Saudi Arabia among leading GCC nations in Global Energy Transition Rankings: WEF Report

Saudi Arabia among leading GCC nations in Global Energy Transition Rankings: WEF Report
Countries worldwide are overhauling their energy systems in response to global commitments. Shutterstock
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Updated 20 June 2024
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Saudi Arabia among leading GCC nations in Global Energy Transition Rankings: WEF Report

Saudi Arabia among leading GCC nations in Global Energy Transition Rankings: WEF Report

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has secured the third position among the Gulf nations in a global Energy Transition Index, according to the latest findings released by the World Economic Forum.

The report, titled “Fostering Effective Energy Transition 2024,” evaluated 120 countries based on their energy systems’ performance, emphasizing equity, environmental sustainability, energy security, and transition readiness.

Saudi Arabia achieved the 58th position overall with an ETI score of 55.9 and a transition-readiness score of 45.4. 

The latter figure is rooted in various factors, including the stability of the policy environment, the level of political commitment, and the investment climate, as well as access to capital, consumer engagement, and the development and adoption of new technologies.

The rankings reflect the Kingdom’s progress in balancing its energy reserves with sustainability goals amidst global economic volatility and technological advancements.

Countries worldwide are overhauling their energy systems in response to global commitments, such as the 2015 Paris Agreement, and decisions made at events like COP28, which concluded in Dubai last December.

In recent years, GCC nations have announced ambitious national goals and regional initiatives to combat climate change. The UAE and Oman have committed to achieving Net Zero by 2050, while Saudi Arabia is aiming for that goal by 2060 and has launched the Middle East Green Initiative. 

Qatar led the Gulf Cooperation Council states in the Energy Transition Index, ranking 50th with a score of 57.3. The UAE followed with a ranking of 52 and an ETI score of 57.

Oman was placed 62nd, while Bahrain and Kuwait secured the 103rd and the 104th positions respectively. 

The report emphasized the urgent need for nations to reform their energy systems, scale up clean energy solutions, and enhance efficiency to achieve sustainable global transitions.

It highlighted that while progress has been made, challenges such as geopolitical tensions continue to impact the trajectory of this transformation.

“The global landscape is marked by economic volatility, heightened geopolitical tensions, and technological shifts. This uncertainty is reflected in the ETI, where the rate of improvement over the past three years has decreased,” the report noted.

Leading countries in the ETI rankings for 2024 are predominantly European, with Sweden and Denmark securing top positions owing to their robust policy frameworks, investments in clean energy, and technological innovation, according to the document.

The disparity in ETI scores between advanced and developing economies has diminished, with a noticeable shift in the center of gravity of the energy transition toward developing nations. Despite this progress, investment in clean energy continued to be heavily concentrated in advanced economies and China.

The report emphasized the critical necessity for financial support from advanced nations to facilitate a fair energy transition in emerging and developing countries.

“Global average Energy Transition Index scores reached their highest levels, with 107 out of 120 countries making progress over the past decade,” the report said.

As countries worldwide strive toward sustainable energy futures, the report called for concerted efforts in policy-making: “The message from this year’s ETI is clear: there is no time to waste. Decision-makers across the globe must act decisively and collaboratively to accelerate the transition towards an equitable, secure and sustainable energy future.”

Saudi Arabia is emerging as a proactive leader in energy transition policies, he International Monetary Fund said in a report in March, as the Kingdom is pioneering green initiatives to mitigate economic challenges posed by the transformation toward sustainability.

The study emphasized that the Saudi Green Initiative, launched in 2021, aims to combat climate change and reduce carbon emissions.  

It explained: “The Green Initiative is centered around three objectives, including targets for increasing the share of renewable energy in electricity generation up to 50 percent by 2030 and the deployment of circular carbon economy technologies, including carbon capture utilization and storage.”


