Investment opportunities in Saudi Arabia abound beyond major cities 

As Saudi Arabia steers toward a more resilient and inclusive economy, the growing fascination with these areas underscores the evolving priorities guiding the Kingdom’s economic trajectory. (SPA)
Short Url
Updated 20 April 2024
Follow

Investment opportunities in Saudi Arabia abound beyond major cities 

  • Decentralized development shifts attention away from the cities to the lesser-explored corners of the Kingdom

JEDDAH: In the heart of Saudi Arabia, amidst the towering skylines of Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam that have long symbolized the nation’s economic strength, a new narrative is taking shape. It is a story of decentralized development, where attention is shifting away from the bright lights of the cities to the lesser-explored corners of the Kingdom.
In recent years, there has been a noticeable pull towards the untapped potential of smaller towns and regional municipalities, captivating the interest of investors, entrepreneurs, and policymakers alike.
This shift marks a departure from the traditional belief that growth is solely concentrated in urban centers, signaling a fresh era of exploration and diversification.
As Saudi Arabia steers towards a more resilient and inclusive economy, the growing fascination with these areas, which had not received much attention before Saudi Vision 2030 was announced, underscores the evolving priorities and ambitions guiding the Kingdom’s economic trajectory.
Talat Hafiz, a renowned economist, told Arab News that the focus on developing small towns, helps to limit internal movement of people to urban and large cities to seek job opportunities and look for better living.
“It also supports the government efforts in reaching comprehensive sustainable economic development,” he said.




Economist Talat Hafiz

Commenting on what sectors or industries within these smaller towns are experiencing the most significant growth, Hafiz said that the case differs from one place to another as each city has its own economic characteristics and competitive advantages.
“In some towns, tourism is the most competitive advantage while the industrial sector is more competitive and advantageous in the others,” he pointed out.
The economist noted that Saudi Vision 2030 has fostered the capabilities of local planning decentralization, which would allow municipalities to undertake tasks that boost the city in collaboration with the private sector.
He added that that, as a result, several small towns and cities have been upgraded to the level of urban cities which in turn has improved the infrastructure and public services.
“Boosting the capability of small towns is coupled with the development of universities and medical and educational facilities, which in turn has attracted investment, created job opportunities and limited internal immigration,” Hafiz said.
Nasser Al-Qaraawi, another economist, said that Saudi Vision 2030 took into consideration the need to alleviate congestion within major cities due to the excessive focus on them.


He added that the excessive population density in these major cities, compared to other cities, has made life difficult, noting that ineffective urban planning strategies contributed to the overcrowding, especially by young people seeking job opportunities and education.
“This was followed by the aftermath of the stock market crisis in 2006,” he told Arab News.
Al-Qaraawi added that when the 2030 plan was announced, developing areas surrounding the larger cities and less developed regions were given the opportunity for growth.
However, he further said, these regions unfortunately vary in success as some municipalities are unable to perform to their full potential due to bureaucratic hurdles.
Al-Qaraawi recommended restructuring the municipalities, as development indicators highlight the pressing need to catch up and enact meaningful change within these local governments to fulfill the state’s goals and meet the citizens’ aspirations.
Investment opportunities in smaller municipalities include the following:

Diverse investment opportunities in EP municipality 

Eastern Province’s urban administration has unveiled 362 diverse investment opportunities, spanning cities and governorates.

Covering over 20,000 assets across 116 million sq. m., the initiative includes sectors like infrastructure, transportation and tourism. Investors were urged to capitalize on incentives like contractual extensions and exemption periods.

These investment portfolios serve as a database for significant investment growth in the region, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

Jazan as key investment hub, coffee capital
With its significant port and refinery, Jazan has experienced a surge in investment, driven by rapid infrastructure expansion. The economic zone aims to attract SR11 billion ($2.93 billion) in foreign investments by 2040, leveraging its untapped mining reserves. The region is poised to become a hub for the mining sector, projected to be Saudi Arabia's third pillar of industry.
Additionally, Jazan’s integrated economic center is expected to generate 17,000 direct jobs by 2040 and contribute significantly to the gross domestic product.
During the Cityscape Global Exhibition, held in Riyadh from Sept. 12-13 last year, Jazan Municipality announced 5,000 investment opportunities to be launched from 2023 to 2027, with a total value exceeding SR5 billion.
Among the most prominent developmental and investment projects presented were the Jazan Gateway, Water Park City, Al-Wadi Park, and Jazan Private University as well as Jazan Private Medical City.
On the other hand, the region’s renowned coffee industry adds to its cultural heritage, with plans for the International Saudi Coffee Exhibition to support local farming initiatives and transform Jazan into a global trade center.
The Sustainable Rural Agricultural Development Program has provided more than SR155 million in support to the coffee sector, benefiting over 3,000 farmers. The Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture, in collaboration with the private sector, is implementing various projects, including opportunities for coffee cultivation.

