa, approximately 2.5 times that of the next country, and is growing year-on-year. 

Speaking to Arab News, Jemili said: “Saudi Arabia has a mature and diverse set of funding partners — government entities and programs (e.g., Monsha’at), large investment funds, and venture capitalists that provide access to both direct and indirect funding to startups and entrepreneurs.”  

Highlighting the Kingdom’s emergence as a dynamic tech hub in the region, he added: “KSA has a large domestic captive audience (the largest in MENA) that demands technology products and services.”   

Talat Zaki Hafiz, a Saudi-based economist, told Arab News that the Kingdom’s rise as a tech hub in MENA was greatly influenced by its status as the largest economy in the region, accounting for over 30 percent of the its gross domestic product, and ranking 16th among the G20 countries. 

“The technology strategy of Saudi Arabia includes ambitious targets and action plans based on attracting leading international companies mainly specialized in advanced and emerging technologies to enable the Kingdom to develop mega tech projects,” he said. 

Global Innovation Index  

Global Innovation Index 2023 Launch Event. WIPO/Violaine

Saudi Arabia’s strides in technological innovation are underscored by its position on the Global Innovation Index 2023, where it ranks 48th among 132 featured economies. 

“It (Saudi Arabia) has certainly made improvements, from 51st and 66th (position) in 2022 and 2021 respectively,” Jemili explained. 

He went on to say that the Kingdom recognizes that innovation is a “key driver of economic development,” and efforts will result in significant improvements across innovation input sub-indices like human capital and infrastructure, as well as output sub-indices such as knowledge and technology outputs, and creative outputs of the Global Innovation Index. 

Within the high-income group economies, Saudi Arabia ranks 41st, further solidifying its status as a burgeoning tech hub in the region.  

Moreover, the Kingdom’s ranking fifth among the 18 economies in North Africa and West Asia highlights its growing influence as a beacon of innovation in the Middle East.  

Hafiz believes that since the launch of Vision 2030 in 2016, Saudi Arabia has been focusing on tech-related industries in general and the digital economy in particular.  

“Since the digital economy is becoming the new trend in the 21st century, especially in Saudi Arabia, where over 60 percent of its citizens are youth less than 35 years old, they heavily use the internet to purchase goods and services,” he said.  

The economist explained that statistics revealed the Kingdom is witnessing a significant increase in the size of e-commerce, with expectations to reach $15 billion in 2025 and online sales projected to reach 66 percent.  

Saudi Arabia’s increasing prominence in technological advancement and innovation localization was showcased at the LEAP conference held in Riyadh. The event, which concluded in early March with great success, included agreements worth over $12 billion.  

“LEAP has made a tremendous effort to act as a node of the technology and innovation ecosystem in KSA — a node that connects the ecosystem and brings all the players together, through building a community,” Jemili said. 

Strategic investments 

Saudi Arabia’s emergence as a digital powerhouse can be attributed to its strategic investments in research and development, supportive policies, and a thriving startup ecosystem.   

With initiatives such as Vision 2030 and the establishment of the Digital Government Authority, the Kingdom is laying the groundwork for a technologically advanced future.  

Houssem Jemili, Partner at Bain & Co. Supplied

According to Jemili, the presence of global technology giants in Saudi Arabia is a testimony to the growth of the technology and innovation landscape in the Kingdom.  

“Such players provide the necessary minimum infrastructure that startups and entrepreneurs need to succeed,” he added.  

Jemili further elaborated: “They provide a world-class physical and digital infrastructure, like software labs and production studios, and even cloud credits to enable innovation at scale. Such advanced offering helps startups accelerate their ideas from early-stage to large-scale commercialization.”  

Global tech giants are investing billions in Saudi Arabia, highlighting its attractiveness as an investment destination, with Microsoft investing $2.1 billion in a global super-scaler cloud and Oracle committing $1.5 billion to build a new cloud region in Riyadh, as earlier revealed by Minister of Communication and Information Technology Abdullah Al-Swaha. 

Hafiz emphasized that the integration of technology in the Saudi traditional economy “is going so well.”  

“The Kingdom’s Vision 2030 is built on making significant changes in the Saudi economy not only to diversify its sector base but also to push for transformation to technology,” he added. 

Regulatory framework 

Saudi Arabia’s efforts to foster innovation extend to the regulatory realm, where the government has introduced initiatives such as regulatory sandboxes and fintech hubs.  

