All you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s new social media influencer permit

Saudi influencers including Aram Kabbani, left, and Nada Al-Nahdi, right, use social media platforms to promote fashion and lifestyle brands. (Social Media)
Short Url
Updated 11 August 2022

All you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s new social media influencer permit

  • From October, every Saudi and non-Saudi content creator who earns revenue on social media must first apply for an official permit
  • For a fee of SR15,000 (roughly $4,000), content creators will receive a permit lasting three years, allowing them to work with private entities

LONDON: As more Saudis connect through their social media profiles and even begin to profit from these platforms, the Kingdom has launched a new licensing system to properly monitor the influencer industry.

From early October, every Saudi and non-Saudi content creator in the Kingdom who earns revenue through advertising on social media must first apply for an official permit from the General Commission for Audiovisual Media (GCAM).

For a fee of SR15,000 (roughly $4,000), content creators will receive a permit lasting three years, during which time they can work with as many private entities as they wish and promote any product or service, as long as it does not violate the Kingdom’s laws or values.
 

The incoming influencer license “is not a permit to censor or to block,” Esra Assery, CEO at GCAM, told Arab News. “It’s more of a permit to enable the maturity of the sector. We want to help those individuals grow, but grow in a professional way so they can make a career out of (social media revenue).”

The new regulations are being touted as legal protections, both for influencers and businesses wishing to advertise with them, so that rates and contractual obligations are standardized across the industry.

“The market is so unregulated,” said Assery. “We’re not against influencers or those individuals. Actually, we want to enable them. If you check out the new bylaw, it protects them also, because the bylaw regulates their relationship with the advertisers.”
 




Esra Assery, CEO at Saudi Arabia's General Commission for Audiovisual Media. (Supplied)

Currently, anyone in Saudi Arabia is able to advertise on social media and earn money from deals with private entities — with payments per post climbing into the thousands of riyals, depending on the number of followers an influencer can reach.

Concern has been expressed that introducing permits and regulations will undermine how much money influencers can make and might even constitute censorship. However, GCAM insists the permits are designed to ensure transparency between influencers and their clients.

Saudi influencers, whether based in the Kingdom or abroad, must apply for the permit if they wish to work with a brand — local or international. However, non-Saudi residents in the country must follow a different track.

After applying to the Ministry of Investment for a permit to work in the country, they can then apply for an influencer permit through GCAM. However, non-Saudi residents must be represented by specific advertising agencies.

“While some influencers may focus on the short-term loss of paying the license fee, there is a huge benefit to licensing coming in as it legitimizes the sector on a national level,” Jamal Al-Mawed, founder and managing director of Gambit Communications, told Arab News.

“This is crucial in the influencer industry as it has been a bit of a wild west for marketing in the past, with no clear benchmarking for rates or contracts.”

Al-Mawed said that the new measures can protect brands that are susceptible to fraud “when they pay huge budgets to influencers who are buying fake followers and fake engagements. This creates a vicious circle, as hard-working content creators are undermined by the bad apples.”

Although the new license is unlikely to solve every issue overnight, “it does create a foundation for more professionalism and accountability,” Al-Mawed added.




Under new rules, non-Saudi residents and visitors to the Kingdom are prohibited from posting ads on social media without a license. (Shutterstock image)

In June, non-Saudi residents and visitors to the Kingdom were prohibited from posting ads on social media without a license. Those who ignore the ruling face a possible five-year prison sentence and fines of up to SR5 million.

GCAM announced the ban after finding “violations by numerous non-Saudi advertisers, both residents and visitors, on social media platforms.”

“After checking their data, it was found that they had committed systemic violations, including lack of commercial registrations and legal licenses, and they are not working under any commercial entity or foreign investment license,” the commission said at the time.

Now, with a regulated license, such violations will be easier to monitor and the sector will be better regulated to ensure full transparency.
 




Businesses such as bakeries or hair salons that hold social media accounts and advertise their own products or services are not covered by the prohibition. (Shutterstock image)

Although Saudi influencers will be able to hold full-time jobs while earning on the side through promotional campaigns on their social media profiles, the law states that non-Saudis can work only in one specific role while residing in the Kingdom.

However, the system does not apply to businesses and entities — such as bakeries or hair salons — that hold social media accounts and advertise their own products or services on these platforms. Only individuals are affected by the new law.

