Saudi Education Ministry takes on distance learning of 6 million students in 10 days

28/03/20

Thirty-seven million students have tuned in to view Ein’s content on the internet, excluding those watching on TV. (SPA)

  • Saudi ministry has revealed that a new platform is being planned to support teachers and students interested in volunteering with health and logistics bodies to help battle the pandemic

JEDDAH: The Saudi Ministry of Education has been working relentlessly to ensure students have access to their education as the world battles the coronavirus pandemic.
Ibtisam Al-Shehri, the ministry’s spokesperson, said: “In 10 days, the ministry implemented distance learning to 6 million students. Students were offered five options by the ministry for virtual learning, accessible at any time and place.”
She added: “The ministry even made these educational tools available to those without internet access on TV through Ein channels.”
The students can gain access to their classes through 20 Ein channels on TV, Ein’s Youtube channel, Ein educational portal, future gate and unified education database. Thirty-seven million students have tuned in to view Ein’s content on the internet, excluding those watching on TV.
Al-Shehri said that students’ finals will be held as scheduled before coronavirus on Ramadan 10, but they are prepared for other emergencies with solutions such as virtual examinations in accordance with the educational calendar, virtual examinations for any given time as the current situation advances, virtual examinations for select grade levels and in-person examination for others.

FASTFACT

The students can gain access to their classes through 20 Ein channels on TV, Ein’s Youtube channel, Ein educational portal, future gate and unified education database. Thirty-seven million students have tuned in to view Ein’s content on the internet, excluding those watching on TV.

The ministry has also revealed that a new platform is being planned to support teachers and students interested in volunteering with health and logistics bodies to help battle the pandemic.
Meanwhile, King Abdul Aziz University (KAU) has launched an initiative to provide computers for students who do not have access to online distance learning.
KAU president, Abdulrahman bin Obaid Al-Youbi, said that more than 1,000 students had applied, and the first batch of devices had been distributed. Those wishing to apply should go to https://marz.kau.edu.sa/ShowSurveyLogin.aspx?SID=175235.

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Saudi Arabia set to become top regional TV production hub

17/02/20

Johannes Larcher. (Supplied)
  • “Riyadh’s new creative zone for art, media and entertainment will be a good breeding ground”

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia has the potential to become one of the Middle East’s leading TV production hubs, according to MBC executive Johannes Larcher.

It comes as the region’s biggest broadcaster plans to establish its headquarters in Riyadh’s new creative zone for art, media and entertainment.

“We want Saudi Arabia to emerge as one of the centers of great content production in the region besides Egypt and Lebanon,” said Larcher, who oversees MBC’s Shahid video-on-demand (VOD) platform. “We see ourselves doing more and more there. There is significant investment under the Vision 2030 plan and it goes into the entertainment industry — everything from developing acting schools and sound stages to encouraging physical production in Saudi. It’s a big theme for the Saudi government and we are very supportive of that.”

The Kingdom is the location for the shooting of “Dahaya Halal” (Halal victims), one of MBC’s big new productions for 2020.

Earlier this month MBC Group CEO Marc Antoine d’Halluin revealed plans to become an anchor tenant in the new media zone in the Saudi capital. “The diversity of our team and the richness of our human capital will offer new skillsets to young Saudis joining the media industry, coupled with high professional standards and global best practices,” he told MBC staff in a memo.

“I’m confident that Riyadh’s new creative zone for art, media and entertainment will be a good breeding ground for sector growth, expansion and innovation. In fact, it will attract and retain the best and most innovative players, and MBC Group’s new Saudi HQ will be at the heart of it.”

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Saudi Arabia now employing 2m people in booming retail sector, says labor minister

Time: 12 February, 2020

Minister of Labor and Social Development Ahmad Al-Rajhi speaks at Retail Leaders Circle MENA Summit in Riyadh. (Photo/ Invest Saudi Twitter page)
  • The Saudi government had given the retail sector considerable attention through numerous economic reforms aimed at supporting the sector

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia was gearing up to meet the future challenges of the booming retail sector which currently employs more than 2 million people in the Kingdom, the country’s labor minister revealed on Tuesday.

Speaking at a major international conference of top retailers, being held in Riyadh, Saudi Minister of Labor and Social Development Ahmad Al-Rajhi said the number of people working in the sector represented a quarter of the total workforce in the country’s private sector.

