Saudi Arabia leads the way ‘in toughest G20 presidency’

Kirill Dmitriev is CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund. (Photo credit: Kremlin.ru)
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Updated 18 November 2020

Saudi Arabia leads the way ‘in toughest G20 presidency’

  • Russian investment partner praises Saudi leadership of the forum in the midst of the pandemic

LONDON: Kirill Dmitriev is the CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, the country’s sovereign wealth fund which has close ties and joint investments with Saudi Arabia. He was awarded the King Abdul Aziz Order of Merit for his services to cooperation between the two countries. He tells Arab News what Russia is expecting from the G20 summit.

Q: From your perspective, what do you hope to see emerge from G20 summit in Riyadh? 

A: We believe that G20 should take a lead on international cooperation against the COVID-19 pandemic. At this point, it is clear that several working vaccines are the only way to achieve victory over the pandemic.

Currently there are 10 vaccines in the final stages of clinical trials and close to production, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, based on the human adenoviral vector platform, is one of them. 

However, no single vaccine will be sufficient for the world. We will need a number of solutions, and countries need to pursue portfolios of vaccines. Countries need several vaccines based on different technologies in their portfolio in order to ensure seamless mass vaccination programs. Obviously, vaccines based on the safe and tested human adenoviral vector platform should be part of this portfolio. 

We hope that G20 may issue clear guidance on future vaccine policy that will help member countries, as well as countries outside the G20, form their portfolios. We are also hoping for decisions that will help to facilitate vaccine global production ramp-up so that there are enough vaccines to start mass vaccination in the world already early next year. 

Q: The Saudi presidency has been conducted amid the COVID crisis. How do you think the Saudi leadership handled it? 

A: Obviously, it has been the toughest G20 presidency since the creation of the Group of Twenty, but I think that the Saudi leadership and, personally, King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman have done a formidable job pushing through the G20 agenda. I would like to stress the role that G20 under the leadership of Saudi Arabia played in stabilizing the oil markets in April 2020 through supporting the OPEC+ agreement to cut production. Taken in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was a historic decision that helped the global economy to avoid the turbulence that would have been unavoidable if oil prices had slipped to $10 per barrel. 

Q: If you were drafting the G20 communique, what would be the one essential item? 

A: We think that the G20 communique will include recommendations on the economic recovery plan. However, the recovery will depend largely on how soon COVID-19 vaccines will become available. Mass vaccination will help to resume economic activity and return to growth in many sectors of the economy. Markets have already shown some optimism. We have just seen a rally, triggered by positive news on vaccines’ efficacy data, including vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and Sputnik V. With that in mind, the communique may also include some guidance on future vaccine policy.

Q: What is the latest on the Sputnik V vaccine? 

A: We had an important announcement on Nov. 11 when we said that the Sputnik V vaccine efficacy amounted to 92 percent. Currently 40,000 volunteers are taking part in double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled Phase III of Sputnik V clinical trials in Russia, out of which over 20,000 have been vaccinated with the first dose of the vaccine, and more than 16,000 with both the first and second doses of the vaccine. 

The vaccine’s efficacy was demonstrated on the basis of first interim analysis obtained 21 days after the first injection. No unexpected adverse events were observed during the trials. Monitoring of the participants is ongoing. 




Under President Vladimir Putin the Kingdom has become an important strategic partner for Russia. (AFP)

The world’s first registration of COVID-19 vaccine, done in Russia on Aug. 11 under the emergency use authorization mechanism, also enabled Russia to start administration of the vaccine outside of the clinical trials to volunteers among high-risk groups such as medics and teachers. 

The interim research data will soon be published by the Gamaleya Center team in one of the leading international peer-reviewed medical journals.

Sputnik V clinical trials are also underway in Belarus, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), India and Venezuela. 

Q: When will Sputnik V become widely available? 

A: The vaccine is currently being produced at four local production sites: The Gamaleya Center itself and three more Russian companies — Binnopharm, Generium and Biocad. We will soon expand the production to two more production sites, which are run by companies R-Pharm and Pharmasyntez. 

