Diplomacy a winner for Saudi Arabia and Armenia

Diplomacy a winner for Saudi Arabia and Armenia

Riyadh and Yerevan are a tale waiting to be told: two capitals and peoples connected in shared vision (Shutterstock)
Riyadh and Yerevan are a tale waiting to be told: two capitals and peoples connected in shared vision (Shutterstock)
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Months of diplomacy and dialogue between Armenia and Saudi Arabia brokered a breakthrough in diplomatic relations last November — one that can very positively transform the South Caucasus and accelerate the pan-regional leadership and economic diversification of Saudi Arabia. Diplomacy always wins.

Riyadh and Yerevan are a tale waiting to be told: two capitals and two peoples finally connected in shared vision and common ground. They can benefit a great deal from an emerging partnership, accelerating development, innovation and prosperity. Both countries are on a journey of building flourishing societies that honor humanity, working toward strengthening quality of life and meeting the needs of their people and their future generations. In my last visit to Yerevan, I enjoyed the city’s sublime walkability and high levels of safety for women and children. I got to enjoy much of what Yerevan has to offer with little concern for traffic. The city is wonderfully connected.

Riyadh, a place I am grateful to call my second home, is also making significant investments in developing walkable neighborhoods with connected access to amenities and arteries to different parts of the capital. It is investing in an innovative and futuristic downtown and is rapidly building the world’s largest and greatest urban park, which will become an interconnected space for communities and society to come together. To become effective and loving cities, both Yerevan and Riyadh need to explore, test and perfect their value propositions and, with the power of diplomacy, they can now do so together.

Armenia and Saudi Arabia have been making smart investments into long-term, strategic green economy and environmental projects, contributing to global management of the climate crisis. Generational environmental consciousness is at the top of both national agendas, with reforestation a key priority.

Riyadh and Yerevan are a tale waiting to be told: two capitals and two peoples finally connected in shared vision and common ground

Lynn Zovighian

Armenia has seen a surge in solar power, hydropower and other renewable energy projects, with tremendous room to grow. Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, is a pivotal leader in the global Conference of the Parties agenda with the ability to catalyze progress in other countries. With a holistic green strategy and ample international cooperation, they hope to be able to experience a new climate with cooler temperatures, less dust and more water.

Armenia has also begun its transition to electric cars, with incentive schemes in place to bring every citizen on board. Saudi’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund, is also making strategic investments in electric car innovation and manufacturing and new neighborhood districts are offering clean energy solutions to cross-pollinate sustainability with affordability. These are all journeys that Armenia and Saudi Arabia can advance together.

The opportunities in commerce and trade have never been so ripe for joint investments and shared rewards. In 2022, Armenia’s gross domestic product grew 12.6 percent and early national accounts for 2023 suggest an annual growth rate of more than 8 percent. Armenia has revived its identity as the so-called Silicon Valley of the South Caucasus. Global high-tech champions have opened hubs in Yerevan, advancing their research and development, sophisticated engineering, microchip manufacturing and other innovation functions through long-term investments.

Armenia represents a unique value proposition of talent, resilience and strategic capacity-building. This technological advantage has driven an innovation turnaround in agriculture and is fueling growth in education and banking.

In Saudi Arabia, the government is making long-term investments to create local Saudi content and is incentivizing local supply chains across multiple sectors with policies and economic stimuli. With a very aggressive national small and medium-sized enterprise strategy, the Kingdom is driving economic growth and diversification with deeper inclusivity. Venture capitalists and family offices are pooling their capital and access to invest in high-potential tech startups and growth companies in the Kingdom. The PIF has numerous local investment plays, incubating and backing up companies and quasi-private players.

Official diplomatic relations will help to accelerate value creation and both countries are set to significantly benefit

Lynn Zovighian

For foreign investors, Saudi Arabia is the largest, most stable and growth-oriented economy in the Middle East, with a significant domestic market and regional gateways that make competitive and investment sense for large global corporations. Both Armenia and Saudi Arabia have set themselves up to generate value and attract enormous long-term investments by building on their strengths. Official diplomatic relations will now help to accelerate value creation between Armenians and Saudis and both countries are set to significantly benefit.

Armenia is a country built on culture and heritage, from preservation to production to innovation. From ancient instruments and unique musical forms and choirs to dances and costumes and from literature to art to film, the Armenian people are trained from a very young age in the practices of relentless discipline, meticulous skills, collaboration and deep creativity. Citizens have the potential to become authors of cultural assets.

Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, is advancing significantly in amplifying and celebrating its diverse indigenous heritage. It is making critical investments in music, art and museums. It is also becoming a sought-after stage for artists to perform to a youth and people who love performances and hosting talent from around the world. Armenia and Saudi Arabia are both very committed to documenting and inscribing their tangible and intangible culture. Investors and practitioners will have much to explore together in the space of cultural education, production and diplomacy.

Both countries are today yearning for bright futures built on stability and growth and want to upscale. What will be key and exciting is to see how public diplomacy will also lead. Now that the two countries’ governments have unlocked their doors, the terrain is wide open for investors, entrepreneurs, musicians, artists and tourists to step in and take over. I am very excited to see how both my second home and my homeland will together create, share in risks and rewards and build collective memories and friendships for the mutual benefit of our peoples.

  • Lynn Zovighian is the co-founder and managing director of The Zovighian Partnership, a family-owned social investment platform that conducts community-centered research and designs and implements humanitarian and socioeconomic interventions. X: @lynnzovighian
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