In his opening keynote speech on the second day of the Retail Leaders Circle (RLC) MENA Summit, the minister said: “The Kingdom currently employs more than 2 million males and females in the retail sector, and they constitute more than 25 percent of the total workforce in the private sector in Saudi Arabia.

“This number of workers has been increasing due to the country’s strong purchasing power and growing consumption rate.”

He added that the Saudi government had given the retail sector considerable attention through numerous economic reforms aimed at supporting the sector and creating an environment that appealed to investors.

Al-Rajhi told delegates that the retail sector faced many challenges in the form of rapid technological advances, digital transformation, and the trend to optimize consumption and provide convenience to customers through e-commerce and smartphone apps.

However, the challenges also presented opportunities for the creation of new jobs, he said, and it was important that the workforce was reskilled or upskilled accordingly to take advantage.

“The ministry is working to develop the necessary legislation for new business patterns and to empower employers and employees to keep pace with technological changes which will be reflected in enabling the retail sector to keep pace with its future requirements to become more effective in achieving the aspirations of the Saudi Vision 2030,” Al-Rajhi added.

He noted that the ministry had established a new state-owned firm, the Future Work Co., to support the developments and make the Kingdom a pioneer in the manufacturing of innovative, unconventional, yet sustainable future business patterns.

“We are working on enabling and developing human capital with the skills and technological advances related to the retail sector to ease their participation in the labor market and have launched apprenticeship programs to bridge the gap between business owners and job seekers.”

The ministry supported the retail sector through a range of initiatives, he said. One example was Qiwa, which had involved the automation and simplification of ministry services provided to the private sector through a unified platform, allowing Qiwa enterprises to issue instant work visas.

Addressing the summit, the minister pointed out that one of the main principles of Vision 2030 was to increase the participation of women in the labor market and qualify them for leadership positions.

The share of women in the labor market had risen to 25 percent in the third quarter of 2019, which was higher than the target of 24 percent expected to be achieved by 2020, he added.

Speaking on the disruptive role of financial technology (fintech) in today’s instant, digital world, Ahmad Alanazi, chief executive officer of STC Pay, said: “In the past, we were innovation takers and adapters, but today we are becoming innovation creators and distributors.”

Praising Vision 2030, Renuka Jagtiani, chairperson of multinational consumer conglomerate Landmark Group, said: “I think 2030 as a vision is amazing and to be a part of it is very exciting.

“As a footprint, we are really proud that we have over 7,000 Saudi co-workers in our business, and 70 percent of them are women.”

Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) Gov. Ibrahim Al-Omar, in his closing remarks to the summit, said: “Hosting RLC MENA 2020 comes at a time of great change for Saudi Arabia. Our growing economy is unlocking remarkable potential across many sectors and creating jobs within the Kingdom.”

The sixth edition of the summit, which unites powerful industry leaders, innovators and decision-makers to share global insights and best practice, was hosted for the first time in Saudi Arabia and concluded on Tuesday.

Previously held in Dubai, this year’s conference included more than 50 speakers who highlighted ways to shape the future of the retail industry. Day two of the summit took an in-depth look at consumer behavior and explored how retailers could meet customer expectations.

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Saudi Arabia on a fast track to gender equality, study suggests

09/02/20

  • A World Bank report places Kingdom first in gender equality in GCC bloc and second in the Arab region
  • The WBL report measures gender inequality in the law and identifies barriers to women’s economic participation

DUBAI: Rapid reform in Saudi Arabia is opening the door for female “role models and leaders of the future” — and the Kingdom’s women are seizing the opportunity, according to major employers.

Saudi women are bringing “passion, energy and enthusiasm” to the workplace in greater numbers than ever, Danielle Atkins, chief marketing and communications officer at Diriyah Gate Development Authority (DGDA) in Riyadh, told Arab News.

Atkins said that she has seen a sharp rise in the number of women working in the Kingdom.

“I look for passion, an entrepreneurial spirit and commitment —  and all of this I see from the Saudi women in my team,” she said.

“This is an incredible time for Saudi women.”

FASTFACT

38.8

Jump in Saudi Arabia’s score in World Bank’s ‘Women, Business and the Law’ report.

Atkins’ comments follow a World Bank report that highlighted Saudi Arabia’s rapid progress towards gender quality since 2017 by ranking it the top reformer and the top improver among 190 countries.

