Women’s inclusion and empowerment in tech is the most audacious and bold reform story in the 21st century, pointed out minister AlSwaha. Saudi Arabia has increased women’s tech participation from seven percent to 32 percent, which is higher than the EU, G20, and Silicon Valley average.
Harnessing Investment Opportunities
Exploring capital deployment opportunities in Saudi Arabia is crucial for Citigroup, the third-biggest US bank, as it sets office in the Kingdom after shutting down operations in 2001. It is doing so amid a lot of disruptions and global dislocation. Jane Fraser, the CEO of Citigroup, said that the opportunities on the ground are pertinent to the bank as it takes the bold step of entering the Kingdom. In the post-COVID world, what’s happening in Saudi Arabia is breathtaking, said Fraser, who pointed out that the country leading the way in many transitions is impressive. Women’s empowerment and participation in the labor force, including economic and societal opportunities for women and investing in the engendering of the energy transition, is remarkable. She described Vision 2030 as a pertinent long-term vision at a point in the world where there is a genuine desire for long-term investment opportunities.
Citigroup has opportunities in the Saudi Arabian Government leading the private sector, which allows the bank to deploy capital in SMEs and middle market companies. Such investments will lead to building the ecosystem of different industries within the country as Saudi Arabia diversifies from oil, pointed out Fraser, who said that Aramco’s investments in hydrogen are another vital leapfrogging moment of leading the way for the world.
As a leading global bank, what Citigroup sees in a dislocated world is a country with an actual vision, its execution, and the possibilities in the country’s future. Being an innovative beacon for the middle east and elsewhere in the world will make Saudi Arabia very attractive for capital flows in and out of the country and for entrepreneurs who want to come in and participate in the vision-centered transition and progress that the Kingdom is accelerating.
Best practices on gender equity and social, financial, and infrastructure reforms around the globe influenced Vision 2023 content. Saudi Arabia looked at how it could leapfrog and do better than other countries in this regard.
Strengthening the Future of Industry and Mining
Strategy, science, and implementation have been vital to sustaining the Kingdom’s industry which is witnessing rapid transformation and the potential to attract investors from around the world. Bandar Alkhorayef, Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources in Saudi Arabia, said that the country has a solid industrial base powered by the strategy to constantly drive it to the next level. The government aims to create an agile, competitive, and sustainable industrial economy. While the Kingdom has big targets in terms of GDP, export, and investment for the sectors, the mix of added value products, the complexity within the industry, and its export strength allow the country to navigate the challenges. The changes the government has introduced lately aim to fulfill local demand and resilience. Exporting petrochemical and value-added petrochemicals and mineral-based products is vital in this regard—the country bets on technology and advanced manufacturing methods leading to heavy investments in those areas.
Mining is a relatively new sector in Saudi Arabia. Being a weighty sector to move, the country prides itself on using science to advance it and thereby become a vocal participant in the global mining community. Realizing the bad practices the industry has generated, the Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources of Saudi Arabia launched the Future Mineral Forum in 2022. It brought together all the stakeholders like governments, mining companies, financial institutions, think tanks, research institutions, and academia on a single platform in Riyadh to drive innovation and thought leadership. The Forum intends to provide dynamic insights that propel the development of the industry in line with strict environmental, social, and governance principles, the future of mining.
Frederick Kempe – What can Saudi Arabia do to lead global collaboration in energy and food security?
The world has lived through three decades since dismantling the Soviet bloc, which led to an integration of the global economy that gave an impetus to elevate the standards of people living everywhere. The world economy tripled. Emerging market developing economies quadrupled and doubled in advanced economies during those three decades. But now, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, that peace dividend of 30-plus years is gone, and the world realizes that it lives in a shock-prone world. What are the impacts?
There has been a reversal of the global achievement of reducing poverty and hunger globally. Today those numbers are increasing, and unless the countries realize that such a scenario is morally wrong and go on to undermine security across the board and take action, everyone will end up living in a worse world than the past few decades. What does it mean for Saudi Arabia? One is increasing people’s well-being by growing the world economy, which can develop faster in integrated economies and an environment of heavy cross-border trade. It’s fundamental to identify the necessity to improve the resilience of supply chains and the security of supply methods, but not drive it to the point that makes the world poorer. An IMF study has shown that if we are careful in adapting to the security issues surrounding supply chains, it would cost a mere 0.2 percent of the global GDP. If, on the other hand, countries are prone to adopt protectionist mechanisms on a mass scale, it would cost the world seven percent of its GDP, a value of seven trillion dollars which is far too much on a global scale. Saudi Arabia could be the conduit spearheading global integration as it does today.
Count on Saudi Arabia to lead and help adapt to a changing climate, not only in transitioning to clean energy but in realizing how to feed the world population when water is running short. The Kingdom could also spearhead sustainable agriculture/how agricultural practices could be made more sustainable. Saudi Arabia is already doing research in that area.
Generosity – Those who have more have a responsibility to help those who don’t and do so in a prudent way. Saudi Arabia’s focus on reforms is most welcoming because rather than giving money to countries that squander them in bad programs, it is working together to uplift the economies and be generous to those who need that generosity.
Saudi Arabia’s focus on reforms is most welcoming because rather than giving money to countries that squander them in bad programs, it is working together to uplift the economies and be generous to those who need that generosity.
Frederick Kempe – The visit of President Xi Jinping to SA in December 2022 made headlines because the China summit led to the two countries signing investment agreements worth $50 billion, which also marked a shift in the geopolitical dynamics. What role will this shift play for Saudi Arabia?
