True value of Expo 2030 boost laid out in new report

True value of Expo 2030 boost laid out in new report
Scheduled to open on Oct. 1, 2030, and conclude on Mar. 31, 2031, the proposed site in north Riyadh – located near King Khalid International Airport – spans 6 million sq. meters, with more than half of that dedicated to exhibition space. (SPA)
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Updated 16 December 2023
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True value of Expo 2030 boost laid out in new report

True value of Expo 2030 boost laid out in new report
  • The pre-Expo phase is poised to benefit several industries closely linked to the event, including construction

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s successful bid for Expo 2030 is going to provide an economic boost to the Kingdom that lasts far beyond the event itself, according to a new report.

Research by Al-Rajhi Capital shows that while travel, tourism, and hospitality are set to be the big winners from a SR355 billion ($94.64 billion) boost to Riyadh’s economy, the real estate, banking, and insurance sectors are also set to benefit.

Expo 2030 is forecast to deliver a 0.75 percent annualized impact over the next 25 years, and is expected to accelerate the implementation of government-led giga-projects and have a domino effect on the travel, tourism and hospitality sectors.

The pre-Expo phase is poised to benefit several industries closely linked to the event, including construction, whereas the during and post-event periods will see growth in insurance, hospitality, and primary healthcare, as well as car rentals, aviation, food and beverages, telecom, and advertising.

Riyadh emerged victorious in the bid to host the 2030 World Expo after securing 119 votes from the 182 members of the Paris-based Bureau International des Expositions.

Scheduled to open on Oct. 1, 2030, and conclude on Mar. 31, 2031, the proposed site in north Riyadh – located near King Khalid International Airport – spans 6 million sq. meters, with more than half of that dedicated to exhibition space.

The event is poised to feature 246 participants, including country pavilions, international organizations, and non-official participants. The Saudi government has allocated a budget of $7.8 billion for the Expo, signaling a significant investment in this global showcase of progress and collaboration.

In anticipation of the Expo 2030, non-oil gross domestic product growth for 2030 is forecasted at 4 percent, building on today’s base.

Tourism

One sector set to see the most visible benefit from Expo 2030 is tourism.

The industry plays a key role in Saudi Arabia’s economic diversification strategy known as Vision 2030, which involves the Kingdom boosting non-oil related sectors.

Saudi Arabia is already seeking to massively increase hotel capacity, with 315,000 additional hotel rooms set to be built by the end of this decade, according to a Knight Frank report released in April.

However, the analysis by Al-Rajhi Capital shows that Riyadh will need an extra 100,000 rooms in addition to that figure in order to cope with the anticipated visitor numbers to Expo 2030. 

As the Saudi capital currently has between 20,000 and 25,000 rooms, this requirement for new lodgings creates significant opportunities for local contractors and suppliers, contributing to both immediate economic activity and long-term growth in the Saudi construction industry. The sector is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 5.7 percent, reaching $79 billion by 2030, excluding construction related to Expo 2030.

Leisure tourism is forecasted to see an 18.1 percent compounded annual growth rate, with aspirations to attract 39.7 million visitors by 2030.

Helping this is the establishment of Riyadh Air, a new airline set to commence operations in 2025 which will bolster connectivity and tourism infrastructure, the report added.

Financial and insurance sectors

Al Rajhi Capital underscored the significant impact of Expo 2030 preparations on diverse sectors in Saudi Arabia, with increased financial demands boosting activity.

The insurance and consulting sectors are experiencing a surge in demand for services related to risk assessment and strategic advisory support during the pre-Expo phase.

During the event itself, the insurance sector will see a rise in demand for comprehensive coverage; hospitality and hotels will experience increased activity for accommodation services; car rentals and aviation will thrive due to transportation needs; and the food and beverage sector will also prosper.

Emphasizing the crucial role of the banking sector, the report said that Expo 2030 is also expected to drive significant growth in corporate loans, with spending related to the event projected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 11 percent to reach $824 billion by 2030.

In the property and casualty insurance sector, heightened demand during Riyadh Expo 2030 is anticipated, potentially adding SR675 million to the market. 

Expo 2030 is expected to drive significant growth in corporate loans, with spending related to the event projected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 11 percent to reach $824 billion by 2030.

Mazen Al-Sudairi, head of research at Al Rajhi Bank

This comes alongside an expected SR646 million from the travel insurance industry.