There are certain exceptions, however, such as individuals who have been invited to the country by a ministry or government entity in order to perform, including musicians and entertainers.

With the rise of social media over the past decade, content creators and so-called influencers with thousands of followers on Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat and other platforms have drawn audiences away from traditional outlets, such as television, newspapers and magazines, to new and largely unregulated media.
 

Sensing the shift in content consumption, advertisers have followed the herd. Crystal-blue waters caressing white, sandy beaches at luxury resorts and scrumptious feasts at the finest restaurants are now commonplace on influencer profiles as businesses rush to take advantage of more “natural-feeling” product placement.

However, regulators have struggled to keep up with this rapid transformation, leaving the process open to legal disputes, exploitation and abuse. That is why authorities elsewhere in the world have also been exploring influencer permits.

Dubai, widely seen as the influencer hub of the Middle East, is among them.

In 2018, the UAE’s National Media Council launched a new electronic media regulation system, which required social media influencers to obtain a license to operate in the country.

The cost of the annual license is 15,000 AED (roughly $4,000). Those who fail to obtain or renew the license can face penalties including a fine of up to 5,000 AED, a verbal or official warning, and even closure of their social media accounts.

The rules apply to influencers visiting the UAE as well. They must either have a license or be signed up with an NMC-registered influencer agency to operate in the country.

With Saudi Arabia progressing in the entertainment and creative industries, the introduction of the license is viewed as a step in the right direction.

“It’s great news for the industry,” said Al-Mawed. “When someone is licensed by the government to offer their services, that gives them a level of safety and trust and can help filter out the scammers who prefer to fly under the radar.”

 

Druze: the great survivors
How the world's most secretive faithhas endured for a thousand years

Enter


keywords

 


Who’s Who: Al-Mohanad Al-Marwai, CEO of Arabian Coffee Institute

Updated 06 October 2022

Who’s Who: Al-Mohanad Al-Marwai, CEO of Arabian Coffee Institute

Al-Mohanad Al-Marwai is the co-founder and CEO of the Arabian Coffee Institute since January 2022.

The institute, comprised of experts and researchers, educates on all aspects of the coffee value chain, offering a wide range of internationally accredited training courses.

Al-Marwai is also the co-founder and CEO of two other companies in the coffee industry: Coffee Lights and AgriNexsus Ltd.

Coffee Lights specializes in the operation of coffee shops, consultation, training of staff and baristas, and the import and export of coffee. 

AgriNexsus Ltd. is a Ugandan-based organic farming and production company that uses Ugandan Community Supported Agriculture, which allows consumers to get high-quality local and seasonal food directly from certified farmers’ communities.

By leading both these organizations, Al-Marwai offers Saudi cafes a transparent supply chain of authentic specialty coffee served to the Kingdom’s public.

Over the past 12 years, Al-Marwai has founded eight companies in Saudi Arabia, Uganda, the UK and the US. 

During these years in the coffee industry, Al-Marwai has worked in quality assurance and business consultancy, supporting and empowering small businesses to launch and reach new heights.

He is one of 30 licensed coffee graders in the Kingdom; the total number of licensed coffee graders globally is only 3,000.

He is also among the 36 certified trainers in Saudi Arabia’s coffee industry. He has trained and mentored over 2,000 leaders in the coffee sector and entrepreneurship.

Al-Marwai has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Business and Technology in Jeddah.

He holds three master’s degrees: an MBA in multimedia from the University in Malaysia (2009); an MBA in entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial studies from the Prince Mohammed bin Salman College of Business and Entrepreneurship (2018); and a master’s degree in entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial studies from Babson College in Massachusetts (2018). 

In 2018, Al-Marwai also earned a diploma in the coffee skills program from the Specialty Coffee Association in London.

Currently, he is pursuing a master’s degree in coffee excellence from the Zurich University of Applied Sciences and will graduate in 2023.


International publishers exhibit works for first time at Riyadh book fair

Updated 05 October 2022

International publishers exhibit works for first time at Riyadh book fair

  • One of the exhibitors at the book fair was China Intercontinental Press, a publishing house founded in 1993 by the Chinese government to promote the country’s culture and history abroad

RIYADH: The Riyadh International Book Fair 2022 has expanded to welcome many more international publishing houses and distributors to exhibit their works for the first time in the city, including publishers from the UK and China.

