Who’s Who: Dr. Maryam Ali Ficociello, chief governance officer at Red Sea Development Company and AMAALA

Dr. Maryam Ali Ficociello
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Updated 12 May 2021

Who’s Who: Dr. Maryam Ali Ficociello, chief governance officer at Red Sea Development Company and AMAALA

Dr. Maryam Ali Ficociello has been the chief governance officer at The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC) and AMAALA — a tourism project on Saudi Arabia’s northwestern coast — since 2017, leading the governance, risk and compliance department. 

She is also a board member of several committees, including the audit committee of the Royal Commission of AlUla and the risk committee of the Health Sector Transformation Program. 

Before joining TRSDC and AMAALA, Ficociello worked as director of governance practice and risk assurance services at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) from 2013 to 2017.

Ficociello also worked as head of research and assistant professor at the School of Business at Dar Al-Hekma University in Jeddah from 2012 to 2013. She played a key role in the establishment of Dar Al-Hekma’s first research center.

Ficociello also worked as a research associate of genomics and bioinformatics at the School of Communication, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada and a lecturer in management information systems, Beedie School of Business, also at Simon Fraser University, from 2010 to 2012. 

She served as an adviser and research fellow at the National Health Service in London from 2009 to 2011 and worked as an external examiner for the University of London from 2005 to 2010.

She received a doctorate in innovation and organizational change in 2010 and obtained a master’s degree in the analysis, design and management of information systems in 2005 from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She earned a bachelor’s degree in management information in 2003 at Dar Al-Hekma University.


Inside the corridors of Mawhiba, Saudi Arabia’s foundation for creativity

Updated 18 June 2021

Inside the corridors of Mawhiba, Saudi Arabia’s foundation for creativity

  • Innovative Saudi youngsters take home top prizes at international science and engineering fair

JEDDAH: Despite all the challenges the world has been facing over the past year, King Abdul Aziz and his Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity (Mawhiba) has managed to embrace 30 outstanding Saudi students to represent the Kingdom in the world’s largest science competition, Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) 2021.

ISEF was held virtually in the US in May, and more than 1,800 students from 70 countries participated.

The science fair targeted innovative high school senior students, who were called on to create science projects based on their research.

The winners of this year were announced on May 20-21. The Kingdom was lucky to take home grand prizes for the first top four winners, who came in second, third and fourth places. The prizes varied, with some winners receiving cash and top university scholarships, while others had their projects adopted by major international and local companies.


Regeneron ISEF 2021 was held virtually in the US.

The Kingdom competed with 30 scientific projects by 30 students from various educational departments, representing the Saudi national team.

The Saudi national team won second, third and fourth place.

All the winning projects contribute to the Kingdom Vision 2030.

Since 2007, Mawhiba has helped the Kingdom achieve 83 ISEF awards.

Winners were announced by the US jury, who based their decisions on elements including creativity, presentation skills, ability to answer deep questions related to the projects, and confidence.

Arab News spoke with the winners to learn more about their projects, inspirations, dreams and more.


Saudi Arabia’s winners:

Mansour Al-Marzouqi, second-place winner

Mansour Al-Marzouqi won the second-place grand international prize in the field of Energy: Materials and Sustainable Design for his project “Advanced Synthesis of Potent Photocapacitor Based on Novel 3D-Hierarchical BiVO4 and Self-Synthesized Carbon” — in other words: “Designing a Super-Capacitor that Charges Itself with Light.”

Using locally abundant elements including carbon from date palm leaves and semiconductors such as bismuth and vanadium, Al-Marzouqi’s project was inspired by renewable energy and was endorsed by his professor from King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals.

“I fabricated an energy storage device, known as a super-capacitor, that could charge itself under light exposure only. Yet, I greatly increased the electrochemical performance of the device, which allowed it to function as a battery, a capacitor and a solar cell all at once,” he told Arab News.

He added: “Winning in such a competition has been a dream of mine. I felt a huge surge of happiness, gratitude, pride, accomplishment and honor. Winning in Regeneron ISEF is a very tough benchmark, especially due to the extremely high competition.”

Al-Marzouqi hopes that his invention will serve as a “virtue to society,” advancing knowledge and limiting the demand on energy.

“The application of such projects is broad. Supplying enough energy to people is a difficult task, and my project is a great way to address this issue,” the student added.

He is looking forward to proposing the idea to distinguished institutions such as Saudi Aramco, the Ministry of Energy, NEOM, and the Saudi Electricity Company.

“I feel it is my duty to apply impactful projects like this one here in my country,” he said.


Rasha Al-Qahtani, third-place winner

Rasha Al-Qahtani from Riyadh is the third place winner in the field of social and behavioral sciences for her project “An innovative video game feature for the psychological diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder in adolescence.”

“I created a novel feature that can be applied to video games to help diagnose generalized anxiety disorder in adolescence by displaying decisions for the player to choose from while playing,” she told Arab News. “This approach is the first of its kind.”