These initiatives provide a platform for startups and tech companies to test innovative products and services in a controlled environment, thereby facilitating compliance with regulatory requirements while fostering innovation.  

“Flow of and access to incentives is a big dimension that has helped Saudi Arabia drive its innovation landscape,” according to Jemili.  

He highlighted that the Kingdom has a rapidly evolving business environment that requires a structured regulatory system that is mature, growth-driven, and easy to navigate.  

“In addition, it is critical to enact clear and predictable regulations that enhance innovation, bring ease of doing business, and continue to build the trust of both the business community and investors,” he added.  

Jemili emphasized the importance of having a “phygital center of gravity” for the startup community, highlighting its critical role in providing firsthand ecosystem orientation and guidance to new entrepreneurs and foreign startups in the Kingdom.  

Phygital refers to a combined physical and digital center that serves as a pivotal hub for the startup community, offering both in-person and online resources, guidance, and orientation to new entrepreneurs and foreign startups.

With a diverse pool of founders and over 1,600 startups supported by a network of venture capital firms, Saudi Arabia is poised to become a global leader in technological innovation.   

Hafiz continued, emphasizing, “It is important to note that Saudi Arabia is the third worldwide and very advanced in digital industries, leader and ranked the first regionally according to the data of GOVTECH Maturity Index for 2022 issued by the World Bank Group.”   

He noted the government’s backing of advanced technologies in Saudi Arabia, which has driven significant progress toward Vision 2030’s goals by delivering high-quality digital services that bolster the national economy.  

Startup ecosystem  

Within the vibrant startup scene in Saudi Arabia, several companies have emerged as pioneers in innovation.  

Notable among them are startups enrolled in the Saudi Unicorns Program, exemplifying the Kingdom’s commitment to nurturing homegrown talent and fostering entrepreneurship.   

“Saudi Unicorns Program is a one-stop-shop solution to support and enable high-growth technology companies to reach the unicorn stage by providing an integrated set of services and offerings,” Jemili noted.   

The program provides unparalleled solutions to start-ups and entrepreneurs by providing access to connect with different stakeholders — international customers, talent, investors, and private sector, and experts for mentorship and guidance.   

He added that the objective of the program is in line with the overall Vision 2030, as it strives to increase the number of unicorns and create both direct and indirect impacts on the local GDP.  

“A differentiating aspect of Saudi Unicorns Program is its differentiated offerings based on the degree of readiness of the startups,” Jemili explained.  

Lean Tech, Mrsool, Quant, and Mozn are just a few examples of startups making waves in Saudi Arabia’s tech ecosystem.  

These companies represent the Kingdom’s vibrant culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, actively shaping its dynamic business landscape.  

With strategic investments, supportive policies, and a thriving startup ecosystem, the Kingdom is poised to lead the charge toward a digitally empowered future.  

By fostering collaboration, nurturing homegrown talent, and embracing emerging technologies, Saudi Arabia’s current momentum is promising for technology and innovation.   

Jemili cited the Magnitt report, stating that the Kingdom has emerged as the leading market for venture capital funding in the MENA region, attracting over $1.38 billion in investments in 2023. 

“This was the second year in a row that KSA has recorded a billion-dollar-plus figure in VC funding,” he said.  

Jemili gave examples of mega-rounds witnessed by Saudi-based platforms like Tabby and Tamara, which helped both companies secure unicorn status. “With continued efforts to improve livability aspects, improvements in ease of doing business, and continued growth and maturity of the funding institutions, KSA is on track for continued success.” 

As more of these elements come to life, the maturity of the ecosystems in cities like Riyadh and Jeddah can move from an early activation stage to a globalized stage.  

Hafiz concluded: “I don’t believe that the Kingdom is facing any pressing economic challenges to establish a tech ecosystem, simply because it is blessed with encouraging leadership.” 

He emphasized the encouragement to use technology at a large scale, which he believes has helped to “create an excellent ecosystem, especially when considering that more than 60 percent of the Saudi population are young, below 35 years old, and we are among the highest users of the internet in the Arab world and globally.” 


Saudi Arabia a beacon for female entrepreneurship, according to industry leaders

Saudi Arabia a beacon for female entrepreneurship, according to industry leaders
Updated 12 April 2024
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Saudi Arabia a beacon for female entrepreneurship, according to industry leaders

Saudi Arabia a beacon for female entrepreneurship, according to industry leaders

CAIRO: Saudi Arabia is witnessing a significant surge in female entrepreneurship, positioning the Kingdom as a global leader in women-led small and medium-sized enterprises.  