Startup Wrap – MENA venture activity sees funding, expansion, and collaborations 

Startup Wrap – MENA venture activity sees funding, expansion, and collaborations 
Updated 12 July 2024
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Startup Wrap – MENA venture activity sees funding, expansion, and collaborations 

Startup Wrap – MENA venture activity sees funding, expansion, and collaborations 

CAIRO: From accelerator program graduations and fintech funding boosts to market entries and technology partnerships, the startup landscape in the Middle East and North Africa region is witnessing dynamic developments.

Impactful investments, strategic expansions, and collaborative initiatives are helping various sectors experience significant growth and innovation. 

Egypt’s Raya FutureTECH completes first accelerator program 

Some of the graduates of the accelerator program. Supplied

Egypt’s Raya FutureTECH, the innovation arm of Raya Holding, has successfully concluded its inaugural accelerator program in collaboration with GIZ.  

The Demo Day, held in Cairo, marked the graduation of the first cohort of 13 startups, including Arzaq Masr, Cultivaet, and Accounting Club, as well as Meta Egypt, BUS14, and Credify.

Jadeed, Wfrley, and PlanQ also completed the program, as did Tatbeek, the Holiday Homes Service Co., H.E Rental, and WhereApp.  

The winners will receive additional support and funding to further develop their solutions. 

Clara Samman, senior program officer at Raya FutureTECH, shared insights on the program’s objectives and achievements.  

“This program was designed to provide the founders with the resources, training, and mentorship they need to grow. Through one-on-one consultations with experts from Raya, workshops, and connections to our network, we’ve equipped them with the tools for success,” she said.  

UAE’s Maalexi secures $1 million venture debt from Stride Ventures 

UAE-based Maalexi, an agriculture-focused fintech, has raised $1 million in venture debt from Stride Ventures, according to a report by Abu Dhabi SME Hub.  

Founded in 2021 by Azam Pasha and Rohit Majhi, Maalexi facilitates direct cross-border trade access for small food and agri-businesses through its dynamic risk management platform.  

This investment aims to accelerate Maalexi’s growth plans and enhance its operational capabilities for more efficient procurement and distribution of food and agri-produce across the region. 

Pasha, the firm’s CEO, emphasized the impact of this funding on the company’s expansion.  

“This debt capital raise from Stride Ventures will significantly enhance our ability to acquire new users and scale our operations, further solidifying our position as a leading digital risk management platform for small and medium enterprises engaged in cross-border trade,” he said.

The executive added that the funds would be used to deploy “cutting-edge technology solutions” that streamline the movement of goods across the firm’s local and international warehouses and carriers.

Jordan’s ISSF invests $5 million in Global Ventures’ Fund III 

The Innovative Startups and SMEs Fund in Jordan has invested $5 million in Global Ventures’ Fund III.  

Founded in 2018 by Noor Sweid, Global Ventures is a series-A focused, emerging-market VC firm with $300 million in assets under management, investing in mission-driven founders across the MENA region.  

The ISSF, established in 2017 by the World Bank and the Central Bank of Jordan, supports Jordanian startups through direct investments and venture capital fund investments. 

Mohammed Al-Muhtaseb, ISSF CEO, expressed optimism about the collaboration, describing it as aligning with the company’s “vision” for Jordanian ecosystem that includes capitalizing on local talent. 

“We are happy to welcome Global Ventures Fund III to our portfolio of funds. They have demonstrated deep belief in the Jordanian ecosystem, having invested in several Jordanian companies from previous funds,” he added.

UAE’s Hala expands into Egyptian market with MwaslaTech partnership 

Khaled Nuseibeh, CEO at Hala, and Yasser Sedky, CEO at MwaslaTech, signing the agreement. Supplied

UAE-based mobility company Hala has announced its entry into the Egyptian market through a partnership with MwaslaTech.  

Hala, established in 2019 through a joint venture between Careem and Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority, has signed a memorandum of understanding with MwaslaTech, a provider of smart transport and shared mobility solutions.  

Hala aims to introduce an e-hailing taxi solution and leverage advanced technologies to enhance the travel experience in Egypt, particularly in new cities such as the New Administrative Capital. 

Khaled Nuseibeh, CEO at Hala, highlighted the strategic significance of this expansion.  