Mohammed Al-Jadaan, Minister of Finance of Saudi Arabia
China is Saudi Arabia’s largest trading partner, with the US being a decisive strategic partner. At the same time, the Kingdom looks to enhance its relations with Europe and advance relations with Latin America and Asia, thereby reinforcing its aim of being the force to bridge the divide and power of communication. Some of the Kingdom’s initiatives through the G20 have been to bridge the differences of opinion for the world’s greater good. They include the G20 Common Framework for Debt Treatments to help low-income countries at high risk of debt distress. Help find solutions to the world food crisis by launching the Food Security Action Plan with an initial funding of $10 billion to tackle the global food supply crisis. Guided by Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia is ensuring energy security by spearheading the energy transition in the Middle East by investing in the Saudi Green Initiative. Thus, the country demonstrates its commitment to playing its part in the global economy.
Frederick Kempe – It has been challenging to be the Saudi Ambassador to the United States when the Biden administration expressed displeasure with Saudi Arabia’s decision to slash oil production. In the future, how will the relationship between the two countries evolve? Where is it now?
Princess Reema Bandar Al-Saud
It goes without saying that whether it’s Saudi-US relations or Saudi and any other country relations, there are highs and lows. But the important thing is to realize that the US and Saudi Arabia are strategic partners. The two countries have been friends for over 80 years and have stood by each other where it mattered, some moments being public while others being private. But this relationship will continue because it’s a mutually beneficial relationship that creates a stable world that has played out in times of conflict, pandemic, mobilization of G20 for COVID relief and debt relief, and counter-terrorism. Why does the world not see headlines on terrorism anymore? There’s peace and prosperity across the globe because the collaboration between the US and Saudi Arabia continues to endure strongly. There are moments of conflict and disagreement, but that doesn’t negate the fact that both countries are strategic allies and friends, and it’s a friendship that’s critical to the world.
The US is one of the strongest economies in the world, while Saudi Arabia is one of the strongest economies in the Middle East. And it is to the global benefit that the two countries maintain a strong relationship.
It may be sometimes tough to be the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to Washington, a job that I carry with profound pride not because I’m the first woman in the role but because the legacy of the relationship makes it very personal. Saudi students travel to the US for education, and the best in today’s Saudi Government have studied in the US. Hence, Saudi has a debt to the US and vice versa. A debt that the two countries don’t hold each accountable for, as it’s for the greater good.
Frederick Kempe – What can be done collectively and globally to ensure inclusion in the digital future, and can SA scale to contribute to the global digital picture?
The Kingdom should be a global force for integration. When it comes to scaling digital solutions for the wider region, the report released by the DCO chair of the Kingdom laid the roadmap called the 3Cs – common framework, collective action, and collaborative tools.
Twelve years ago, I received Mohammed bin Salman’s Misk Foundation’s support for entrepreneurs. That helped me be part of a group that launched a health tech and telemedicine solution for the world today, powering more than 50 million virtual consultations within the region and saving thousands of lives. Saudi’s minister of health and healthcare fraternity has taken it to the next level by launching the Saudi Virtual Hospital. Their impact on the region is impressive. Through the Door to Needle initiative for stroke patients, the healthcare ecosystem achieved the capability of preparing the theatre and performing an operation within 25 to 60 minutes to prevent total paralysis. And that was a capability that Saudi Arabia could deliver to the region. These are a few examples of how the Kingdom is an example of a force to reckon with in generating global integration in technology.
Frederick Kempe – Given the risks of recession and global instability, what do you see as the highest priority pathways to addressing that in 2023?
Different countries are at very different positions at the moment, which may lead to a rolling series of country-specific recessions worldwide. Market-friendly measures in China and the economy opening are essential to the world. The US is experiencing a solid labor market and is managing the recession. High levels of interest rates and central bank tightening will continue. Saudi Arabia’s role in the global economy
is more than being a role model where others in the middle east can also gain in their ability to face some of the longer-term impacts. I have spent time discussing the situation in Africa regarding food security with many in Saudi Arabia. In a dislocated and challenging world, the leadership role that Saudi Arabia can play, given its economic strength and dynamics, can be essential in providing solutions to longer-term issues. In contrast, others focus more on tactical or pressing immediate issues.
Frederick Kempe – How will you achieve the substantial strategic industry ambitions, especially the goals to triple the country’s domestic industrial product and double the value of industrial exports? Are these achievable?
We are confident in achieving the country’s targets given the enormous opportunities in industry and mining. The country’s ambitions are beyond the local market. Saudi Arabia’s petrochemical industry represents more than six percent of the global market and exports 85 percent of its petrochemical products. The math shows how much of that massive export volume could add value within the country, demonstrating the significant input by Saudi Arabia to growth with downstream chemicals.
As part of Saudi Arabia’s National Industrial Strategy, the government will spearhead the expansion of 12 strategic industrial sectors in which opportunities have been identified for growth and increased competition at the regional and international levels, adding to the Kingdom’s resilience in ensuring food and medicine security. Therefore, Saudi Arabia is mindful that two crucial aspects should fuel its growth ambitions. One is technology. The country is creating an ecosystem, a regulatory framework, and, most importantly, encouraging the private sector to invest in the right technology to allow production facilities to produce beyond the global average. The second and most crucial bet is the wealth of human capital, which is tremendous in terms of their engagements and ability to engage in new technology and grow and create. And adding their capacity to the ecosystem the country is developing and how it will enable the government to build on its human capital. There is an emphasis on the execution and engagement of women. In addition to that, youth engagement in Saudi Arabia is tremendous. The young have an enormous interest in what the government is doing. They understand what the government is doing. They question what the government is doing.