New Lord Mayor of London hails maturity of Gulf economies

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Updated 02 December 2023
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New Lord Mayor of London hails maturity of Gulf economies

New Lord Mayor of London hails maturity of Gulf economies
  • Michael Mainelli, heading to COP28 in UAE, says appointment of new UK foreign secretary will ‘help deepen connections with Saudi Arabia’
  • Mainelli tells Arab News he is ‘extremely impressed at the commitment to net zero’ in both Gulf states

LONDON: Maturation of Gulf states’ economies presents further opportunities to deepen the relationship between the region and the UK, the new Lord Mayor of the City of London told Arab News before departing for COP28 in the UAE.

Just a few weeks into the role and Michael Mainelli was on hand, like his predecessor, to witness yet another British Cabinet reshuffle.

But with the return to frontline politics of former Prime Minister David Cameron, Mainelli is optimistic that this will further strengthen ties with Saudi Arabia, one of several Gulf states to have announced participation in a £30 billion ($37.9 billion) investment pledge into the UK.

“When it comes to that investment it’s enormously welcome, but what I think is great is it shows how Saudi and other Gulf states have really matured their economies,” Mainelli said.

“They’ve gotten a better understanding of what they want to achieve with their sovereign wealth funds beyond just investments and returns, and that includes knowledge transfer. That’s really exciting as it offers two-way transference between us and them,” he added.

“With Cameron’s appointment (as foreign secretary), you get undoubted foreign policy expertise, including in the Gulf, which I think will prove a good move and help deepen connections with Saudi Arabia.”

Pushing the idea of London as a “hub of connectivity” appears central in Mainelli’s year-long tenure, which he said he is serving under the theme “Connect to Prosper.”

Asked where the Gulf figures in this, he replied: “The Lord Mayor typically spends 100 days traveling each year. Of this, three weeks will be in North America, three in Asia, after which a smattering of other countries.

“And then, interestingly, the Lord Mayor will typically spend two weeks of travel around the Gulf each year. This shows you just how important it is as a destination, being right up there with Asia and North America.”

COP28 in Dubai has been designed with a strict focus on carbon, which plays into Mainelli’s “personal ambition.”

While he would be “going in with an open mind,” he said he would also use the event to revive interest in the notion of voluntary carbon markets, which first emerged during COP3 in Kyoto in 1997.

“I believe there’s a lot more work to be done when it comes to carbon markets … but we do need to get these to work,” he added.

“The initial idea was to have emission trading permits and businesses paid to remove carbon from the atmosphere — typically this would involve planting trees or seagrass — with the idea being we reduce our environmental impact by taking it out of the atmosphere.

“But it became subject to a lot of issues, ranging from the difficulty of measuring to ensuring the carbon was sequestered properly, and frankly also issues of fraud and corruption.”

Despite the initial difficulties, Mainelli remains convinced that it is a feasible and practical solution to reducing carbon levels in the atmosphere.

“It’s just the market hasn’t been fully formed and the basis upon which prices are set not properly calculated,” he said.

Of particular concern is what he described as the “final bit,” adding: “Let’s say I pay you to for a ton of carbon offset a year over a 25-year period, which you agree to facilitate through the planting of a forest.

“Now let’s say having planted that forest, a hurricane hits and uproots the trees, or there’s an avalanche, perhaps there’s a parasite, and the trees are destroyed, maybe the soil doesn’t allow them to grow, or maybe at the end of the 25 years you simply chop the forest down.

“Were any of these to happen, then nothing really has been achieved. All that has happened is you’ve deferred 25 years of emissions.”

For Mainelli, the solution to the issue and restitution of carbon markets as a tool in the route to net zero resides in the “appropriate use of insurance,” which he said would put a financial impetus behind the idea and “drive clearer, harder standards.”

Of particular pertinence, he noted, would be the fact that insurers would not insure carbon capture sites without having conducted “sufficient due diligence.”

Insurers “would crawl all over whoever was planning to set up one of these carbon capture sites, and they’d want to know what trees were being used, where seeds were sourced,” he said.