“This is a proud moment for all of us at Hala as we pursue new and exciting opportunities beyond the UAE for the first time and commence our ambitious expansion into the MENAT region,” Nuseibeh stated.  

“We are pleased to partner with a trusted industry leader, MwaslaTech, for this pivotal next step in our growth journey. Our experience and reputation for reliability in the UAE will enable us to deliver first-rate transportation solutions in Egypt,” he added. 

Qatar’s Startup Grind partners with Builder.ai to support local startups 

Qatar-based startup community Startup Grind Qatar has partnered with the UK’s Builder.ai, an AI-powered composable software platform, to digitally empower local businesses and entrepreneurs. 

Through this collaboration, Qatar-based startups will gain access to Builder.ai’s platform and expertise, enabling them to streamline their development processes, accelerate time-to-market, and efficiently scale their businesses. 

Varghese Cherian, chief revenue officer of Builder.ai, expressed enthusiasm about the partnership. 

“We are excited to join forces with Startup Grind Qatar to empower local startups with the tools and resources they need to succeed in today's competitive market,” Cherian said. 

“At Builder.ai, we are committed to supporting entrepreneurship and fostering innovation, and this partnership exemplifies our dedication to driving digital transformation and growth within the Qatar startup community,” he added. 

MENA VC landscape sees 33% increase in investors: MAGNiTT   

Investor numbers in the Middle East and North Africa’s venture capital ecosystem saw an annual increase of 33 percent in the first half of 2024, new data revealed.  

According to a report from venture data platform MAGNiTT, rising sentiment spurred a 130 percent increase in the number of funds launched in the MENA region during this period.   

Data revealed that despite the increase in investors, only $768 million in funding was poured into regional startups, a drop of 34 percent year on year.   

The total number of deals reached 211, an 18 percent decline in the first half of the year, while exits plummeted by 63 percent to just 10.     

E-commerce was the most funded sector with $244 million in funding, while fintech was the industry of choice in terms of deal count.     

The Public Investment Fund’s Sanabil Investments was the most active investor in the region with $57 million in capital deployed.    

Saudi startups garnered the most funding in the first half with $412 million, followed by the UAE with $225 million, and Egypt with $86 million. However, all these markets saw a drop of 7, 19, and 75 percent, respectively.     

Morocco and Kuwait joined the top five list with $17 million and $14 million, respectively.     

In terms of deal count, the UAE topped the list with 83 transactions, an 11 percent annual increase. Saudi Arabia followed with 63 deals, a 3 percent drop, Egypt with 28, a 15 percent decrease, and Morocco and Bahrain with 10 and 7, respectively.    


Oil Updates – prices rise on cooling US inflation but heading for weekly dip

Oil Updates – prices rise on cooling US inflation but heading for weekly dip
Updated 12 July 2024
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Oil Updates – prices rise on cooling US inflation but heading for weekly dip

Oil Updates – prices rise on cooling US inflation but heading for weekly dip

SINGAPORE: Oil prices inched up on Friday amid signs of easing inflationary pressures in the world’s biggest oil consumer, the US, though the contracts were headed for a weekly decline, according to Reuters.

Brent crude futures rose 33 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $85.73 a barrel by 6:00 a.m. Saudi time. US West Texas Intermediate crude futures climbed 46 cents, or 0.6 percent, to $83.08 a barrel.

Both contracts gained in the prior two sessions but were still poised for weekly declines.

Brent futures were set to fall about 1 percent week-on-week following four weeks of gains. WTI futures were broadly stable on a weekly basis, set for a 0.1 percent dip.

Investor confidence was bolstered after data on Thursday showed US consumer prices fell in June, stoking hopes that the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates soon. Lower rates are expected to boost economic growth which would help raise fuel consumption.

However, the market is still awaiting clearer signs of action. While Fed Chair Jerome Powell acknowledged the recent improving trend in price pressures, he told lawmakers that more data was needed to strengthen the case for rate cuts.