This growth comes as Saudi Arabia’s entrepreneurial landscape flourishes, with SMEs becoming increasingly dominant. 

By the third quarter of 2023, the Kingdom boasted 1.27 million SMEs, showcasing the country’s commitment to diversifying its economy, as reported by the Saudi authority responsible for the sector, Monsha’at.   

In an interview with Arab News, Stephanie Nour Prince, partner at Riyadh and Dubai-based venture capital firm Nuwa Capital, highlighted the dramatic shift in the environment for female entrepreneurs in the Kingdom.   

Prince said: “In recent years, the landscape for female entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia has undergone a remarkable transformation, both socially and professionally.”     

She further emphasized that this change aligns with a broader vision, which is already yielding impressive results as evidenced by the growing number of women in leadership positions within companies.  

As reported by Monsha’at in January 2023, women lead 45 percent of the Kingdom’s SMEs. Moreover, their participation in the information technology sector has seen a significant increase, jumping from 11 percent in 2017 to 24 percent in 2021, surpassing Silicon Valley’s figures by 8 percent.  

A new era of entrepreneurship  

As the Kingdom forges ahead with its technological revolution, female entrepreneurs like Nour Taher, co-founder of the Saudi-based artificial intelligence startup Intella, are making significant strides toward success.     

Under her leadership, Intella has experienced remarkable growth, secured multiple rounds of funding, and moved its headquarters from Egypt to Saudi Arabia.    

This move not only signifies Intella’s commitment to the Kingdom’s burgeoning tech ecosystem but also underscores the broader trend of female-led enterprises gaining ground in traditionally male-dominated sectors.   

Reflecting on this evolution, Taher told Arab News: “It’s promising that we are starting to see women venturing and excelling in diverse business sectors, particularly in technology. This shift is reshaping industries that were traditionally male-dominated and contributing to the emergence of a new era of entrepreneurship.”  

Nour Taher, co-founder of the Saudi-based artificial intelligence startup Intella. Supplied​​​​

A VC narrative  

The new era has also reached the world of venture capital, with a growing focus on female entrepreneurs, according to Prince.  

“The venture capital community is increasingly aware of the diverse perspectives and innovative approaches women bring to the table. Success stories of female entrepreneurs in the region demonstrate women-led businesses’ potential,” she said. 

Prince also points out the essential role of this industry in enabling women to not just start but also significantly scale their businesses.   

“While venture capital is not a prerequisite for launching businesses, it is pivotal for their rapid growth and success,” she explains. 

Prince elaborated that Nuwa Capital’s portfolio boasts female leaders across various sectors, from health-tech to fintech. 

“Equally important is the employment of women across our portfolio,” she said, going on to reveal that currently 20 companies in the firm’s early-stage offerings collectively employ around 1,000 females. 

“That’s about 50 women per company on average — something which is unheard of in large businesses, let alone startups. This is something we are extremely proud of,” Prince added.  

She further advocates for a venture capital ecosystem that is more inclusive and meets the unique needs of female entrepreneurs, including access to investment and mentorship networks.   

Echoing Prince’s sentiment, Taher highlights the significance of networking in entrepreneurship.   

“Women often have fewer networking opportunities, partly because men tend to benefit from more informal networks stemming from social interactions. This can put women at a disadvantage when seeking angel investors,” Taher explains.   

She recommends overcoming this challenge by actively engaging with the ecosystem and leveraging one’s network to facilitate introductions to active angel investors.  

Overcoming challenges  

The Kingdom has significantly advanced in eliminating barriers for women in entrepreneurship, yet there remains room for further progress.   

“I’ve been seeing a lot of initiatives supporting female founders in Saudi Arabia, and I’m very pleased to be seeing women take up as much space as they deserve to,” Taher noted.   

As an advocate for women in the Saudi entrepreneurial ecosystem, she highlighted ongoing efforts to enhance women’s participation in the sector.  

Despite these advancements, Prince, a strong advocate for female entrepreneurship, points out that the journey toward full empowerment and inclusion is far from complete.   

“The unfortunate truth is that there’s a lot more to be done and we’ve barely scratched the surface,” Prince said.   