Al-Qahtani praised Mawhiba and her parents for their support throughout her nine-year educational journey and expressed how honored she was with this accomplishment.

“I feel  honored to have received this appreciation for my research at one of the most challenging science fairs,” she added. “I am proud to represent my beloved country and prove that we symbolize Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s quote when he said: ‘Our ambition is sky-high.’”


Arwa Niazi , fourth-place winner

Arwa Niazi from Dhahran, in the Eastern Province, has been part of Mawhiba since she was in the sixth grade. She received the fourth-place award in the field of material science for her project, “Fabrication of self-charging super-capacitor using laser-assisted self-synthesized carbon quantum dots,” or more simply, “Manufacturing a super-capacitor that responds to the sun using quantum carbon dots.”

“Many researchers have previously tried to create the device that I worked on, but the problem was in the toxic materials applied,” she told Arab News. “With my device, however, I worked on making it 100 percent environmentally friendly.”

She added: “During the pandemic, Mawhiba did a lot to help us participate in this competition. My school provided me with mentors, labs and all the materials I needed, and I am so happy to make my country, family and school proud.”

She expressed how thrilled she was to be among the top four winners and how winning will define her path in future studies.

“Winning feels amazing, and I’m proud that my hard work has paid off,” she said.

Niazi’s application to the University of Wisconsin-Madison has been accepted, and she is currently waiting for a scholarship to support her. She hopes to join King Abdullah University for Science and Technology’s Gifted Student Program or Saudi Aramco’s 10-month College Preparatory Program.

She is also considering being part of the first batch of female students to join King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals. In a historic announcement, the university in Dhahran announced that it would start admitting female students for the first time in the 2021/2022 academic year. The university, established in 1963 by a royal decree as the College of Petroleum and Minerals, is widely renowned for its strong science, engineering, business and management programs. It is ranked fourth in the top 100 worldwide universities granted US utility patents in 2018.

NEOM initiative aims to help Saudi craftspeople develop their businesses

Updated 18 June 2021

NEOM initiative aims to help Saudi craftspeople develop their businesses

  • Craft+ runs for two weeks with the aim of empowering and supporting home businesses and micro-enterprises

JEDDAH: A new initiative in NEOM and Tabuk is providing financial support and training to help people working in the local crafts sector develop their businesses.

Craft+ was launched this month by NEOM’s Social Responsibility Program and the Dulani Business Center, a key Social Development Bank program. It runs for two weeks with the aim of empowering and supporting home businesses and micro-enterprises, and providing development and training assistance to help local craftspeople improve the efficiency of their operations and contribute to the development and sustainability of business in the Kingdom. This is in line with the aims of the NEOM megacity project and Saudi Vision 2030.

Craft sectors targeted by the initiative include embroidery and fashion, jewelry making, painting and sculpture, sadu (traditional Bedouin weaving), palm industries and the manufacturing of perfume and incense.

The program concludes with a five-day bazaar in Tabuk Park Mall that will begin on June 18 and be open from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. each day. Items made by the participants will be on show to raise awareness of the importance of local crafts, and available to buy.

The initiative is taking place under the auspices of NEOM’s Social Responsibility Program, which aims to empower local communities to unlock their potential, preserve their culture and heritage, contribute to the economic growth of NEOM, and succeed in the work environment of the future. It aims to achieve this by 2025 through transformational educational and training programs, entrepreneurial and employment initiatives, and community development efforts.

NEOM also recently launched an initiative designed to provide employment opportunities for local residents, and aims to provide training and upskilling programs to at least 7,000 people by 2025. Since 2020, NEOM has also provided training in the English language and information technology to more than 1,000 residents of the surrounding areas.

The Social Responsibility Program has also organized a series of workshops, in collaboration with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology and Think Tech, to enhance digital literacy and increase digital awareness.

In January Saudi authorities announced that a huge zero-carbon smart city will be built at NEOM in northwestern Saudi Arabia. The project, called The Line, will be home to a million people and have no cars and or roads.

Misk, Saudi Telecom sign deal for training and development

Updated 18 June 2021

Misk, Saudi Telecom sign deal for training and development

  • MoU aims to enhance cooperation in several fields at the institutional level and within entities affiliated with both parties
  • Partnership will also support entrepreneurship and innovation through STC’s InspireU and ImpactU programs

RIYADH:  The Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz Foundation (Misk) and Saudi Telecom Co. (STC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to enhance cooperation in several fields at the institutional level and within entities affiliated with both parties.

The MoU, signed by Misk CEO Badr bin Hamoud Al-Badr and STC Group CEO Olayan Al-Wetaid, included several strategic objectives in the fields of training and development, and leadership preparation in cooperation with the STC Academy.

It also focused on supporting entrepreneurship and innovation through STC’s InspireU and ImpactU programs, in addition to social investment projects, volunteer programs, and on-the-job training initiatives for graduates of Misk programs at STC and its subsidiaries.