“Cooling US inflation numbers may support the case for the Fed to kickstart its policy easing process earlier rather than later, but it also adds to the series of downside surprises in US economic data, which points to a clear weakening of the US economy,” said Yeap Jun Rong, market strategist at IG.

Indications of strong summer fuel demand in the US also kept prices buoyed.

US gasoline demand was at 9.4 million barrels per day in the week ended July 5, the highest for the week that includes the Independence Day holiday since 2019, government data showed on Wednesday. Jet fuel demand on a four-week average basis was at its strongest since January 2020.

“The market will remain rangebound, paralyzed by opposing forces of expected demand recovery fueled by an anticipation of a strong summer for fuels consumption... but sentiment remains pegged by ongoing economic weakness and uncertain demand recovery,” said Emril Jamil, senior oil analyst at LSEG.

The strong fuel demand encouraged US refiners to ramp up activity and draw from crude oil stockpiles. US Gulf Coast refiners’ net input of crude rose last week to more than 9.4 million bpd for the first time since January 2019, government data showed. 


How Saudi Arabia’s KAUST is pushing the envelope on Generative AI possibilities

How Saudi Arabia’s KAUST is pushing the envelope on Generative AI possibilities
Updated 12 July 2024
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How Saudi Arabia’s KAUST is pushing the envelope on Generative AI possibilities

How Saudi Arabia’s KAUST is pushing the envelope on Generative AI possibilities
  • Launch of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology’s Center of Excellence was announced on July 1
  • The goal is to find solutions aligned with four national priority areas outlined in Kingdom’s RDIA Vision 2030

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah University of Science and Technology is joining the global artificial intelligence race by accelerating generative AI research and development through models that align with the Kingdom’s Research Development and Innovation Authority’s Vision 2030.

“Generative AI (GenAI) is on its way to transform every aspect of our civilization and has already started doing so. It will be central to the future development of (Saudi Arabia), with a plethora of applications in health care, industry, energy, sustainability and entertainment, among many others,” Bernard Ghanem, chair of the Center of Excellence in Generative AI at KAUST, told Arab News.

On July 1, KAUST announced the launch of its Center of Excellence (CoE) on Generative AI, which intends to be the premier research, development, and innovation hub for pioneering generative AI technology aimed at addressing the most pressing challenges faced by the Kingdom and the world.

KAUST's new Center of Excellence (CoE) on Generative AI aims to be the premier research, development, and innovation hub for pioneering generative AI technology in the Kingdom. (KAUST photo)

“The KAUST GenAI CoE will push the envelope on what is possible with GenAI, in terms of technical capabilities, applications and real-world impact,” Ghanem said.

“We envision that the CoE will play a major role in boosting and expediting the GenAI landscape in the Kingdom and the world at large, leading to an explosion of new models with real-world applications in the four national priority R&D sectors identified by the Kingdom.”

KAUST’s mission is to enable GenAI research and development through GenAI models to find solutions aligned with the four national priority areas outlined in the Kingdom’s RDIA Vision 2030: Health and wellness; sustainability and essential needs; energy and industrials; and economies of the future.

“Throughout its lifetime, the GenAI CoE will work with partners in the Kingdom and the world to identify specific challenges to tackle within each of the four RDI pillars,” Ghanem said.

Bernard Ghanem, chair of the Center of Excellence in Generative AI at KAUST. (KAUST photo)

He outlined KAUST GenAI CoE’s strategies for using GenAI in the Kingdom’s priority research and development areas.

For health and wellness, the center aims to develop a GenAI multi-modal foundation model designed for clinical image analysis as well as establish a GenAI-based drug design and development pipeline for the Arab population.

In line with sustainability, KAUST GenAI CoE is working to develop GenAI foundation models for Earth observation data from satellite inputs as well as using the set foundation models for insights about Earth observation, with emphasis on specific-use cases including agricultural informatics, ecosystem assessment, and weather forecasting and prediction.

On energy and industries, Ghanem explained that the center of excellence was developing and specializing in GenAI foundational models in the domain of chemistry.

