Saudi Arabia plans $40bn push into artificial intelligence, NYT reports

PIF governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan has pitched the Kingdom as a prospective hub for AI activity outside US. Shutterstock
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Updated 17 April 2024
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Saudi Arabia plans $40bn push into artificial intelligence, NYT reports

BENGALURU: Saudi Arabia’s government plans to create a fund of about $40 billion to invest in artificial intelligence, the New York Times reported on Tuesday, citing three people briefed on the plans, according to Reuters.

Representatives of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund have discussed a potential partnership with US venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and other financiers in recent weeks, the newspaper reported.

Andreessen Horowitz and PIF governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan have discussed the possibility of the US firm setting up an office in Riyadh, according to the report.

PIF officials also discussed what role Andreessen Horowitz could play and how such a fund would work, the newspaper said, adding the plans could still change.

Other venture capitalists may participate in the Kingdom’s AI fund, which is expected to commence in the second half of 2024, the newspaper said.

Saudi representatives have indicated to potential partners that the country is interested in supporting a variety of tech start-ups associated with AI, including chip makers and large-scale data centers, the report added.

PIF and Andreessen Horowitz did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Reuters.

In February, PIF’s Al-Rumayyan pitched the Kingdom as a prospective hub for AI activity outside US, citing its energy resources and funding capacity.

Al-Rumayyan had said the Kingdom had the “political will” to make AI projects happen and ample funds it could deploy to nurture the technology’s development.


Saudi Arabia issues 54 industrial licenses in March 

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Saudi Arabia issues 54 industrial licenses in March 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia maintained the issuance of over 300 industrial licenses in the first quarter of 2024, consistent with the previous year, official data has revealed.

According to a statement released from the Kingdom’s Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources, as many as 324 industrial permits were issued in the first three months of the year, with 54 approvals issued in March alone. 

The report further showed that the volume of investments in March amounted to SR1.047 billion ($279 million). 

This falls in line with the Saudi Arabia’s ambition to transform mining into a foundational industrial pillar of the country’s economy. 

It also aligns with the ministry’s goal to strengthen the sector as well as contribute to the ongoing developments in accordance with Vision 2030.

Moreover, the report, which was issued by the ministry’s National Industrial and Mining Information Center, disclosed that the permits in March were distributed across several sectors, including the manufacturing of non-metallic mineral and food products and formed metal goods as well as chemicals and paper and its products. 

According to the analysis, the new industrial licenses were distributed among multiple regions, including the Eastern Province, Riyadh and Makkah, as well as Qassim, Jazan, Madinah, Al-Jouf, and Al-Baha. 

The distribution of new permits shows that small enterprises comprised 77.78 percent, with medium-sized companies following at 22.22 percent. 

In terms of the type of investments, national factories accounted for the largest percentage of the total licenses, with 98.15 percent, followed by foreign establishments with 1.85 percent. 

Furthermore, the study also indicated that the number of factories existing and under construction in the Kingdom until the end of the same month reached 11,832 factories, up from 11,757 facilities in February, with an investment volume of SR1.528 trillion.

Meanwhile, 69 factories started production in March, with an investment volume of SR1.339 billion.

The ministry issues its report monthly to establish the sector’s most critical indicators in Saudi Arabia, demonstrating the extent of change and the growth of industrial investments. 

In April, the Kingdom introduced the Mining Exploration Enablement Program, inviting global firms and explorers to participate in the initiative in an attempt to further expand the sector.

According to a statement at the time, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources and the Ministry of Investment extended invitations to international companies in the sector to register for the scheme. 

The statement further added at the time that the program is expected to boost exploration activities, optimize the value extracted from the mining sector, and expand the Kingdom’s survey potential by focusing on uncharted territories.  


Saudi Arabia to reshape global tourism landscape, says Al-Khateeb 

Updated 18 min 51 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia to reshape global tourism landscape, says Al-Khateeb 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is on track to change the map of tourism on a global level, according to a top minister.  