This partnership is proof of STC’s role and contribution to the Kingdom's Vision 2030 through social responsibility programs and support for national initiatives in developing human capital, unleashing youth capabilities in various fields, and accelerating innovation and digital transformation.

This memorandum of understanding will also support Misk's efforts towards digital transformation by benefiting from the various innovative technical services and solutions provided by STC and its subsidiaries.



Hajj without smart card, permit will not be allowed

Updated 18 June 2021

Hajj without smart card, permit will not be allowed

  • Permit will be matched with the electronic card and the pilgrim’s ID

JEDDAH: In an effort to ensure compliance with coronavirus (COVID-19) safety measures, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah confirmed that no one will be allowed to perform Hajj without a smart card and a documented official permit.

Dr. Abdulfattah Mashat, deputy minister of Hajj and Umrah, said that the permit will be matched with the electronic card and the pilgrim’s ID, noting that there is no platform to apply for Hajj except the official website of the ministry.

“Any company that offers service packages outside the ministry’s platform is violating the system,” he said. 

“At the first stages of the ‘Eatmarna’ application, we noticed some violations by some entities and individuals, but with the passage of time, community awareness began to increase.”

Mashat said this year’s Hajj will use permits through the “Absher” platform only. Information for those who purchased their Hajj packages on the ministry’s platform will be linked to Absher and their ID.

According to the deputy minister, more than 470,000 applications have been received as of Wednesday at 5 p.m. as all met the conditions of immunization and have never performed Hajj before.



More than 470,000 applications have been received as of Wednesday at 5 p.m. as all met the conditions of immunization and have never performed Hajj before.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah called on all domestic pilgrims connected with the ministry to adhere to health instructions to enable those wishing to perform Hajj.

The ministry said resident locations will apply visual and thermal screening procedures upon pilgrims’ entrance and movement.

The allocated hotels in Makkah and Madinah must conform to the requirements listed by the Ministry of Tourism, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, and other bodies concerned with monitoring the accommodation of pilgrims.

The hotels must take into account the application of precautionary measures to prevent crowding inside rooms. The hotels also have to provide catering services for each pilgrim in his room as open buffets are banned.

A health guide (or health leader) from the concerned authority will be available during the pilgrims’ presence in the Hajj areas and during their movements.

This step comes to ensure the preventive measures. Pilgrims must consult a doctor if they suspect COVID-19 symptoms to ensure his safety and the safety of others.

Regarding the procedures in the holy sites, the Two Holy Mosques, and the central area in Makkah and Madinah, social distancing will be enforced throughout the grouping of pilgrims in all Hajj stages. This is in accordance with health requirements in residential buildings and tents. Pilgrims’ bags and baggage carts will be disinfected periodically.

Security guards will facilitate the exit of pilgrims from holy sites according to the time allotted to them and will ensure adherence to the number of pilgrims allowed in one space (no more than 50 people). Seat numbers on buses will be assigned to each pilgrim during the entire Hajj trip and standing inside busses will not be allowed. There will be an empty seat assigned between each pilgrim and carrying personal carry-on baggage will be prohibited.

In the case that a passenger suspects COVID-19 symptoms, the bus will be stopped and disinfected.

The ministries of health and hajj announced Saturday that a total of 60,000 pilgrims will be allowed to perform the pilgrimage this year, which will begin mid-July.

Who’s Who: Hatem Samman, head of public policy for Amazon Saudi Arabia

Updated 17 June 2021

Who’s Who: Hatem Samman, head of public policy for Amazon Saudi Arabia

Hatem Samman joined Amazon in January 2021 as head of public policy for Saudi Arabia.

His work with Saudi government agencies and key officials aims at building strong strategic socioeconomic and business relationships in the Kingdom in line with Vision 2030.

Samman previously served as a senior policy adviser at the G20 Saudi Secretariat and as chief economist and strategy adviser at the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority, now the Ministry of Investment.

In an earlier role, he was director and lead economist of the Ideation Center at Booz & Company’s (now Strategy &) think tank in the Middle East.

He was also vice president of credit administration at Riyad Bank, and director of regulatory affairs and strategic planning at the Saudi Telecommunications Co.

Among several other positions he has held over the years, Samman served as a fellow at the University of Minnesota and consultant at the World Bank.

He has published several academic articles in prestigious journals including the International Journal of Applied Economics and the Journal of International Trade & Economic Development, and has written commentary for several newspapers, including the Financial Times.

He is also the co-author of numerous publications, including “How to Succeed at Education Reform: The Case for Saudi Arabia” and “the Broader GCC Region” (2008), and “Meeting the Employment Challenge in the GCC: The Need for a Holistic Strategy” (2010). Samman holds a bachelor’s degree in social science and mathematics from the University of California, San Diego, and a Ph.D. in political economy and public policy from the University of Southern California.