The bank’s “Women, Business and the Law” (WBL) 2020 report gave the Kingdom an overall score of 70.6 out of 100 — a 38.8 jump since its last ranking  — placing it first among GCC countries and second in the Arab world.

WBL measures gender inequality in the law, identifies barriers to women’s economic participation and encourages reform of discriminatory laws.

The report highlights improvements in Saudi Arabia’s score in six of the eight indicators, notably in women’s mobility, following the removal of restrictions on obtaining a passport and traveling abroad.

Besides mobility (100), the most improvements were recorded in the workplace (100), marriage (60), parenthood (40), entrepreneurship (100) and pension (100).

New legal amendments also equalized women’s right to choose where to live and to leave the marital home, the report says.

Atkins told Arab News that the “remarkable change” in opportunities for women  can be attributed to the implementation of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s blueprint for transformation — the Saudi 2030 Vision

“Today, women are being appointed to senior governmental roles and are leading in fields such as science and medicine, which were traditionally male oriented,” she said.

“They will become role models for the future.”

Reforms including the right to drive offer Saudi women a stake in the Kingdom’s economic future, according to a World Bank report. (AFP)

With regard to the workplace, Saudi Arabia has enacted legislation and criminal penalties for sexual harassment and prohibited gender discrimination.

In the area of marriage, the Kingdom has begun allowing women to be head of the household and removed the legal obligation to obey their husbands. With regards to parenthood, Saudi Arabia, along with the UAE, prohibited the dismissal of pregnant workers.

“One of the goals of Vision 2030 is to increase the proportion of women in employment from the current level of 22 percent to 30 percent,” Atkins said.

“The DGDA team is comprised of 83 percent Saudis, of which 34 percent are women. The marketing team has an even higher percentage with 57 percent of women.

“My first three new hires are all Saudi women, and my impression as someone who is new to the Kingdom is that this change is being led by the government and individual CEOs. It would be great to see this cascade into all industries within Saudi Arabia,” she said.

In a boost for entrepreneurship, the Kingdom has made access to credit easier for women by prohibiting gender-based discrimination in financial services, a legal provision that has been proven to increase women’s access to finance and is still not in place in 115 economies.

In the pension section, the Kingdom equalized the age (60) at which men and women can retire with full pension benefits. It also mandated a retirement age of 60 for both women and men.

One of the most encouraging aspects of the changes underway in the Kingdom is the trend for women to study what have traditionally been regarded as exclusively male domains: Science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the so-called STEM disciplines.

For instance, of the 5,200 who graduated from the Princess Nourah Bint Abdulrahman University (PNU) in Riyadh last year, 1,400 came from STEM faculties.

“I predict a huge contribution from women in that sector in the near future,” Einas Al-Eisa, rector of the PNU, told Arab News at the recent annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

“One good story that comes from Saudi Arabia is the increased number of women engaging in the technology sectors, for example, versus the drop we see worldwide. Elsewhere women are moving away from these fields, whereas in the Kingdom, the number is going up constantly.”

Cyril Widdershoven, director of VEROCY, a Dutch consultancy advising on investments, energy and infrastructure in the region, said improvements in the position of women in Saudi Arabia are visible in offices, workplaces and on the streets.

“The role of women in the Saudi economy is clear. It is an available workforce that should be accessed,” he said.

“At the same time, diversity in the workforce is increasing overall productivity, profitability and sustainability.

“What needs to be done is to educate and strategize sectors for women.”

Women university students in the Kingdom are entering traditional male domains such as science, engineering and mathematics in growing numbers. (AFP)

According to the World Bank report, economies in the Middle East and North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa make up nine of the top 10 reforming economies.

Some of the Kingdom’s groundbreaking reforms include criminalizing sexual harassment in public and private sector employment in 2018, as well as allowing women greater economic opportunity last year.

Legal amendments now protect women from discrimination in employment, including job advertisements and hiring, and prohibit employers from dismissing a woman during her pregnancy and maternity leave.

“These reforms build on other historic changes in Saudi Arabia, which in 2015 for the first time allowed women to vote and run as candidates in municipal elections and, in 2017, gave women the right to drive,” the report said. “The reforms are spurred by an understanding that women play an important role in moving Saudi Arabia closer to its Vision 2030.

“This ambitious plan to modernize the Saudi Arabian economy by diversifying it beyond oil and gas, promoting private sector growth, and supporting entrepreneurship also includes the goal of increasing women’s labor force participation.”