​KAUST’s mission is to enable GenAI research and development to find solutions on health and wellness, sustainability and essential needs, energy and industrials, and economies of the future. (Shutterstock image)

The center is using “foundation models for chemical reaction optimization (i.e., discovering the optimal chemical setup for a reaction to produce the best outcomes) and advanced material discovery and synthesis (i.e., combining GenAI models with an automated robotic chemistry lab for significantly expedited real-world discovery).”

Finally, in its mission to build the economies of the future, the GenAI Center of Excellence is developing and specializing in multi-modal GenAI models for business and government transformation. Through this, it aims to create GenAI models for the education sector such as intelligent tutoring for students and teacher assistance.

Ghanem said that the work in GenAI also extended to establishing “more expressive and more efficient GenAI models for visual content creation to support the growing creative industry such as social media, gaming, and entertainment in general.”

“The prospects of GenAI in creating massive value are supported by recent reports that expect this technology to conservatively add to the world economy a market size of several hundreds of billions of USD by 2030 and to significantly contribute to Saudi Arabia’s GDP by 2030,” Ghanem said. 

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Ghanem explained that this mission would be executed through three main pillars: “The innovation of general-purpose GenAI models that are endowed with properties needed for ubiquitous, efficient and trustworthy deployment, the specialization of these models for solutions in all four pillars of the RDIA … and the delivery of the Kingdom’s ambition to accelerate the adoption of GenAI in the Kingdom by focusing on translational research and talent development.” 

With advances in Gen AI, new concerns are raised about the technology’s negative societal impacts, such as data privacy, environmental sustainability, and disparities in quality and coverage across regions and cultures. 

The KAUST CoE plans to address these concerns through its research projects on GenAI trustworthiness, efficient training and inference, and Arabic language model development. 

Ghanem underlined their mission in these projects to “usher in the next phase of GenAI technological evolution headlined by trustworthiness, internationalization, open access, and less environmental impact.” 

The GenAI CoE also intends to focus on making a positive impact through GenAI training and upskilling programs for KAUST researchers, partners, and the general public. Through their training outreach initiatives, the CoE hopes to address the shortage of GenAI talent in Saudi Arabia. 

File photo showing participants in the World Artificial Intelligence Competition for Youth held at KAUST in Thuwal last year. KAUST has emphasized the importance of such competitions in fostering AI skills and knowledge among young people. (SPA)

In a press statement, the center recognized that much more will be needed in the way of training, especially at the national level, “to truly drive significant impact in this aspect.” 

When asked what scientific, technical and upskilling challenges need to be addressed to advance the Saudi GenAI sector, Ghanem spoke of the importance of “access to large-scale data, talent development, GenAI hardware infrastructure, and GenAI Investment. 

“The GenAI ecosystem in the Kingdom is young and flourishing, and much progress has been made so far. However, several challenges still remain,” Ghanem said. 

“Arguably, one main reason why popular GenAI tools perform so well right now is their access to large-scale data for training and fine-tuning. Getting access to such volumes of data is crucial for future GenAI development in the Kingdom. Although efforts are ongoing in this respect within Saudi Arabia, more can be done to open source data from various organizations and entities.” 

KAUST's also aims to create GenAI models for the education sector such as intelligent tutoring for students and teacher assistance. (Shutterstock image)

Developing a suitable GenAI environment in Saudi Arabia, Ghanem said, “will require a mass-scale talent development program (i.e., GenAI for the masses). This includes access to higher education in the field, but more importantly, it is based on short-term and focused training programs that teach the essentials of GenAI development to non-experts.” 

Ghanem believes that having access to large-scale data and sizable local talent is not enough for a thriving GenAI ecosystem. 

“Access to specialized hardware accelerators (e.g., high-end GPUs) is paramount for GenAI large-scale training and mass inference. Unfortunately, without access to enough of this hardware infrastructure, progress will be dampened, and the ecosystem will not progress and deliver impact in a timely manner,” he said.

