Applying for Saudi entertainment license simplified with new online system

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Siham Hassanain, president and founder of Siham International Trading Company, represented her company at the Invest in Entertainment event in Riyadh. (Photo/Supplied)
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Investors in the entertainment sector during the speed networking meeting in Riyadh. (Photo/Supplied)
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Investors in the entertainment sector during the speed networking meeting in Riyadh. (Photo/Supplied)
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Updated 30 August 2019

Applying for Saudi entertainment license simplified with new online system

  • The Kingdom hopes to stimulate investment in the entertainment sector and enhance economic activity

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority has launched a new online system to simplify the process for applying for entertainment licenses. Investors and other interested parties gathered on Wednesday at a special launch event to find out more about the new application portal and the range of licenses recently introduced.

“The purpose of offering this range of licenses is to encourage investment in the entertainment sector, which is a vital and promising sector,” said Sultan Al-Fakeer, the GEA’s chief operations officer. He added that the new online platform offers a clear and simple system through which to apply for the licenses.

The permits are part of the efforts the Kingdom is making to stimulate investment in the entertainment sector and enhance economic activity to help achieve the strategic objectives of Vision 2030. The GEA this year introduced entertainment seasons in each city and region and is encouraging local investors and small and medium businesses to participate. The online license-application portal is part of the efforts being made to make this as easy as possible.

Investors in the entertainment sector during the speed networking meeting in Riyadh. (Photo/Supplied)

Hundreds of investors and others with interests in the entertainment sector, including stakeholders from the government and private sectors, attended the Invest in Entertainment event on Wednesday at the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Center. It offered them a chance to network and build contacts, and GEA officials were on hand to explain the new online licensing system and the procedures for obtaining permits. These cover a wide range of entertainment-related activities and venues, including live shows and performances, events, theme parks, entertainment centers, leisure facilities, live entertainment in coffee shops and restaurants, organizing and managing crowds, selling tickets, talent management and operating entertainment facilities.

“With this exhibition, we created a speed networking meeting format to accelerate business contacts and exchange information for future cooperation,” said Al-Fakeer. “There are plans to take this exhibition to other cities in the Kingdom during the coming year.”

Most of the investors invited to the information and networking event were from Saudi Arabia, he said.

The purpose of offering this range of licenses is to encourage investment in the entertainment sector, which is a vital and promising sector.

Sultan Al-Fakeer, GEA chief operations officer

“Another exhibition will be launched soon for both Saudi and foreign investors to attract international and local investments in Saudi Arabia,” Al-Fakeer added.

Siham Hassanain, the president and founder of Siham International Trading Company, said she took part in the event to connect with investors, as her goal is to create an international Saudi brand operating to the highest of standards.

“We have been in the market for 11 years,” she said. “Our head office is in Jeddah and we specialize in restaurants, catering and branding. We focus on creating local restaurants following international standards.”

Hassanain — whose brands include restaurants Zodiac Cuisine and Kooz Karak, and nail spa Milk and Butter — said that she was happy to attend the event because working with the GEA as part of Jeddah Season had been a positive experience for her company. 

She added that she will also be participating in Riyadh Season, and her first restaurant in London is due to open next month.

Saudi pursuit of ‘green Kingdom’ goal gets a boost

Updated 18 November 2019

Saudi pursuit of ‘green Kingdom’ goal gets a boost

  • Agreement between agriculture ministry and Dubai's ICBA aimed at conserving natural resources
  • Kingdom's biosaline agriculture research and systems stands to benefit from ICBA's expertise

DUBAI: Agricultural development and environmental sustainability in Saudi Arabia will receive a boost in the coming years, thanks to a new agreement between the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) in Dubai and the Saudi Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture.

The agreement aims to enable Saudi Arabia to achieve its goal of preservation and sustainable management of its natural resources by raising the quality of biosaline agriculture research and systems.

The ministry says that the agreement will make use of the ICBA’s expertise in capacity development besides agricultural and environmental research, especially in the fields of vegetation development, combating desertification and climate change adaptation.

“It also includes training programs for Saudi technicians and farmers,” the ministry said. “In addition, it will localize, implement and develop biosaline agriculture research and production systems for both crops and forestation, which contributes to environmental and agricultural integration.”