Northern Borders region attracts more investors 

The Kingdom seeks to establish a logistics zone in Arar, where investors will be granted land plots, according to Minister of Commerce Majid Al-Qasabi, who made the statement during his speech at the Northern Borders Investment Forum, held in November 2023.  
According to a release issued by the Arar Municipality in January 2024, Saudi Arabia’s Northern Borders region saw a 58.3 percent growth in factory numbers in the third quarter of 2023, with total investment hitting SR74.3 billion. 
The statement added that the area, driven by a strategic regional development office, attracted increased corporate spending for business setups during that period, rising from SR73.9 billion in the third quarter of 2023.
In February 2023, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced the establishment of the Strategic Office for the Development of the Northern Borders region to enhance the quality of life in the area. 

Asir region to exploit huge tourism potential

In September 2021, the crown prince unveiled a SR50 billion tourism strategy for Asir, aiming to attract over 10 million visitors by 2030. Dubbed “The Arabian Highland,” the plan entails comprehensive development, focusing on cultural and natural assets to establish Asir as a year-round destination.

Projects include enhancing tourist attractions on Asir’s mountains, leveraging the region’s rich culture and heritage for social and economic growth. The strategy taps into Asir’s tourism potential, emphasizing geographical diversity and modernizing infrastructure.
In October 2023, the crown prince announced a master plan for the new Abha International Airport, increasing capacity to accommodate 13 million passengers annually and enhancing air connectivity to 250 destinations, aligning with Saudi Vision 2030.
In the same month, he launched Ardara Co. to develop the Abha Valley project, contributing to Saudi Arabia’s National Tourism Strategy to position the Kingdom as a global tourism hub by 2030. These initiatives create opportunities across sectors like hospitality, agriculture, and entertainment, bolstering private sector growth. 

Taif attracts investments of over SR11 billion

Investment agreements exceeding SR11 billion were announced on the first day of the Taif Investment Forum, held in November 2023, according to the Saudi Press Agency. 
Under the theme “Invest in Taif,” the three-day forum saw active participation from industry leaders in the UK, China and South Korea. Several high-ranking officials from Saudi government agencies and the private sector also attended. 
Sultan Al-Saadoun, the general supervisor of the forum, emphasized that the investment agreements are the result of partnerships between the public and private sectors in over 27 projects.
He added that these projects will create more than 10,000 job opportunities for the people of Taif of both genders.  
Ghazi Al-Quthami, president of the city’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, underscored Taif’s potential for investments in various sectors, such as tourism, agriculture, industry, and healthcare.
He added that the chamber is actively collaborating with relevant entities to expand investment opportunities in the city. 

Al-Jouf provides 700 investment opportunities in 2023

The municipality of the northern region of Al-Jouf, which is home to the Sakaka solar power plant, announced in February 2024 it had introduced more than 700 opportunities in the municipal sector of the region during 2023 through the ‘Furas’ municipal investment portal.
The region’s mayor, Atef Al-Shara’an, emphasized the municipality’s commitment to presenting the available investment opportunities to investors in accordance with the plans of the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing, and the goals of Vision 2030 of the Kingdom, according to SPA.

Al-Shara’an added that the investment opportunities presented during the past year varied between major, medium, small, and temporary opportunities in all commercial, recreational and tourist as well as sports, service, seasonal events, and other fields.
Recently, the region’s mayoralty announced the bid opening for eight commercial and residential investment opportunities for national investors and institutions at Al-Esawia sub-municipality. The bid evaluation meeting is scheduled for April 15.

Yanbu emerges as entertainment hub 
A contract worth SR1.1 billion has been granted to build a new entertainment hub in Yanbu to boost economic diversification in Saudi Arabia.
The contract was awarded by Public Investment Fund subsidiary Saudi Entertainment Ventures, also known as SEVEN, to a joint venture between Al Bawani Co. and UCC Saudi, according to a press release.
The statement emphasized that the entertainment hub will be located along the seafront promenade on Al Nawras Island, aiming to greatly enhance the city’s local entertainment scene.
In a press statement, issued in September 2023, SEVEN said that the company is investing more than SR50 billion to build 21 entertainment destinations across Saudi Arabia.  
The company has earlier announced that it had already begun construction works on its entertainment destinations in the Al Hamra district of Riyadh and Tabuk. 