Participating in a dialogue session on the sidelines of the 50th UN Tourism Regional Commission for the Middle East taking place from May 22 to 24 in Muscat, Saudi Tourism Minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb stressed that the Kingdom is working in cooperation with regional member states of the organization to further develop the industry. 

This is in line with Saudi Arabia’s National Tourism Strategy, which aims to reach 150 million visitors by 2030, grow the private sector’s contribution, and attract direct foreign investments, adding to the economic growth and diversification. 

“The Kingdom will change the map of tourism in the world, and the opportunities and facilities that we provide to investors will make the tourism sector more attractive, and we are proceeding in a distinctive way in building the sector,” Al-Khateeb affirmed. 

During the session, the minister also indicated that Saudi Arabia has begun to develop the tourism division as part of its Vision 2030 plan, noting that the development efforts have succeeded in raising the sector’s contribution from 3 percent of the local economy to 4.5 percent by the end of the last year.  

Al-Khateeb also drew attention to the fact that the Middle East has great potential and natural resources that enable it to become one of the most important tourist destinations in the world.  

He explained that the countries in the region are moving as a single bloc in the right direction regarding developing the tourism sector, as they have begun designing plans and strategies to benefit from this promising industry.  

The minister highlighted that attracting and qualifying the national human resources are two important factors for developing the regional sector, stressing that the Saudi Ministry of Tourism pays great attention to the issue of qualifying national cadres working in the field. 

The body also works to attract young men and women in the Kingdom to work in the industry. 

In April, the deputy minister of destination enablement at the Ministry of Tourism said that Saudi Arabia is open to readjusting its goal of attracting 150 million visitors by 2030 if those numbers are achieved ahead of time.  

Speaking in an interview with Arab News on the sidelines of the first day of the Future Hospitality Summit in Riyadh, Mahmoud Abdulhadi explained that goals are adjusted based on performance.    

“As we hit our target seven years ahead of target, our 100 million target, we therefore now have a new goal. I’m sure if we were to hit that new target with a significant overperformance in terms of the timeline, our targets would also be adjusted,” Abdulhadi said.


Saudi Arabia reveals theme for 8th annual FII conference

Updated 39 min 48 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia reveals theme for 8th annual FII conference

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has unveiled the theme for the eighth annual Future Investment Initiative Institute forum, with a focus on future prosperity

“Infinite Horizons: Investing Today, Shaping Tomorrow” will be the focus of the event, the FII Institute has announced, which is scheduled to take place from Oct. 29 to 31 at Riyadh’s King Abdulaziz International Conference Centre.

Under this banner, the event will ignite discussions on how investment can serve as a catalyst for a prosperous and sustainable future, pushing the boundaries of what is possible for humanity.

As reported by the Saudi Press Agency, the conference discussions will be data-driven, ensuring that insights are based on facts and actionable strategies.

Richard Attias, who acts as the institute’s chief executive and board member, emphasized the significance of the theme, stating that it is not just a theme, highlighting that it is a loud call” ‘to expand our collective vision and embrace the limitless prospects of the future.” 

He added: “It embodies our commitment to driving conversations that lead to a future where investment knows no bounds and works toward a better tomorrow for all.”

FII8, organized by the FII Institute and founded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, will adopt an innovative format as an exclusive week for FII Institute members, invited delegates, and strategic partners.

Moreover, the organization announced its inaugural Latin American FII PRIORITY summit to be held in Brazil under the theme “Invest in Dignity.”


SDAIA chief calls for strong legal frameworks to mitigate AI risks

Updated 46 min 55 sec ago
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SDAIA chief calls for strong legal frameworks to mitigate AI risks

RIYADH: The chief of Saudi Arabia’s artificial intelligence authority took part in a top-level summit on AI held in South Korea from May 21-22.

Co-hosted by South Korea and the UK, the summit focused on international cooperation in data and AI, as well as preparations for the third edition of the Global AI Summit, hosted in Riyadh by the Saudi Data and AI Authority in September.