One of the exhibitors at the book fair was China Intercontinental Press, a publishing house founded in 1993 by the Chinese government to promote the country’s culture and history abroad.

“This is our first time in Riyadh, and what was interesting is that we found many people here who could speak Chinese very well,” Guo Xi, exhibit marketing manager, told Arab News.

During the publishing house’s first few days at the book fair, many people would approach their exhibit speaking Chinese, and they were pleasantly surprised by how often it happened. 

The 2022 Riyadh International Book Fair is expanding to welcome many more International publishing houses and distributors to exhibit their works for the first time in Riyadh, including publishers from the United Kingdom and China. (AN photo)

China Intercontinental Press displayed a variety of publications, including genres suitable for both adults and children.

“We have Chinese fiction books, as well as children’s books about Chinese culture and books on politics. They have all been translated into both Arabic and English,” Guo said.

What on Earth Publishing was another publishing house to feature at the book fair. The British company specializes in educational children’s books that present information creatively to help children better understand the material and develop a passion for books.

“This experience has been amazing. Honestly, I love the book fair, and I love the vibes here. Everyone is so helpful. I’m grateful for it,” Juman Salama, What on Earth assistant publishing director, told Arab News. 

The 2022 Riyadh International Book Fair is expanding to welcome many more International publishing houses and distributors to exhibit their works for the first time in Riyadh, including publishers from the United Kingdom and China. (AN photo)

The publishing house was founded this year, with the initial release of books in May 2022.

“We specialize in non-fiction scientific books aimed at children that discuss the history of engineering and science. We also have books about the Earth and global warming, teaching children how they can take better care of the planet in the near future,” Salama said.

“We try to give this information to children in creative ways so they can actually read and enjoy the books rather than just receive facts or information in a boring way. We are creative about it,” she said.

Britannia Books is another British distribution house that can be found at this year’s book fair in Riyadh. Based in London, the idea behind Britannia Books was conceived one year ago and was brought to life in August. 

The 2022 Riyadh International Book Fair is expanding to welcome many more International publishing houses and distributors to exhibit their works for the first time in Riyadh, including publishers from the United Kingdom and China. (AN photo)

“Britannia Books was established by three young men from Lebanon in the hopes of distributing English books from the UK to all the Arab world,” Hicham Karan, sales manager at Britannia Books, said.

“We wanted to bring English books for adults and children to our Arab world. We don’t have any specific genre; we are trying to fill all markets,” he said.

Karan has personally participated at the book fair in Riyadh with other publishing houses in the past, but this year marks the debut of his own distribution house.

“For me, the book fair in Riyadh was the pioneer and leader of all Arab book fairs. I have participated in six or seven countries’ book fairs around the world, and Riyadh’s was No. 1.”

Aside from book displays, the fair is also hosting cooking shows, cultural exhibitions and guest lectures throughout the 10-day event, featuring local and international pavilions.

In this year’s edition, Tunisia participated as the guest of honor, with 16 Tunisian publishing houses present. The Tunisian pavilion also highlighted the culture and history of the country through displays, workshops and cultural dialogues open to the public.

The Riyadh International Book Fair will continue until Oct. 8 at the Riyadh Front and is open from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m.

Related


Saudi Arabia sends 4,000 tons of flood relief to Pakistan via land, air routes

Updated 05 October 2022

Saudi Arabia sends 4,000 tons of flood relief to Pakistan via land, air routes

  • Almost 800,000 people receive Saudi aid in 51 flood-affected areas of the country
  • KSrelief to carry out damage assessment, help in rebuilding with Saudi Fund for Development

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia has sent 4,000 tons of food relief to Pakistan, with the aid provided by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center helping almost 800,000 people worst affected by the disaster.

The floods, caused by abnormal monsoon rains and glacial melt, have submerged vast swathes of the South Asian country since mid-June and killed almost 1,700 people, most of them women and children.

Hundreds of thousands of displaced people are living in the open, exposed to malaria, diarrhea, dengue fever, and severe skin and eye infections, with stagnant floodwaters, which officials say will take months to recede, increasing disease transmission.

“A total of 4,385 tons of different kinds of relief goods through land route and air bridges have been distributed so far, which benefited more than 785,636 people all across Pakistan,” Dr. Khalid Muhammad Al-Othmani, KSrelief Pakistan director, told reporters in Islamabad on Tuesday.