The Russian Direct Investment Fund has signed a number of contracts securing the international production of Sputnik in India, Brazil, South Korea and China. Our international partners are able to produce up to 500 million doses a year after the technology transfer is completed and all necessary equipment installed. We are in talks with several leading pharmaceutical companies from the top-30 global list about possible joint production. 

We received preliminary applications for more than 1.2 billion doses of vaccine and signed agreements with 40 partners from 27 countries. We plan to start supplying the vaccine in November-December after local regulatory approvals. Our plan is to supply 32 million doses to Mexico, 50 million to Brazil, 100 million to India, 35 million to Uzbekistan, 25 million to Nepal and 25 million to Argentina. 

According to our survey, the level of trust in a vaccine based on human adenoviral vector (Sputnik V platform) is nine times higher than in other non-human adenoviral vector platforms. 

Q:  How do you see KSA-Russia relations progressing? 

A: The Kingdom remains Russia’s strategic partner. We are looking forward to a long-term partnership with Saudi Arabia on the Sputnik V vaccine. 

There was a visit earlier this year by a delegation from the Saudi Health Ministry to the Gamaleya Center in Moscow. We are already working closely with a partner in the Kingdom, a leading pharmaceutical company. We are sharing information about the Sputnik V with our partners in the Kingdom on a regular basis.


Pakistan's ninth review in order, IMF 'can't dictate' country — finance minister

Updated 03 December 2022

Pakistan's ninth review in order, IMF 'can't dictate' country — finance minister

  • Pakistan awaits a tranche of $500mln from IMF as part of its $7 billion loan program
  • The country is facing a myriad of economic woes and desperately needs forex inflows

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said on Friday that the ninth review of the country's $7 billion loan program was in order and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) "can't dictate" it measures for the release a $500 million tranche. 

The IMF review for the release of its next tranche of funding has been pending since September, which has left Pakistan in dire need of external financing. 

Dar told a Pakistani TV station that all targets for the IMF review had been completed and that withholding a tranche despite that would not make sense. 

"Our ninth review is totally in order... I have reminded them they should come and review and give Pakistan $500 million," the finance minister said. 

"[You] can't dictate." 

Pakistan secured a $6 billion bailout in 2019 under an Extended Fund Facility (EFF), that was topped up with another $1 billion earlier this year. 

The minister said Pakistan's foreign reserves, currently at $7.5 billion, would be shored up with a $3 billion financing from a friendly country in the next two weeks. 

But the reserves at the moment are barely enough for a month of imports for the South Asian nation, facing a widening current account deficit and balance-of-payment crises as well as depreciation of national currency. 

Asked about a delay in the visit of an IMF delegation to Pakistan, Dar said he "didn't care" and he did not want to plead for the visit. 

"If it (money) doesn't come, we will manage, no problem," the minister added. 


As IMF funding delayed, Pakistan expects $3bn from friendly country

Updated 03 December 2022

As IMF funding delayed, Pakistan expects $3bn from friendly country

  • An IMF review for the release of its next tranche of funding has been pending since September
  • Pakistan's finance minister, Ishaq Dar, said all targets for the IMF's ninth review had been completed, adding that withholding a tranche despite that would not make sense

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan expects to secure $3 billion in external financing from a friendly country in two weeks, its finance minister said on Friday as the South Asian country awaits IMF funding.
An International Monetary Fund (IMF) review for the release of its next tranche of funding has been pending since September, leaving Pakistan in dire need of external financing.
Pakistan’s finance minister, Ishaq Dar, said on Friday in an interview with Geo News TV that all targets for the IMF’s ninth review had been completed, adding that withholding a tranche despite that would not make sense.
Pakistan secured a $6 billion bailout in 2019 under an Extended Fund Facility (EFF), that was topped up with another $1 billion earlier this year.
“We continue to engage in discussions with the government over policies to address the humanitarian and rehabilitation needs of the floods while promoting macroeconomic and fiscal sustainability,” the IMF’s resident representative in Pakistan, Esther Perez Ruiz, said in a statement.
Dar said Pakistan’s foreign reserves, which have dropped to $7.5 billion, will be shored up with a $3 billion financing from a friendly country in the next two weeks.
That is hardly enough for a month of imports for Pakistan, which has been facing a widening current account deficit and a balance of payments crisis.
“All the requirements for the ninth (IMF) review are completed,” Dar said, adding that the international lender was “behaving abnormal” by not completing the review.
Pakistan will make alternate arrangements in case of any delay from the IMF, he said.
“If the money doesn’t come, we will manage, no problem,” he added.