The report mentioned  remaining legal constraints on women’s participation in the economy, which, if addressed, could increase their economic contribution.

As for what young Saudi women will do after graduation, the Vision 2030 strategy envisages a big increase in the female workforce, rising to as much as 30 percent over the next decade.

Recent statistics show that the Kingdom is well on the way to reaching that target, with 23.5 percent of the private sector workforce being female.

“Just as it should be everywhere else in the world, it is the competency of the graduates that dictates where they go,” Al-Eisa said.

For Saudi Arabia to diversify and advance, Widdershoven said, the Kingdom’s women need to be financially independent, but also able to fill in gaps in the workforce.

“From health care to finance, energy, agriculture and industry, the strength of these mainly young women is remarkable,” he said.

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Saudi Arabia’s Neom ‘is the land of the future’

Time: 05 February, 2020

Hamid Syed, Middle East vice president and general manager for UL and Ibraheem Alfuraih, NCA deputy governor for strategy and planning, sign an agreement. (Global Cybersecurity Forum)
  • The CEO said Neom will be the first city totally powered by renewable energy and supported by a fully protected digital system
  • Al-Nasr said that Neom is working closely with the National Cybersecurity Authority (NCA) to train thousands of workers for the tech and digital sector and its “state of the art security system”

RIYADH: Smart city technologies will ensure Neom is “the land of the future,” with the Saudi mega-city providing an exceptional quality of life for up to 1 million people by 2030, according to CEO Nadhmi Al-Nasr.
Speaking on Wednesday at a session on smart cities at the Global Cybersecurity Forum in Riyadh, Al-Nasr said that work on Neom’s overall strategy, including the key tech and digital sector, is nearing completion.
The strategy is expected to be unveiled in March and will provide an “automated digitized Neom future,” he said.
Al-Nasr said the strategy is not an “evolution but a revolution of the regional plan.”
“Neom is the land of the future. I cannot think of a better timing for Neom than at this forum.
“We are targeting 1 million people, residents and workers, in Neom by 2030, and growing from none to a million in 10 years is not an easy task. It’s going to be the target; we are going to have thousands of digital nomads,” he said.
The CEO said Neom will be the first city totally powered by renewable energy and supported by a fully protected digital system.
“We are going to be the first place in the world that is fully digitized. We are going to be the first region in the world where we are going to be a 100 percent cashless facility. We are going to be the first place with a digital health backbone that connects everyone in the smart city and provides a 24-hour health service.
“We will have fully autonomous mobility, we will have only electric vehicles and public transport will be fully autonomous,” he said.
Al-Nasr said that Neom is working closely with the National Cybersecurity Authority (NCA) to train thousands of workers for the tech and digital sector and its “state of the art security system.”
Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy joined speakers at the Riyadh forum on the final day to discuss the role of leadership in the future of cybersecurity.
On the sidelines of the forum, Hamid Syed, Middle East vice president and general manager for UL, a global safety science company, and Ibraheem Alfuraih, NCA deputy governor for strategy and planning, signed a joint agreement to work on a cybersecurity framework for the Kingdom.

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Saudi Arabia rights workshop confronts child abuse

04/02/20

Dr. Awwad Al-Awwad
  • Al-Awad stressed that the Kingdom has made great progress at the international level in the protection of childhood

RIYADH: The President of the Human Rights Commission Awad Al-Awad has affirmed that sexual harassment against children constitutes a grave violation of their rights and is a perverted practice criminalized by Islamic law and international law.

He called for intensified efforts and joint action at the family, community and institutional levels to enhance awareness of its risks and negative impacts. This came in a speech yesterday during a workshop organized by the commission in Riyadh, with the participation of a number of relevant authorities, civil society institutions and specialists.

Al-Awad stressed that the Kingdom has made great progress at the international level in the protection of childhood. He added that Saudi Arabia has taken many measures to strengthen the relevant regulatory and institutional frameworks.

Dr. Nadia Nusair, a family psychological counsellor, said: “Sexual harassment is a worldwide phenomenon that exists in both Arab and Western countries, but with different scales in each country.”

Psychological analysis of offenders shows that they tend to be unstable and psychopathic.

The harasser is usually a family member or a person who is well-known to the child.

Al-Awad stressed the need to work in line with the state’s policies related to child protection.

He added that the commission aimed, through the workshop, to find new mechanisms to confront child abuse.

The commission aims to achieve an effective partnership between government agencies and civil society institutions that deal with children.