He said the agency had also distributed 15,000 packages containing more than 1,425 tons of essential food items in the southwestern province of Balochistan, one of the worst hit by floods.

Ten Saudi flights loaded with various relief goods delivered the aid, with packages handed over to the National Disaster Management Authority. Relief goods have also been sent via a land bridge established by KSrelief.

“So far, a total of 65,000 food packages, 50,000 mosquito nets, 5,000 relief tents, and 25,000 NFI (non-food items) kits have been distributed in 51 affected areas all over Pakistan,” Saudi Ambassador Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki said.

He added that a field survey will be conducted in coordination with other government organizations to assess damage due to the floods, which swept away and destroyed houses, schools, health centers, water projects, bridges and roads.

“After the data is collected, the scope of the works will be studied, and the facilities will be rehabilitated by KSrelief together with the Saudi Fund for Development,” Al-Malki said.

NDMA Chairman Lt. Gen. Akhtar Nawaz thanked the Kingdom’s leadership for the timely assistance.

“Saudi Arabia has always supported Pakistan in difficult times, be it the earthquake of 2005, the super flood of 2010, and these unprecedented monsoon-triggered floods now,” he said.

“On behalf of the government of Pakistan and NDMA, I assure you that whatever support is coming, without delay it will be delivered to the affected people in the most proficient manner.”


Saudi deputy minister for public diplomacy meets Ukraine’s ambassador

Updated 06 October 2022

Saudi deputy minister for public diplomacy meets Ukraine’s ambassador

Saudi Deputy Minister for Public Diplomacy Fahad Abualnasr met Anatolii Petrenko, Ukraine’s ambassador, in Riyadh on Wednesday. 

They reviewed bilateral relations between Saudi Arabia and Ukraine and other issues of common interest.

Abualnasr earned his bachelor’s degree in political science in 2000 from the American University in Washington, then obtained his master’s in comparative politics from the same university in 2002.

Before joining the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Abualnasr was the director-general for the King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue in Vienna.

Related


Riyadh prepares for opening of 14 top international restaurant brands

Updated 04 October 2022

Riyadh prepares for opening of 14 top international restaurant brands

  • The new fine-dining establishments, which include five with Michelin-starred restaurants in other countries, are due to open in December

RIYADH: More than a dozen renowned international restaurant brands are set to open in Riyadh by the end of the year, including several with establishments in other countries that have earned a coveted Michelin star.

As the tastes of Saudis develop, the Kingdom is increasingly becoming a focus for major dining brands, which are contributing to the development of the tourism and entertainment sectors in the country as well as the national economy. During Riyadh Season celebrations, for example, residents and visitors to the capital have spent more than SR6 billion ($1.6 billion), according to the General Entertainment Authority.

Prince Saud bin Abdulaziz bin Farhan, who chairs the board of directors at Yakoon, a leading company in the hospitality industry, said that 14 international restaurant brands are due open in the capital in December. Five of them have establishments elsewhere in the world that have been awarded a Michelin star, an honor considered by many to represent the pinnacle of fine dining.

The new restaurants in Riyadh will include L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, La Cantine du Faubourg, Sass Cafe and MusicHall. Renowned in Europe and elsewhere, they are considered to be among the most luxurious and distinguished in the world. In the Kingdom, they will be located in areas such as The Boulevard, Al-Bujairi in Diriyah, and King Abdullah Financial District.

“Bringing these restaurants to the Kingdom is in line with the development we are witnessing in the tourism and entertainment sectors,” Prince Saud told Arab News.

“We expect this category of restaurants in the food and nutrition sector to contribute positively to the tourist’s journey and the entertainment experience of the citizen and resident.”

He said his team’s investment aims reflect the objectives of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, including the development of the Kingdom as a global tourism destination. Part of this involves the comprehensive development of the entertainment sector and the promotion of a luxurious lifestyle, he added, and as part of its efforts to establish itself as a global destination, Riyadh will continue to enhance its image by embracing fine-dining brands.

“We aim to create an exceptional experience in the tourist’s journey or the experience of the citizen and resident in the food sector in the Kingdom, and bringing international restaurants to Riyadh and other cities of the Kingdom will contribute to enhancing the region’s touristic position,” Prince Saud said.