Egypt to build 21 desalination plants in phase 1 of scheme -sovereign fund

Updated 01 December 2022

Egypt to build 21 desalination plants in phase 1 of scheme -sovereign fund

  • Egypt also aims to start production at a series of proposed green hydrogen projects in 2025-2026
  • The Sovereign Fund was set up in 2018 with a goal of attracting private investment in state-owned assets through partnerships and co-investments

CAIRO: Egypt plans to award deals next year to build 21 water desalination plants in the first $3 billion phase of a program that will draw on cheap renewable energy, the CEO of the country’s sovereign fund said on Thursday.
Egypt, which recently hosted the COP27 UN climate talks and is trying to boost lagging investment in renewables, also aims to start production at a series of proposed green hydrogen projects in 2025-2026, Ayman Soliman told the Reuters NEXT conference.
Egypt depends almost entirely on the Nile for fresh water, and faces rising water scarcity for its population of 104 million. The desalination program aims to generate 3.3 million cubic meters of water daily in the first phase, and eventually reach 8.8 million cubic meters daily at a cost of $8 billion.
There had been expressions of interest from more than 200 developers from at least 35 countries for the first phase, Soliman said.
The Sovereign Fund was set up in 2018 with a goal of attracting private investment in state-owned assets through partnerships and co-investments.
It is currently focused on getting private consortia to develop brownfield infrastructure, and private equity to develop state-owned enterprises ahead of public listings.
Privatization plans in Egypt have been repeatedly pushed back, with the government blaming delays on economic shocks including the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine as well as on legal obstacles. The plans have also met resistance from advocates of continued state control, analysts say.
’ECONOMIC CONSTITUTION’
Soliman said a state ownership policy that is meant to map out which parts of the economy are open to private investment would serve as the government’s “economic constitution” going forward, and as a platform to crowd in private investment despite the rising cost of capital.
“We as a fund are very sharply focused on trying to find those champions to scale up, be it in agriculture be it in tourism, be it in infrastructure, or be it in banking financial services,” he said.
At the climate talks in Sharm el-Sheikh, the government converted into framework agreements nine of 15 memoranda of understanding (MoU) for green hydrogen projects concentrated in the Suez Canal Economic Zone (SCZONE) that would produce millions of tons of hydrogen and ammonia.
At least another three or four MoUs were close to being converted, and more MoUs were planned, with cheap renewable costs and the scale of the potential fuel export market toward Europe making Egypt competitive, Soliman said.
Framework agreements give developers access to specific locations to allow them to plan production.
“This is not a competition. We are creating a pipeline or a blueprint for that process, aiming to start production in 2025-26 and all the developers are working backwards from there,” Soliman said.
So-called green or clean hydrogen is produced using electrolyzers powered by renewable energy to split water from oxygen. It is seen as a potential future power source that could reduce emissions, though to date it is largely limited to experimental projects. Analysts say challenges facing its growth include high costs and energy inputs, as well as safety concerns.
Egypt’s projects would have desalinated water built in, and quantities required would be negligible compared to those produced under the national desalination scheme, according to the Sovereign Fund.

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World’s first commercial shipment of blue ammonia leaves Saudi Arabia

Updated 01 December 2022

World’s first commercial shipment of blue ammonia leaves Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: A consignment of blue ammonia has left Saudi Arabia for South Korea, representing a new milestone in the development of decarbonization solutions.

The development was first announced during the recent Saudi Green Initiative conference in Sharm El-Sheikh, and Vessel Seasurfer, carrying 25,000 metric tons (25 KMT) of low-carbon blue ammonia, is expected to reach its destination between Dec. 9 and 13 in the world’s first commercial shipment of its kind.