Emphasizing the crucial role of the banking sector, the report said that Expo 2030 is also expected to drive significant growth in corporate loans, with spending related to Expo projected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 11 percent to reach $824 billion by 2030.

In an interview with Arab News, Mazen Al-Sudairi, head of research at Al Rajhi Bank, noted there has been a substantial growth in Saudi lending, doubling over the past 15 years, primarily driven by government spending.

He emphasized the emergence of new growth drivers, such as the Public Investment Fund, the private sector, and foreign direct investment, collectively poised to support Saudi economic growth.

In response to the question about the anticipated growth of deposits to align with the increasing asset side represented by loans, he said: “Usually in Saudi Arabia lending is funded with deposits, which is about 80 to 90 percent of loans.”

Al-Sudairi added: “With issuing new financial products, it might decline to 70 percent. We’ve got to have other tools, maybe bonds, and sukuk to fund banks. Deposits will also grow with the massive monetary size or the money supply of the economy.”

Jobs

Al-Sudairi believes Riyadh will see a surge in job creation similar to that experienced by Dubai, the host city of the COVID-19-delayed Expo 2020.

An EY report indicated 4 million jobs were created by the event, and Al-Sudairi expressed confidence that Expo 2030 would help support Vision 2030’s 7 percent unemployment rate target as the labor force expands. 

FASTFACTS

• Research by Al-Rajhi Capital shows that while travel, tourism, and hospitality are set to be the big winners from a SR355 billion ($94.64 billion) boost to Riyadh’s economy, the real estate, banking, and insurance sectors are also set to benefit.

• Expo 2030 is forecast to deliver a 0.75 percent annualized impact over the next 25 years, and is expected to accelerate the implementation of government-led giga-projects and have a domino effect on the travel, tourism and hospitality sectors.

He added that the impact of the Riyadh event on the jobs market would become clearer gradually from 2024 onwards.

Beyond Expo 2030

The report also considered growth areas in the Saudi economy away from Expo 2030.

The Kingdom’s growing role as a global player in the international sport scene was flagged up, with initiatives such as Aramco’s International Cricket Council title sponsorship and the proposed NEOM winter sports complex set to boost revenues in this sector.

The Kingdom’s bid for the FIFA World Cup 2034 and its hosting of events like the eSports World Cup and Asian Indoor & Martial Arts Games also exemplify its commitment to leveraging sports as a driver for economic development.

The report added that Saudi Arabia’s giga-projects, valued at $1.25 trillion under the Vision 2030 Initiative, encompass vast real estate development plans.

With plans for 5.3 million sq. meters dedicated to retail spaces and 6 million sq. meters for office spaces, these projects underline the Kingdom’s commitment to economic diversification.


King Abdulaziz Port boosts infrastructure with new cranes, enhancing global maritime hub status

King Abdulaziz Port boosts infrastructure with new cranes, enhancing global maritime hub status
Updated 4 sec ago
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King Abdulaziz Port boosts infrastructure with new cranes, enhancing global maritime hub status

King Abdulaziz Port boosts infrastructure with new cranes, enhancing global maritime hub status

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz Port’s crane capacity has been boosted by 9.7 percent as part of an SR7 billion ($1.86 billion) investment deal.

The facility, operated by Saudi Global Ports Co., has received three automated quay and three rubber-tired gantry cranes, increasing its handling infrastructure.

According to a press release from Saudi Ports Authority, also known as Mawani, this addition brings the total number of quay cranes to 18 and gantry cranes to 50, enhancing the Dammam port’s workflow and enabling it to handle large ships efficiently.

These enhancements are made under commercial contracts between Mawani and Saudi Global Ports Co. 

This development is part of ongoing efforts to strengthen King Abdulaziz Port’s position as a competitive and sustainable global hub.

The new cranes can reach a minimum of 25 rows, which facilitates the efficient handling of advanced and large ships. 

Additionally, the use of modern cranes contributes to improving the skills of the workforce, supporting the Saudi ports system and solidifying the Kingdom’s growing role in the global logistics chain.

This upgrade aligns with the goals of the National Transport and Logistics Strategy, which aims to establish the nation as a global logistics center and a key link between continents.

Saudi ports are experiencing a constant surge in handling shipments. In March, terminals in the Kingdom recorded a 12.48 percent increase in the number of received containers compared to the same period last year, according to official data from Mawani.