“They’d survey the ground, they’d ask why it was located at the base of a mountain. They’d do all this, and not only would they insure the site, they’d be building knowledge.”

This, said Mainelli, would be pivotal as that increased understanding would serve to improve the means and methods of carbon capture deployed in these carbon markets, leading to standardization.

It is “fairly evident” that the Gulf is determined to find workable solutions to address the climate crisis, he added.

“I spent a week earlier this year in Abu Dhabi, and also spent a week last year in Saudi, really trying to understand the situation on the ground there, and I was extremely impressed at the commitment to net zero in both nations and in other areas,” he said.

Pointing to the 25 substantial hydrogen projects in place in the UAE and the 40 Saudi Arabia has in the pipeline, Mainelli said there is an opening for closer ties with the City of London.

While development of hydrogen production would always be of interest, he said there is also reason to considering the creation of a sufficient transport mechanism for getting this hydrogen out into the world. This, he added, offers “great potential for collaboration.”


Egypt begins process for privatization of airports

Egypt begins process for privatization of airports
Updated 04 March 2024
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Egypt begins process for privatization of airports

Egypt begins process for privatization of airports
  • Egypt is due to set an international tender for operating Egyptian airports, which include Cairo International Airport

RIYADH: Egypt began the executive process for offering the management and operation of Egyptian airports to the private sector, a Cabinet statement said on Monday.

Egypt is due to set an international tender for operating Egyptian airports, which include Cairo International Airport, the country’s Civil Aviation Minister Mohamed Abbas Helmy has said.

Egypt is set to transition the management and operations of critical logistics and transportation entities to the private sector, starting with the aviation industry. 

In November 2023, Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly declared that seaports, dry ports and airports would be offered to private sector management in the near future. 

Madbouly highlighted a strong commitment to fostering partnerships with private entities in the stewardship and operational aspects of mass transit systems.

An integrated strategy has been formulated by the Egyptian Transport Ministry, in collaboration with global corporations, to begin localization of the industry. 

In July 2023, Egypt’s efforts to bolster its private sector and empower small and medium enterprises received $533.7 million in support from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development as it undertakes massive privatization and restructuring measures for the public sector.  

Under the umbrella of Egypt 2022-2027 strategy, launched by the Minister of International Cooperation Rania Al-Mashat in March 2022, the EBRD approved development financing worth $400 million for the National Bank of Egypt to support SMEs, focusing on regional companies led or owned by young entrepreneurs.  

The bank also approved funding worth $100 million for Banque Misr to improve financing for SMEs in a way that promotes inclusive and sustainable growth. In addition, it aims to increase funding to SMEs in areas with limited access to financial services.

The EBRD also approved another funding for the Mediterrania Capital IV Fund at a value of €30.2 million ($33.7 million).


NHC signs deals to revolutionize Saudi real estate sector with innovative technologies

NHC signs deals to revolutionize Saudi real estate sector with innovative technologies
Updated 04 March 2024
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NHC signs deals to revolutionize Saudi real estate sector with innovative technologies

NHC signs deals to revolutionize Saudi real estate sector with innovative technologies

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s National Housing Co. signed two agreements at LEAP 2024, aiming to support real estate activities in the Kingdom by crafting unique business intelligence solutions.

The deal were signed with data science company Quant and Paseetah Tech Solutions to empower technologies in the real estate market to enhance services provided to customers interested in making investments, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The chief of solutions sector, Rayan Al-Aql, represented the National Housing Co. in signing the agreement, while Quant CEO Ahmed Bukhamseen and Omar Al-Omar, CEO of Paseetah Tech Solutions, represented their respective companies.

The agreements aim to enable modern technologies in the real estate sector by leveraging information owned by the NHC to contribute to creating unique solutions serving the market.

This includes generating more accurate real estate analytics, supporting innovation in data analysis, and creating real estate indicators that enhance the market’s reliance on data in property decisions. This facilitates informed decision-making for investors and buyers, the SPA reported.