Dr. Ismahane Elouafi, the ICBA’s director general, told Arab News: “The agreement had been in the making for about two years. That was when we were approached by the Saudi government.”

Dr. Ismahane Elouafi, ICBA Director General, at the center's Quinoa fields in Dubai. (Supplied photo)

She said: “We put forward a proposal to demonstrate how the ICBA can help the Saudi government to implement its Green Kingdom Initiative, through which the ministry is trying to restore green coverage in the country and revive old conservation practices.”

Geographical features and climatic conditions very greatly from one part of the country to the other.

In the past, experimentation with such crops as potatoes, wheat and alfalfa proved detrimental to the Kingdom’s environment and natural resources due to faster rates of groundwater withdrawal.

“The ministry wanted to put a halt to over-abstraction of water, so they went through different policies,” Elouafi said.

“They made sure, for example, that farmers stopped producing wheat because about 2,400 liters of water is consumed to produce 1 kg of wheat. It was a huge amount,” she added.

“The new strategy is to find more appropriate crops for the farming community, which is quite large in the Kingdom.”

Saudi Arabia has been trying to grow its own food on a large scale since the 1980s. 

The objective of the Green Kingdom Initiative is to reduce the agricultural sector’s water demand by finding alternatives to thirsty crops.

The agreement will require the ICBA, over the next five years, to build for Saudi Arabia a new biosaline agriculture sector. 

As part of this shift, cultivation of a number of crops, notably quinoa, pearl millet and sorghum, will be piloted in high-salinity regions and then scaled up.

“The crops did very well in the UAE,” Elouafi said. “We’re looking at Sabkha regions, which have very high salinity and wetlands, and are on the ministry’s environmental agenda.”

Another objective is “smart” agriculture, which will involve raising water productivity, controlling irrigation water consumption and changing farming behavior.

Elouafi said that getting farmers in the Kingdom to stop cultivating wheat took some time as they had become accustomed to heavy government subsidies. In 2015, wheat production was phased out, followed by potatoes a year later and then alfalfa. 

“Farmers were provided everything to the point where they got used to a very good income and a very easy system,” she said.

“Now farmers are being asked to start producing something else, but the income won’t be the same, so it’s very important at this stage that the ministry has a plan and it’s fully understood.”

The agreement envisages preparation of proposals for ministry projects that involve plant production, drought monitoring, development of promising local crop and forestation varieties, and conservation of plant genetic resources.

“We’re also discussing capacity building because the ministry is big and has many entities. Because Saudi Arabia is a large country and has the capacity to meet some of its food requirements internally, what’s required is a better understanding of the country’s natural capabilities in terms of production of the crops it needs, like certain cereals,” Elouafi said.

“The way the authorities are going about it right now is more organized and more holistic. They’re trying to plan it properly.”

Elouafi said that having a better understanding of Saudi Arabia’s water constraints and managing the precious resource is essential.


Although almost the entire country is arid, there is rainfall in the north and along the mountain range to the west, especially in the far southwest, which receives monsoon rains in summer.


Sporadic rain may also occur elsewhere. Sometimes it is very heavy, causing serious flooding, including in Riyadh.

“They (the government) are very interested in drought management systems. The Kingdom has a long history of agriculture,” Elouafi said.

“It has large quantities of water in terms of rainfall, and certain regions have mountainous conditions, which are conducive to agriculture.”

Clearly, preservation of water resources is a priority for the Saudi government. But no less urgent is the task of conversion of green waste to improve soil quality, increase soil productivity and water retention, and reduce demand for irrigation.

The Kingdom is one of at least three Gulf Cooperation Council countries that are taking steps to develop a regulatory framework for the recycling of waste into compost.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Oman are respectively aiming to recycle 85 percent, 75 percent and 60 percent of their municipal solid waste over the next decade, according to a report by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) entitled “Global Food Trends to 2030.”

Saudi Arabia and the UAE rank in the bottom quartile of the 34 countries covered by the EIU’s Food Sustainability Index, with low scores for nutrition and food loss and waste. 

The answer, according to many farmers, policymakers and food-industry experts, is a shift toward more sustainable management of each country’s natural resources.