On the topic of GenAI investment, Ghanem explained that healthy investment in this sector for homegrown and internationally competitive technology and commercial solutions is essential for a thriving and self-sustaining GenAI ecosystem. 

“While there are efforts in this respect currently ongoing, more concerted efforts can be made to address this challenge in such a fast-paced and ever-evolving field,” he said. 

“Through the CoE, new GenAI models will be developed and deployed to tackle the most pressing national and global challenges. We will do so while maintaining the utmost levels of AI ethical standards, by enforcing key values (e.g., fairness, safety and trustworthiness) in our R&D pipelines.”
 

 


Investment ministry signs MoU with Saudia Group to support investors

The Kingdom’s Ministry of Investment signed a memorandum of understanding with the Saudia Group on Thursday. (@MISA)
The Kingdom’s Ministry of Investment signed a memorandum of understanding with the Saudia Group on Thursday. (@MISA)
Updated 11 July 2024
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Investment ministry signs MoU with Saudia Group to support investors

The Kingdom’s Ministry of Investment signed a memorandum of understanding with the Saudia Group on Thursday. (@MISA)
  • The MoU will contribute to the Kingdom’s efforts to create an attractive investment environment, the ministry said

RIYADH: The Kingdom’s Ministry of Investment signed a memorandum of understanding with the Saudia Group on Thursday to provide quality services and support to investors.

The MoU will contribute to the Kingdom’s efforts to create an attractive investment environment, the ministry said. 

Saudia Group is an aviation conglomerate and consists of a diverse portfolio, comprising 12 strategic business units which all support the advancement of the aviation sector in the Kingdom and the Middle East and North Africa region.

The partnership will improve travel procedures and logistical services for investors and provide private aviation and concierge services to meet their needs in various sectors. 


Saudi Arabia’s civil aviation sector sees 17% surge in passenger numbers

Saudi Arabia’s civil aviation sector sees 17% surge in passenger numbers
Updated 11 July 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s civil aviation sector sees 17% surge in passenger numbers

Saudi Arabia’s civil aviation sector sees 17% surge in passenger numbers

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s civil aviation sector experienced a 17 percent annual surge to 62 million passengers in the first half of 2024, amidst increasing domestic and international travel demand. 

According to official statements from the General Authority of Civil Aviation, the period also recorded a total of 446,000 flights, marking a 12 percent increase compared to 2023 figures. 

Moreover, air cargo traffic through the Kingdom’s airports also saw an uptick, soaring by 41 percent to 606,000 tonnes during the same period. 

This aligns with the Kingdom’s aviation goals, which include tripling annual passenger numbers to 330 million, expanding connectivity to over 250 destinations from its 29 airports, and increasing air freight capacity to 4.5 million tonnes of cargo per year by 2030. 

Additionally, King Khalid International Airport led the growth trajectory with 17.7 million passengers, reflecting a 21 percent increase year-on-year, and 132,000 flights, up by 15 percent from the previous year. 

Similarly, King Abdulaziz International Airport recorded a 16 percent rise in passengers to 24 million and 148,000 flights, indicating a 13 percent increase.  

Furthermore, King Fahad International Airport saw 6 million passengers in the first half, a 15 percent year-on-year growth rate. The airport handled 45,000 flights during the same period, also reflecting a 15 percent growth rate compared to the first six months of 2023. 

The Prince Mohammed Bin Abdulaziz International Airport recorded 5.6 million passengers in the first half of the year, reflecting a 20 percent rise compared to the corresponding period in 2023. The airport handled 39,000 flights during this period, up 22 percent from a year earlier.

Meanwhile, the Kingdom’s other airports combined recorded a total of 8.8 million passengers in the first six months, reflecting a 16 percent increase compared to the same period in 2023. The number of flights at these airports totaled 83,000, up 11 percent from the same timeframe in 2023. 

The 13th meeting of the Aviation Sector Strategy Activation Steering Committee, chaired by the President of the GACA, discussed recent advancements in strategy implementation and highlighted the sector’s record-breaking achievements and unprecedented milestones in the first half of 2024.