NHC is showcasing its services and technological achievements at the LEAP conference currently underway in Riyadh. 

These achievements have benefited over 10 million people across eight government digital platforms. 

The company has also documented more than 9 million residential and commercial lease contracts, achieved over 6.5 million downloads for the “Sakani” application, operated and developed the “Balady” platform under the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing, among other technological accomplishments associated with the digital platforms operated and developed by the NHC.

Earlier in February, the National Housing Co. announced that it would build a total of 3,800 homes after forging six partnership agreements worth SR2 billion ($533 million). 

These deals, which were signed with several real estate developers, aim to build residential units in the Riyadh southwestern community of Al-Asalah, with prices starting from SR475,000, according to the Saudi Press Agency. 

SPA added that this initiative is part of a comprehensive program of urban development spearheaded by the NHC aiming to revolutionize the housing landscape by introducing innovative concepts and integrated services, ultimately enhancing the quality of life across all sectors of society.


Saudi Arabia named ‘most improved country overall’ in US Chamber of Commerce IP Index

Saudi Arabia named ‘most improved country overall’ in US Chamber of Commerce IP Index
Updated 04 March 2024
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Saudi Arabia named ‘most improved country overall’ in US Chamber of Commerce IP Index

Saudi Arabia named ‘most improved country overall’ in US Chamber of Commerce IP Index

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has received recognition as “the most improved country overall” in the 12th edition of the US Chamber of Commerce International Intellectual Property Index. 

Released on March 2, the report emphasizes the several achievements of the Kingdom, with Vice President of Middle East Affairs at the US Chamber of Commerce Steve Lutes telling Arab News that Saudi Arabia has made significant strides in the technology sector over the past year.

“Specifically, I think this year the Kingdom did sign on to some important international treaties and they’ve made some other progress on both the enforcement side and some other of the indicators,” Lutes said on the sidelines of the LEAP 2024 conference.

“The Kingdom moving up in ranking gives more confidence to investors,” he added. 

Lutes went on to say that the body aims to encourage partnerships with the business community, government, and academia in Saudi Arabia to drive the establishment of a diversified, knowledge-based economy aligned with Vision 2030.

The US Chamber of Commerce considers over 50 indices when ranking countries, Lutes added. 

“Some of this looks very marginal. But really, when you think about it from an economic perspective, these are very important drivers because these are the sorts of things that companies look at. Is my IP going to be safe? Is it going to be protected? Are rules going to be enforced? And that’s where you get the investment in value and innovation,” said the vice-president.

The Kingdom allocates a total of $2 million across all funding rounds dedicated to artificial intelligence companies and over $3 billion proportional to gross domestic product with a ranking position of 31 in the Global AI index.

“We’ve been looking at this as governments around the globe start to grapple with the regulatory frameworks for artificial intelligence. The Chamber commissioned a report that was largely targeted toward a domestic audience and had some policy recommendations in that,” said Lutes.

A report by the European Centre for International Political Economy and the US Chamber of Commerce, titled “The Opportunity of Artificial Intelligence: Boosting Productivity and Growth in Saudi Arabia,” will be released in March.

The study will include a breakdown covering the benefits of AI for the Kingdom, endowments and digital industry structures, and AI policies going forward. 

“It has some sector-by-sector analysis where we think it can be the most impactful. In my mind, though, the biggest message is for policymakers,” Lutes said, adding: “One of those is investing, for example, in human capital. You have to have the workforce that’s ready to take on these technologies and bring it to government processes, to business processes and see it diffuse. So, when it comes to the sectors, I think, you know, healthcare and education are two that are highlighted in particular as having the most upside.”

Lutes added this is his first time attending LEAP, which is now in its third edition, and the Chamber has been collaborating with the Ministry of Communications and the Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence. 

“We are at the LEAP Conference and IP is so fundamental to that. So, kudos to the Kingdom this year. And I guess our message is let’s not rest on our laurels. Let’s continue to work together to see if we can continue to see the Kingdom climb in that index as well,” he concluded. 