The accomplishment, which is an alternative to conventional gray ammonia, is part of a collaboration between Saudi Basic Industries Corporation Agri-Nutrients and Aramco.

Lotte Fine Chemical, which has a long-standing relationship with SABIC AN, will receive the low-carbon “cradle to gate” blue ammonia.

Abdulrahman Shamsaddin, SABIC AN CEO, said: “This shipment is another milestone in our journey toward carbon neutrality.

“We are proud to be a part of this pioneering solution, paving the way for further decarbonization efforts.

“Looking to the future, we are constantly working on breakthrough solutions to decarbonize our assets and deliver low-carbon solutions to our customers.”

Yong Suk Kim, LFC CEO, said: “We are delighted to enter this meaningful agreement with our long-term supplier, SABIC Agri-Nutrients, to receive the world’s first certified blue ammonia cargo. 

“Building on our shared history, we are looking forward to moving forward together into a new era for ammonia. We believe that this shipment of blue ammonia will help lay the foundations for a global supply chain." 

Earlier this year, SABIC AN and Aramco received the world’s first independent certifications, recognizing blue ammonia and blue hydrogen production, from TUV Rheinland, a leading independent testing, inspection and certification agency, based in Germany.

The shipment of blue ammonia to South Korea will be the first to capitalize on this major certification achievement. 

The new developments are aligned with Saudi Vision 2030, which focuses on low-carbon fuels, products, solutions and clean energy. 
 

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BEEAH Group paves way for a sustainable future in the region

Updated 27 November 2022

BEEAH Group paves way for a sustainable future in the region

  • Group aims to help Sharjah achieve 100% landfill waste diversion: CEO

DUBAI: BEEAH Group, the UAE’s leading sustainability pioneer and digital expert, has achieved a waste diversion rate of 76 percent, the highest in the Middle East, and the remaining 24 percent was disposed of in landfills.

Speaking to Arab News, Group CEO Khaled Al-Huraimel said that BEEAH Group aims to help Sharjah achieve 100 percent landfill waste diversion in 2022, up from 76 percent currently.

BEEAH Group launched the UAE’s first waste-to-energy facility earlier in 2022 as part of its efforts to achieve zero waste, he added.

The facility, located in Sharjah, would divert over 300,000 tons of non-recyclable waste from landfills annually and generate 30 megawatts of clean energy, enough to power almost 30,000 homes.

“Once the facility reaches full operational capacity, Sharjah will become the first city in the Middle East to achieve zero waste,” Al-Huraimel said

All of this is due to BEEAH Group’s operations in Sharjah with 10 different plants.

There are 10 dedicated recycling facilities that process materials such as paper, plastic, tires, old vehicles, metals, construction and demolition waste, organic waste, industrial wastewater, maritime waste and commercial and industrial waste.

Al-Huraimel said BEEAH was established in 2007 to address the environmental challenges the region was facing, including waste. However, at the beginning of 2022, the company changed its name to BEEAH Group and adopted the structure of an investment holding company and a new visual identity. This is part of the group’s strategy to diversify its core business into new sectors.

The Gulf Cooperation Council countries have the highest waste per capita in the world. Therefore, this was the immediate challenge, he added.

“We started in waste management, and today, we’re proud to say we became the first to reach zero waste in the emirate of Sharjah, and today we are also active across the UAE,” he said. “Our new structure as an investment holding group has seen us launch several new business verticals that will capitalize on business opportunities across different industries and countries.”

BEEAH places sustainability and digitization at the heart of the business. This can be seen across several verticals, including BEEAH Tandeef for waste collection and city cleaning and BEEAH Recycling for waste processing and material recovery. There is also BEEAH Energy for clean and renewable power and BEEAH Environment Services for consulting, research and innovation.

Additionally, there is BEEAH Digital for future technologies and digital ventures, BEEAH Transport for green mobility and autonomous transportation, and BEEAH Education, an environmental education and awarding organization for businesses and individuals.

The various verticals will benefit from the collective experience of the BEEAH Group while having more room to grow within their respective industries.