The Authority disclosed that terminals in Saudi Arabia received 265,148 standard containers in the third month of 2024, marking an annual increase from 235,738.  

Furthermore, the maritime facilities experienced a 3.77 percent uptick in the volume of handled tonnage, reaching 19.64 million tonnes, in contrast to 18.93 million tonnes recorded in March 2023.    

“This reflects the scale of efforts made to develop port infrastructure and provide the highest levels of logistics services,” Mawani stated in a statement.

The Kingdom’s general shipment volumes reached 804,837 tonnes, solid bulk cargo reached 3.94 million tonnes, and liquid bulk freight reached 14.74 million tonnes.

A report from the UN Conference on Trade and Development revealed that Mawani climbed from 76.16 points in the second quarter of 2023 to 77.66 points in the third quarter of last year, affirming Saudi Arabia’s progress in the maritime sector.

Moreover, the Kingdom has consistently pursued global collaborations in the maritime sector, the latest of which occurred at the second edition of Vision Golfe 2024, held in Paris on June 4.

At the event, Mawani signed an agreement with the French Ministry of Economy, Finance, and Industrial and Digital Sovereignty and its Marseille counterpart as part of France and Saudi Arabia’s commitment to excellence in trade and maritime transport.


Riyadh among top 5 MENA startup ecosystems, report states

Riyadh among top 5 MENA startup ecosystems, report states
Updated 15 min 27 sec ago
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Riyadh among top 5 MENA startup ecosystems, report states

Riyadh among top 5 MENA startup ecosystems, report states

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh is among the top five startup ecosystems in the Middle East and North Africa region, according to new data. 

The international policy advisory and research organization Startup Genome, in collaboration with the Global Entrepreneurship Network, revealed that three of the Kingdom’s cities were among the top-ranked startup ecosystems in the region. 

Riyadh was ranked fourth, with Jeddah and Alkhobar also making the list, according to Startup Genome’s latest Global Startup Ecosystem report. 

The criteria for inclusion in the list required ecosystems to be ranked in the top 40 global leaders or top 200 emerging environments or to have a value greater than $200 million. 

Furthermore, Riyadh was also one of two MENA ecosystems making the global list of cities with four or more unicorns in the last 10 years, the other being Dubai. 

A company is termed a unicorn when it reaches a valuation of $1 billion without being listed on the stock market. 

The report highlighted that the capital was ranked between 51 and 60 internationally, with its funding performance ranking seven out of 10. 

The Kingdom was also praised for its proactive approach to embracing artificial intelligence, with the report highlighting the nation’s $40 billion commitment to boosting the technology. 

The UAE’s capital, Abu Dhabi, was ranked as the fastest-growing startup ecosystem in the region, with a global rank between 61 and 70. 

“In a nation emboldened by its strategic vision to become a dominant global technology hub, the UAE is establishing its capital city as one of the world’s most prominent destinations for high-growth technology companies,” the report stated. 

Abu Dhabi’s ecosystem was valued at $4.2 billion, with one unicorn between 2021 and 2023. The city also saw a median funding of $825,000 in seed rounds. Total venture capital funding amounted to $1.1 billion between 2019 and 2023, with 16 exits during the same period. 

The region has seen significant growth in venture capital and startup development in recent years, mostly driven by Saudi Arabia. 

In 2023, the Kingdom secured 52 percent of the total VC funding in the MENA region, a substantial increase from the 31 percent share it held in 2022. 

Saudi Arabia’s startup ecosystem ranked first in regional venture funding activities in 2023, amassing an unprecedented $1.38 billion in capital.  

This achievement positioned the Kingdom at the forefront of venture capital funding in the Middle East and North Africa, surpassing the $1 billion mark for the first time, as reported by MAGNiTT in their Saudi Arabia FY2023 report. 


Half of Saudi Arabia’s World Defense Show 2026 floorspace already snapped up by exhibitors

Half of Saudi Arabia’s World Defense Show 2026 floorspace already snapped up by exhibitors
Updated 6 min 25 sec ago
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Half of Saudi Arabia’s World Defense Show 2026 floorspace already snapped up by exhibitors

Half of Saudi Arabia’s World Defense Show 2026 floorspace already snapped up by exhibitors

RIYADH: International exhibitors have already secured half of the space at the World Defense Show set to be held in Riyadh in 2026, demonstrating strong early interest in the biennial event.