LEAP, held in Riyadh from March 4-7, is an annual premier tech event founded in 2022 by the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology. It convenes leading professionals from the sector to deliberate on the industry’s future and the innovative opportunities ahead.


Riyadh forum explores Saudi-Brazil business, trade ties

Riyadh forum explores Saudi-Brazil business, trade ties
Updated 04 March 2024
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Riyadh forum explores Saudi-Brazil business, trade ties

Riyadh forum explores Saudi-Brazil business, trade ties
  • South American country ‘an important trading partner’ for the Kingdom, says envoy
  • Joint council launched after Brazilian president’s visit late last year

LONDON: The Saudi-Brazilian Business Forum in Riyadh was attended by more than 150 investors from both countries on Monday, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The event, hosted by the Federation of Saudi Chambers and Brazil’s Lide Group, aimed to improve business and trade ties.

Dr. Faisal Ghulam, Saudi ambassador to Brazil, delivered a speech at the forum in which he praised the strong economic relations between the two countries built over 55 years.

He described Brazil as “an important trading partner” for the Kingdom. Annual trade between the two countries stands at $8 billion.

Ghulam lauded the establishment of a Saudi-Brazilian coordination council following President Lula da Silva’s visit to the Kingdom late last year.

Saudi Vision 2030 is providing Brazilian investors with significant opportunities, paving the way for improved trade ties, said Luiz Fernando Furlan, chairman of Lide’s board.

The newly established council will “work to advance the partnership, overcome challenges, and facilitate visas for the business communities from the two countries,” said its Chairman Mishal bin Hithlain.

Lide chief Joao Doria called on the Brazilian business community to explore the “great investment opportunities” available in the Kingdom through Vision 2030.

The forum covered key sectors at the heart of trade between the two countries, including aviation, energy, logistics, mining, agriculture, real estate and healthcare. It was the first event hosted by Lide after the firm opened offices in Riyadh.

The company’s Saudi representative, Malik Al-Qahtani, pledged to serve the business sectors of both countries and improve the ease of operations for Saudi and Brazilian investors.


Saudi aviation professions localization plan enters 2nd phase

Saudi aviation professions localization plan enters 2nd phase
Updated 04 March 2024
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Saudi aviation professions localization plan enters 2nd phase

Saudi aviation professions localization plan enters 2nd phase

RIYADH: The number of Saudi flight attendants and fixed-wing pilots is set to increase as the localization plan for the Kingdom’s aviation sector enters its second phase.

The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, in collaboration with the Ministry of Transport and Logistic Services, has announced the implementation of the second phase of localizing licensed aviation professions in private sector establishments employing five or more individuals in targeted aviation professions.

In the second phase, the HRSD has specified the professions targeted, setting a 60 percent target for flight attendants and a 70 percent ratio for fixed-wing pilots, contingent on employees in the aviation professions obtaining the professional accreditation certificate from the General Authority of Civil Aviation.

The Ministry of Transport has reiterated its commitment to overseeing the implementation of the program’s second phase. It aims to enable private sector establishments to leverage all support and employment programs offered by the Human Resources and Social Development System to aid in the recruitment and retention of national talent.

The HRSD has issued procedural guidelines explaining the details of the decision, its implementation, and the support and employment programs provided to private sector establishments.

Speaking to Arab News on the sidelines of the Saudi Airport Exhibition, held at the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Center in December 2023, Mervat Sultan, president of the Women in Aviation Middle East Chapter, noted a significant boom, with an increase in airports, establishment of new airlines, and a rising number of tourists. 

She added that the aviation industry in Saudi Arabia is “becoming bigger and bigger and would be leading the industry in the next 20 years.”

In 2022, Ahmed Al-Rajhi, minister of HRSD, issued a notification nationalizing a number of professions and economic activities — including licensed aviation professions, opticians, and periodic inspection activity, as well as postal service outlets and more. 

The decision to localize licensed aviation professions was announced to be implemented in two phases. The first one became effective on March 15, 2023.

In line with its Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia is undertaking an ambitious initiative to empower its citizens and boost their global competitiveness.