BEEAH Group encourages collective responsibility for sustainability through education and awareness programs. In 2010, BEEAH Group launched the BEEAH Academy of Sustainability to promote environmental education. Today, the academy reaches a network of more than 252,000 students, 6,500 teachers, and 700 schools. Across its areas of operation, the group aims to improve quality of life through a twin-pillared approach that focuses on sustainability and digitalization.

Digitalization of BEEAH Group

During a private meeting at BEEAH Group’s recently built headquarters, designed by the late Zaha Hadid, Al-Huraimel remarked, “It was one of the last buildings she designed.” 

Our new structure as an investment holding group has seen us launch several new business verticals that will capitalize on business opportunities across different industries and countries.

Khaled Al-Huraimel, BEEAH Group CEO

According to him, the organization’s brand-new headquarters reflect BEEAH Group’s identity as a sustainable icon.

The BEEAH Group headquarters is a command center for all BEEAH Group operations, as it has more than 10,000 employees and is growing. “This building is one of the smartest and most sustainable buildings in the region,” he added.

A primary area of focus for BEEAH Group is technology, and the organization believes that technology has many tools to help it achieve its goals, Al-Huraimel said. In that sector, BEEAH Group has three companies: Evoteq, re.life, and One Data Center, a recent joint venture with Khazna to build Sharjah’s first data center.

He said the BEEAH Group headquarters operates using hundreds of artificial intelligence use cases.

At Tandeef, BEEAH Group’s waste collection business, the vehicles are all tracked, and the routing is also optimized by artificial intelligence.

The commercial and industrial recycling facility, a recent facility launched by BEEAH Recycling this year, has a robot with AI vision that can segregate different types of waste.

“So, we believe and embrace technology as it can help us create a better future and meet our targets,” Al-Huraimel said.

As part of its efforts in facilitating digital transformation, BEEAH Group also partnered with Khazna Data Centers recently to build Sharjah’s first Tier 3 data center.

Commenting on their JV with Khazna, the group CEO said that data centers have become necessary with the growth of cloud computing. This requires a great deal of data storage.

He added that Sharjah also needs a data center to support shortages and digitalization and become a more innovative city.

“In today’s world, it’s important to build a strong digital foundation and infrastructure,” said Al-Huraimel.

By harnessing the power of technology and innovative sustainable solutions, the BEEAH Group is paving the way for a better quality of life across the MENA region.

COP27 delegation

BEEAH Group has commenced operations in Egypt’s Sharm El-Sheikh, including sustainable waste management services during the UN Climate Change Conference, also known as COP27.

He said that the organization and Egypt’s Green Planet, an environmental solutions company, signed a contract in September to provide waste management and city cleaning services under the 10-year contract.

“We were awarded the waste management contract for Sharm El-Sheikh, and we have commenced our services before COP27,” he added.

The BEEAH Group also attended COP27 and represented the UAE as part of the UAE delegation.

Besides showcasing the organization’s groundbreaking projects, such as the UAE’s first waste-to-energy plant and the region’s first fully AI-integrated office building, BEEAH Group introduced the conference attendees to its recycling facilities and zero-waste solutions.

“We were proud to participate in COP27 as part of the UAE delegation. As a frontrunner in climate action, the UAE has made huge strides toward zero emissions; we are pleased to show how we support these targets through clean energy, sustainable infrastructure, and integrated waste management solutions,” said Al-Huraimel.

“I believe the UAE and the region have strong sustainability goals. We see that in the UAE, Saudi, Egypt, and so on,” he said, commenting on BEEAH Group’s attendance at COP27.

As the group CEO pointed out, Egypt and Saudi Arabia are two key markets for BEEAH Group, which will continue to expand over the next 18 months.

Geographic growth and diversification have been the main ways the group has grown. BEEAH has diversified into digital, energy consulting and health care.

“We targeted Saudi Arabia and Egypt for future expansion, as they are the two biggest markets for us in terms of size and recognition of the relationship between our countries,” he said.

Currently, the group focuses on growing in Saudi Arabia and Egypt by offering waste management services in both countries.

BEEAH Group also hopes to consolidate its position as a regional leader in waste management while looking at other government and private contracts.