The authority’s president, Abdullah bin Sharaf Al-Ghamdi, in a roundtable discussion at the Seoul summit, said that AI technologies will “experience significant developments” that will result in more efficient and scalable models capable of handling a wider range of tasks.

He highlighted the significance of open-source AI, which fuels innovation and reshapes the technological landscape. A goal of the summit was to explore the transformative potential of open-source AI and open-access databases, he added.

“Open-source AI has the capability to add flexible character to technology, making advanced tools and algorithms accessible to a broad spectrum of creators, such as large companies and individual developers,” Al-Ghamdi said.

This inclusivity accelerates technological advancement through collaboration and ensures a level of transparency in the digital age, Al-Ghamdi added, calling for robust governance frameworks, international cooperation and continuous public awareness efforts to mitigate risks.

Governments require strategies that balance the need for open-source databases to fuel AI innovations while protecting individual privacy and ensuring data security, a balance that can be achieved through strict data protection laws and technical solutions, the SDAIA chief said.

As data flows transcend national borders, coordinating international standards for data access and privacy becomes critical, he added.

“This requires the presence of globally standardized data protection laws, where local regulations must adapt to address specific cultural and economic contexts. This coordination facilitates smoother data exchange, enhances security and privacy, and helps address global challenges collectively.”

By adopting open-source AI and open databases, “we can bring technology to a larger number of people, promote transparency, and foster a more inclusive technological landscape,” Al-Ghamdi said.

“However, this future also requires effective governance, strong regulatory frameworks, and proactive international collaboration to overcome risks and harness the full potential of AI responsibly.”

The Seoul summit was attended by technology and communications ministers as well as AI experts from countries around the world.


Saudi Arabia set to host UNCTAD Global Supply Chain Forum in 2026 

Updated 47 min 28 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia set to host UNCTAD Global Supply Chain Forum in 2026 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia will host the UN Trade and Development Global Supply Chain Forum in 2026, reinforcing its growing status as a global logistics hub. 

The international event will bring together leaders, experts, and organizations to shape the future of international trade.  

The biannual event — the first edition of which is being held from May 21 to 24 in Bridgetown, Barbados — aims to serve as a platform for global dialogue, shaping the investment environment in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. 

As per a statement from the Saudi Ports Authority, also known as Mawani, this accomplishment solidifies the Kingdom’s position as a key global logistics center and a pivotal point for connecting three continents. 

Saleh bin Nasser Al-Jasser, minister of transport and logistics services and chairman of the authority, stated that hosting this event reflects Saudi Arabia’s prominent position on the global stage and its significant influence in international organizations.  

He underscored the leadership’s commitment to supporting the transport and logistics sector to achieve developmental and service-oriented projects and initiatives, aligned with the ambitious goals of the National Transport and Logistics Strategy under Vision 2030. 

Al-Jasser added that winning the bid to host the 2026 UNCTAD Global Supply Chain Forum is a testament to the remarkable efforts in the ports and supply chain sector.  

It also mirrors the growth in operational capabilities and efficiency, as well as the substantial investments Mawani has made in developing infrastructure and maritime services in collaboration with the private sector, the release added.  

The current situation involves incidents targeting commercial vessels in the Red Sea, disruptions to Suez Canal shipping, instability in the Black Sea due to the conflict in Ukraine, and drought-related water level reductions in the Panama Canal, impacting vital trade routes. 

On another front, the increasing connectivity of Saudi ports with global counterparts, along with significant advancements in strategic partnerships with major international shipping lines, has led to the introduction of new maritime services linking the Kingdom with continents across the globe. This development is contributing to enhanced trade, exports, and global market connectivity. 

Omar bin Talal Hariri, president of Mawani, highlighted that this accomplishment reflects the successful efforts in developing logistics service standards. 

He added that the endeavor aids in supporting global trade, adopting innovative technologies in the maritime and logistics sector, and employing artificial intelligence to enhance services provided to beneficiaries.  

These efforts contribute to ensuring a more inclusive and sustainable future for global supply chains.