The defense and security exhibition, scheduled for Feb 8-12 and covering an area of 800,000 sq. m., follows the successful conclusion of its second edition in February. The event attracted a record number of 773 exhibitors, all aiming to capitalize on the Kingdom’s status as one of the largest defense spenders worldwide. 

In the state budget announced in December 2023, the Saudi Arabia allocated SR269 billion ($71.70 billion) for the military sector this year, reflecting an 8.5 percent increase from the 2023 estimates.  

Andrew Pearcey, CEO of the World Defense Show, said: “The demand has been phenomenal. Just four months after the second edition of the show closed, to global industry approbation, we have already sold 50 percent of the floorspace for the third edition.”  

He added: “Many of the industry’s leading multi-domain businesses booked their stands for 2026 during the 2024 event. I am in no doubt that World Defense Show 2026, will be an essential event for global companies across the defense supply chain.” 

The CEO highlighted that the third edition of the event further solidifies the entity’s position as the emerging global hub for the defense industry. 

The early bookings for the event are in line with the show’s vision to serve as a platform where the global defense industry can convene, connect, and gain valuable insights into the latest innovation-driven defense and security solutions. 

The event also aims to foster integration across air, land, sea, space, and security domains to accelerate advancements in defense technologies.  


‘Central Bank Digital Currencies’ can boost Middle East’s financial inclusion: IMF

‘Central Bank Digital Currencies’ can boost Middle East’s financial inclusion: IMF
Updated 19 June 2024
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‘Central Bank Digital Currencies’ can boost Middle East’s financial inclusion: IMF

‘Central Bank Digital Currencies’ can boost Middle East’s financial inclusion: IMF

RIYADH: Digital currencies are gaining traction in the Middle East and Central Asia, with countries increasingly considering central bank-issued options to enhance financial inclusion, an analysis said. 

In a blog, the International Monetary Fund noted that economies in these regions are also moving toward digital currencies to improve the efficiency of cross-border payments. 

CBDCs are a form of digital money issued by a central bank, distinct from cryptocurrencies. 

The analysis showed that 19 countries in the Middle East and Central Asia are currently in the research stage of developing nationally-issued digital currencies. 

“Bahrain, Georgia, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE have moved to the more advanced ‘proof-of-concept’ stage. Kazakhstan is the most advanced after two pilot programs for the digital tenge,” said IMF. 

Earlier in June, Saudi Arabia joined a China-dominated Central Bank Digital Currency cross-border trial, according to the Bank for International Settlements.

The trial will see the Saudi Central Bank becoming a “full participant” in Project mBridge, a collaboration launched in 2021 between the central banks of China, Hong Kong, Thailand, and the UAE. 

Project mBridge, overseen by BIS, is a multi-CBDC platform developed to support real-time, cross-border payments and foreign exchange transactions. 

On June 2, the Qatar Central Bank announced the completion of the infrastructure development for its CBDC project.  

In a press statement, QCB said that the move aligns with global advancements in digital currency, aiming to enhance Qatar’s financial sector. 

The apex bank noted that it will start testing and developing selected applications of the CBDC for settling large payments with local and international banks. 

As of March, central banks in 134 countries, accounting for 98 percent of the world’s gross domestic product, were in various stages of evaluating the launch of a national digital currency, according to the Atlantic Council.  

The US think tank also revealed that the Bahamas, Jamaica, and Nigeria have already fully launched a CBDC. 

IMF said that adopting a CBDC, however, requires careful consideration. “Countries across these regions, spanning a diverse group of economies stretching from Morocco and Egypt to Pakistan and Kazakhstan, each must weigh their own unique set of circumstances.” 

Cross-border payments 

According to the IMF, CBDCs can potentially enhance the efficiency of cross-border payment services, which is crucial for oil-exporting countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council region, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar, as well as Bahrain, and Kuwait. 

“That’s because cross-border payments tend to have frictions like varying data formats and operating rules across regions and complex compliance checks. CBDCs that address these inefficiencies could significantly cut transaction costs,” said the international financial institution.  

The report added that CBDCs can also promote financial inclusion by fostering competition in the payments market and enabling more direct transactions with less intermediation.  

Moreover, central banks can help keep costs lower as they are not profit-driven like commercial banks. 