“But we’re seeing early signs of change — but also early signs of self-awareness — and it’s encouraging to see women in Saudi Arabia championing each other,” she added.  

Prince noted that the lack of female representation in startup leadership is a global challenge, not confined solely to the Middle East. 

“However, we have a chance to be a beacon for the world and demonstrate how Saudi Arabia is championing women in innovation,” she added.  

Stephanie Nour Prince, partner at Riyadh and Dubai-based venture capital firm Nuwa Capital. Supplied

A beacon for the world   

Observing the increasing number of women entrepreneurs entering the business realm, Prince offered her guidance for navigating through the hurdles of entrepreneurship.   

“Being an entrepreneur is tough, but being a female entrepreneur comes with its own set of challenges. We need to collectively solve this by building an inclusive, diverse ecosystem where others, globally, have failed,” she said.  

Building on Prince’s point, Taher noted that the real journey starts from within, advising female entrepreneurs to believe in themselves and the reason for embarking on the challenging road.   

“Don’t be afraid to take risks and challenge societal norms. Seek mentorship and networking opportunities within and outside your industry. Cultivate resilience as setbacks are inevitable, but they serve as valuable learning experiences. Be humble through it all, and, most importantly, be kind to yourself,” Taher said.  

“Surround yourself with a supportive network of like-minded individuals; this doesn’t have to be a very lonely journey,” she concluded.   

Prince also outlined a multi-faceted approach to support the government’s vision.   

She stresses the importance of the private sector, particularly international companies within the startup ecosystem, to integrate and adapt best practices on female empowerment from global markets to the regional context.    

“Secondly, VC firms must ensure that their portfolios are establishing the right measures to encourage career growth for women. VCs must also ensure they eliminate any gender bias to help develop a diverse team, especially at leadership levels,” she added.     

“Lastly, women need to actively back one another, whether in the form of capital, mentorship, training, etc.,” Prince explained.


Oil Updates – crude rebounds on Middle East tensions but set for weekly loss

Oil Updates – crude rebounds on Middle East tensions but set for weekly loss
Updated 12 April 2024
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Oil Updates – crude rebounds on Middle East tensions but set for weekly loss

Oil Updates – crude rebounds on Middle East tensions but set for weekly loss

SINGAPORE: Oil prices rose on Friday as heightened tensions in the Middle East raised the risk of supply disruptions from the oil-producing region, though prices are set for weekly losses amid expectations of fewer US interest rate cuts this year, according to Reuters.

Brent crude futures climbed 75 cents, or 0.84 percent, to $90.49 a barrel by 9:30 a.m. Saudi time, while US West Texas Intermediate crude futures rose 87 cents, or 1.02 percent, to $85.89.

The gains erased the losses from the previous session, which was dominated by worries about stubborn US inflation that dampened hopes for an interest rate cut as early as June.

Suspected Israeli warplanes bombed Iran’s embassy in Damascus in a strike for which Iran has vowed revenge, ratcheting up tensions in a region already strained by the Gaza war.

Israel has not said it was responsible but Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said on Wednesday Israel “must be punished and it shall be” for the attack.

The US expects an attack by Iran against Israel but one that would not be big enough to draw Washington into war, according to a US official. Iranian sources said that Tehran has signalled a response aimed at avoiding major escalation.

Israel is keeping up its war in Gaza but is also preparing for scenarios in other areas, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday.

“The geopolitical risks remain elevated,” ANZ Research said in a note, adding that oil prices have jumped almost 19 percent also supported by improving economic conditions and supply cuts by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies, together called OPEC+.

In Europe, where the labor market has begun to soften and growth is stagnating, central bankers left the policy rate unchanged on Thursday but signalled they remain on track to cut rates as soon as June.

“The European Central Bank’s decision to leave policy rates unchanged ... was expected, but accompanying statements open the door for near-term monetary easing,” S&P Global Market Intelligence said in a note.

However in the US, Federal Reserve officials signalled on Thursday that there was no rush to cut interest rates as sticky US inflation remains a concern.

Oil prices were still set for weekly declines as Brent and WTI were heading for about a 1 percent drop as of 9:30 a.m. Saudi time on Friday.

ING analysts said they expect a pullback in oil’s rally if there is no further escalation in the Middle East or supply disruptions, adding that OPEC’s latest monthly market report was also in line with expectations.

“We maintain our forecast for Brent to average $87 a barrel over the second quarter of this year,” the ING analysts added.