Buraidah Municipality unveils 28 investments opportunities

The Qassim region, home to Buraidah city, stands as a province abundant in natural and agricultural resources. Notably, it hosts the Middle East’s only bauxite mine, yielding approximately 5 million tonnes of ore and contributing to the Kingdom’s aluminum production of 1.8 million tonnes in 2020.
The Buraidah Municipality has recently unveiled 28 investment opportunities for the first quarter of 2024.
These opportunities encompass a wide range of sectors, from commercial, health, and tourism activities to transportation, construction, and entertainment projects. Additionally, investors can explore prospects in agriculture, education, and other sectors, promising diverse avenues for growth and development.

It is apparent that, by tapping into regional potential and spreading development initiatives, the Kingdom aims to reduce reliance on oil revenues, stimulate job creation, and foster widespread prosperity, in line with the goals of Saudi Vision 2030.
 


Saudi minister discusses logistics cooperation on visit to Port of Rotterdam

Updated 29 May 2024
Follow

Saudi minister discusses logistics cooperation on visit to Port of Rotterdam

  • Discussions touched on encouraging Dutch infrastructure investments for metal processing in the Kingdom

AMSTERDAM: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources, Bandar Ibrahim Alkhorayef, paid a visit to the Port of Rotterdam, where he discussed with the port authority ways to enhance cooperation in logistics services.

Opportunities provided by the Kingdom in this sector, the role that the Kingdom can play as a strategic supplier of vital minerals, and how to enhance the flexibility of global supply chains, leveraging the Kingdom’s position as a bridge between East and West were discussed.

The meeting with port officials also explored avenues for enhancing cooperation with Dutch companies in various fields, including developing processing and recycling capabilities in both countries, benefiting from Dutch expertise and technology.

Additionally, discussions touched on encouraging Dutch infrastructure investments for metal processing in the Kingdom to achieve the aspirations of both countries in developing the sector.

Alkhorayef reviewed the objectives of the National Industrial Development and Logistics Program (NIDLP), a program under Saudi Vision 2030, which focuses on investing in the Kingdom’s unique strategic location linking three continents and transforming it into a leading industrial power and global logistics center.

The minister also toured the port’s FutureLand area, where he was briefed on the various maritime services provided to ships and shipping companies, including towing, docking, repairs, shipbuilding, and ship supply.


Saudi Arabia and Austria sign MoU for economic cooperation

Updated 29 May 2024
Follow

Saudi Arabia and Austria sign MoU for economic cooperation

VIENNA: Saudi Arabia’s economy ministry and its Austrian counterpart signed a memorandum of understanding to boost economic cooperation between the two nations.
The Saudi Ministry of Economy and Planning Austria’s Ministry of Labor and Economy in the deal on the sidelines of the Saudi-Austrian Joint Committee held in the Austrian capital.
 The MoU was signed by the Saudi Minister of Economy and Planning Faisal bin Fadel Al-Ibrahim, and the Austrian Minister of Labor and Economy, Martin Kocher.
 The MoU aims to diversify and strengthen economic ties, exchange experiences and information, and encourage cooperation in a number of fields, including trade, industry, research and development, tourism, small and medium enterprises.
Among the content of the MoU is the organization of conferences, seminars and the exchange of visits between experts, in addition to cooperation between government institutions and the private sector.
The parties are also committed to protecting intellectual property rights and exchanging information for the purposes specified in the MoU.
This MoU comes within the framework of a cooperation agreement in the economic, commercial, industrial and technical fields signed between the two governments in 2004.


Xi calls for more jobs for youth, migrant workers

Updated 28 May 2024
Follow

Xi calls for more jobs for youth, migrant workers

  • (We should) insist that employment of young people including college graduates is a top priority: Chinese president

BEIJING: China’s President Xi Jinping called on Monday for efforts to promote high-quality and sufficient jobs for college graduates and migrant workers, while presiding over a Politburo group study session, state media Xinhua reported on Tuesday.

“(We should) insist that employment of young people including college graduates is a top priority,” the Xinhua report quoted Xi as saying at a group study session of the Politburo, a top decision-making body of the ruling Communist Party.

The Xinhua report did not give details on job promotion support measures or plans.

The survey-based jobless rate for 16-24 year-olds, excluding college students, was 14.7 percent in April, down from 15.3 percent in March, official data showed last week.

China’s statistics bureau revised its methodology by removing college students from the survey pool after youth jobless rate surged to around 20 percent last year.

Xi also said the government should take steps to promote the employment of migrant workers, guide them to return to their hometowns and for people to start businesses in the countryside.

He called for stabilizing the income of people who had been lifted out of poverty and preventing large-scale return to poverty due to unemployment, Xinhua said.

Companies and industries with strong job creation capabilities will be supported, the report said.