“Increased competition in the payments market from a CBDC could also encourage upgrading technology platforms and the efficiency of payment services, helping financial services reach more people,” said IMF.  

Countries in the Caucasus and Central Asia, Middle East and North Africa oil importers, and low-income countries are particularly interested in this potential benefit. 

The IMF further pointed out that designing CBDCs to work offline could promote financial inclusion in areas with unreliable mobile services, such as low-income and conflict-affected regions.  

Additionally, using national digital currencies for cross-border transfers could reduce remittance costs and speed up transfer times. 

Impacts on commercial banks 

The analysis indicated that deposits constitute a significant portion of bank funding in the region, around 83 percent. A CBDC could compete with bank deposits, potentially impacting bank profits and lending, and posing implications for financial stability, the IMF noted. 

However, the report added that financial institutions in the region generally possess adequate capital levels, profit margins, and liquidity buffers, which could mitigate strains on deposits. 

CBDCs could enhance the pass-through into deposit rates by increasing competition among financial institutions, and they could also strengthen the bank lending channel of monetary policy. “However, the impact would likely be country-specific and is difficult to estimate due to limited CBDC uptake so far,” the IMF stated. 

The report emphasized that policymakers play a crucial role in addressing potential risks posed by national digital currencies. It added, “While there are no clear prerequisites for adopting CBDCs, a healthy banking system, a sound legal system, and strong supervisory and regulatory capacity are essential for reducing risks.” 

The IMF suggested that national digital currencies should be carefully calibrated to avoid competition with commercial bank deposits. “Design features are a crucial consideration. Our survey shows that selecting appropriate features for CBDC implementation is a key challenge for regional policymakers,” the report highlighted. 

Introducing national digital currencies will be a long and complex process, and central banks should approach it with care. 

The IMF also urged policymakers to determine if a CBDC serves their country’s objectives and whether the expected benefits outweigh the potential costs and risks to the financial system.  


Saudi Arabia advances preparations for Riyadh Expo as it gives progress report in Paris

Saudi Arabia advances preparations for Riyadh Expo as it gives progress report in Paris
Updated 19 June 2024
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Saudi Arabia advances preparations for Riyadh Expo as it gives progress report in Paris

Saudi Arabia advances preparations for Riyadh Expo as it gives progress report in Paris

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Expo 2030 will be “by the world, for the world,” the team behind the event have said during the first progress report since Riyadh was elected as host city.

Speaking at the 174th General Assembly of the Bureau International des Expositions in Paris, Abdulaziz Alghannam, director general of the Riyadh Expo 2030 office at the Royal Commission for Riyadh City, emphasized ongoing efforts for Expo registration and preparation for creating the legal framework to enable international participation in the event.

According to a post by Riyadh Expo on X, the delegation also included representatives from the Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund.

Saudi Arabia was elected as host for the 2030 event on Nov. 28, 2023, during the 173rd General Assembly of the BIE, and the Expo is set to take place from Oct. 1, 2030, to March 31, 2031.

It aims to host 197 countries and 29 international organizations.

The theme – “The Era of Change: Together for a Foresighted Tomorrow” – encapsulates Saudi Arabia’s commitment to using the Expo to accelerate progress toward the planned sustainable development goals. The event will focus on harnessing science and innovation for a better future, structured around three inclusive sub-themes.

Since the Kingdom was elected host, preparations have been underway at the highest levels, including infrastructure development and drafting the registration dossier. 

This document will detail the Expo’s legislative and financial measures, the master plan for the Expo site, and legacy plans. 

Once submitted and reviewed, the BIE General Assembly will formally register Expo 2030 Riyadh, allowing Saudi Arabia to invite international participants and advance preparations.

In early May, BIE Secretary-General Dimitri Kerkentzes completed a technical visit to Riyadh, marking the first such trip since Saudi Arabia’s election as host. 

The four-day visit included technical meetings and discussions on the Expo’s plans and the preparation of the registration dossier. 

Kerkentzes met with key Saudi officials, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and ministers involved in the project.

The BIE official praised Saudi Arabia’s commitment and expressed eagerness to see the project gain momentum as the registration dossier is completed.

The most recent event, Expo 2020 Dubai, saw over 24 million visits. The next World Expo, Expo 2025 Osaka Kansai, will run from April 13 to Oct. 13, 2025, under the theme “Designing Future Society for Our Lives.”