China created 4.36 million new urban jobs in the first four months, Human Resources Ministry data showed, 36 percent of its annual job creation target.


Saudis spent more money on electronic devices during the 4th week of May: SAMA data

Updated 28 May 2024
Follow

Saudis spent more money on electronic devices during the 4th week of May: SAMA data

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s point-of-sale spending reached SR11.2 billion ($2.98 billion) in the fourth week of May, official figures showed.

The latest data from the Saudi Central Bank, also known as SAMA, revealed that spending on electronic and electric devices surged by 9.5 percent to reach SR240.4 million.

Beverages and food, which accounts for the largest share at 14.9 percent, saw a 5.9 percent decline, reaching SR1.66 billion, during the week from May 19 to 25.

Meanwhile, transactions at restaurants and cafes, holding a 14.6 percent share, recorded a slower decline of 4.8 percent, amounting to SR1.64 billion. 

Saudi spending on miscellaneous goods and services, including personal care items, supplies, maintenance, and cleaning, constituted the third-highest share and witnessed a 5.1 percent decline that week, reaching SR1.36 billion. 

Despite composing only 1 percent of the week’s overall POS value, spending on education recorded a minimal increase of 0.1 percent to SR152.48 million.

In the past few years, this sector has been allocated the largest share of government expenditure in comparison to other divisions of the economy. 

Efforts are underway to revamp the education system, aiming to equip the national workforce with the necessary skills to thrive in a technological and information-centric global economy.

The hotel sector experienced the largest decline in POS transaction value, dropping 10.9 percent to SR227.13 million.

According to data from SAMA, 35.44 percent of POS spending occurred in Riyadh, with the total transaction value reaching SR3.97 billion. However, this represents a 1.6 percent decrease from the previous week.  

Riyadh has undergone considerable expansion, evolving into a pivotal center for growth and progress. The city is witnessing a surge in new businesses setting up operations, drawn by its vibrant economic landscape and strategic prospects for investment and innovation.

Spending in Jeddah followed closely, accounting for 14.3 percent of the total and reaching SR1.60 billion; however, it marked a 3.1 percent weekly drop. 

The two cities that registered the highest declines in POS spending were Makkah and Madinah, with decreases of 11 percent and 6.8 percent, respectively. The value of transactions in Makkah reached SR380.98 million, while in Madinah, it was SR393.26 million.


Saudi healthcare to advance with major digital tech partnership

Updated 28 May 2024
Follow

Saudi healthcare to advance with major digital tech partnership

RIYADH: The Saudi healthcare system is set to advance as two of the country’s major companies partner to leverage digital technologies to enhance the Kingdom’s capabilities.

SAMI Advanced Electronics Co., a wholly owned subsidiary of SAMI, the nation’s defense and digital solutions provider, has signed a cooperation agreement with the National Unified Procurement Co., a Public Investment Fund company.

The agreement, signed on May 27, will provide solutions for medication tracking and IT infrastructure and increase local content through medical devices manufacturing and maintenance.

This partnership demonstrates SAMI-AEC’s unremitting efforts to build a harmonious and applicable healthcare system in Saudi Arabia based on digital technologies.

Ziad Al-Musallam, CEO of SAMI-AEC, commented on the agreement, saying that they are honored to collaborate with NUPCO, as this deal underscores the unwavering commitment of both entities to bolstering efforts aimed at enhancing the healthcare ecosystem in Saudi Arabia.

“At SAMI-AEC, we firmly believe in the significance of augmenting public health services through digital solutions and delivering e-health services. This involves integrating effective, fast technologies to empower the healthcare sector, aligning with the objectives of Saudi Vision 2030,” he said.

Fahad Al-Shebel, CEO of NUPCO, highlighted the agreement’s importance and its role in fortifying the healthcare infrastructure and facilitating access to the integrated technology offered by SAMI-Advanced Electronics Co.

Aiming to upgrade the healthcare sector by improving its facilities in all public hospitals and medical centers in the Kingdom, NUPCO is the country’s largest central company providing medical purchasing, storage, and distribution services for medicines, devices, and supplies.

With a workforce of over 3,320 individuals, 85 percent of whom are Saudi nationals, SAMI-AEC has positioned itself as a leader in electronics, technology, engineering, and manufacturing. Its services span sectors such as defense and aerospace, digital, energy, and security.

Over 800 of the company’s employees are engineers and certified experts, reaffirming the dedication of SAMI-AEC, which was established in 1988, to excellence and innovation.

On the other hand, NUPCO was established in 2009 with SR1.5 billion in capital. It is the leading company in Saudi Arabia in procurement, logistics, and supply chain management for pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and supplies for governmental hospitals.