It is also developing a joint action plan and new tools to report harassment.

The commission is looking to improve the quality of assistance and support provided to victims’ families in the legal, psychological and medical experience, as well as finding the right means to reintegrate victims into schools.

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Saudi Arabia 3rd-fastest reducer of fuel emissions among G20 nations

04/02/20

Carbon dioxide emissions in Saudi Arabia fell by almost double the predicted amount during 2018, the most up-to-date statistics from Enerdata have revealed. (Reuters/File)
  • CO2 emissions in the Kingdom fell by almost double the predicted amount during 2018

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has become the third-fastest reducer of emissions from fuel consumption among G20 countries, according to latest figures.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the Kingdom fell by almost double the predicted amount during 2018, the most up-to-date statistics from Enerdata have revealed.

Data for the year showed a 4.4 percent or 26 million tons (MtCO2) fall in emissions in the country, down from 579 MtCO2 in 2017 to 553 MtCO2 in 2018. Previous estimates had put the reduction at 2.4 percent (15 MtCO2).

The results moved Saudi Arabia up from being fourth to the third-fastest reducer of emissions from fuel consumption among the top-five G20 group of countries, behind Brazil and France and in front of Germany and Japan.

Researchers at the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC) have published an analysis based on the updated estimates.

“This new data shows that the impact of energy efficiency and energy price reforms in reducing wasteful energy use has been even greater than expected,” said Dr. Nicholas Howarth, a researcher at KAPSARC.

“Prior to 2016, CO2 emissions grew at over 5 percent each year. Seeing emissions now fall so strongly may come as a surprise to many.

“It also comes as Saudi Arabia hosts the G20 summit, where climate change is an important agenda item. It sets the stage well for the Kingdom to show leadership on the issue,” he added.

KAPSARC’s study findings showed that the rate of improvement in the energy intensity of Saudi Arabia’s economy was 5.5 percent in 2018, well above the global average of 1.2 percent.

Dr. Alessandro Lanza, another KAPSARC researcher, said: “Falling energy intensity was responsible for 81 percent of the emissions reductions, meaning more value is being created for every unit of energy consumed locally.”

According to researcher Thamir Al-Shehri, a sharp fall in diesel consumption was the main reason for the additional drop in emission levels.

“Emissions from the transport sector fell by an extra 10 MtCO2 than what was previously expected. This was due to diesel emissions falling by 19 MtCO2, or 43 percent, from 43.5 MtCO2 in 2017 to 24.5 MtCO2 in 2018.

“In addition to lower fuel use from consumers, part of the explanation for this large drop may be a lower payoff due to higher local diesel prices for those who would buy the fuel in Saudi Arabia to illegally export to other countries,” added Al-Shehri.

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Saudi Neom megacity will have world’s first ‘solar dome’ desalination plant

Time: 30 January, 2020 

(Photo/Supplied)
  • Facility will be completely sustainable, carbon neutral and greatly reduce environmental impact of water extraction
  • Construction is due to begin in the next month and is expected to be complete by end of 2020

TABUK: The Neom smart-city project will use cutting-edge solar technology to power a desalination plant that produces clean, low-cost, environmentally friendly fresh water.

The decision aims to enhance megacity’s position as a new global tourism destination, a center of innovation and environmental conservation, and as an accelerator of human progress.

Neom signed an agreement with UK business Solar Water Limited to build a desalination plant in the northwest of the Kingdom that uses the newly developed “solar dome” technology. It is hoped the first-of-its-kind, completely sustainable and carbon-neutral facility will shape the future of desalination in Neom, the Kingdom and throughout the world.

Work on the solar dome project will begin in February and is expected to be completed by the end of the year. The technology it employs will significantly reduce the environmental impact of the desalination process by producing less saline solution, a byproduct that can harm natural ecosystems.

The pioneering and innovative approach from Solar Water Limited, which was developed at Cranfield University in the UK, represents the first widespread use of concentrated solar power technology in desalination, Neom said. Seawater is pumped into a hydrological solar dome made of glass and steel, where it is heated and evaporated to remove the salt. The process can continue at night thanks to the storage of solar energy generated throughout the day. The technology helps to prevent any damage to marine life as it does not dump saline solution created by the process back into the sea.

“Neom’s adoption of the experimental version of this program supports the sustainability goals set by the Ministry in the Kingdom, as shown in the National Water Strategy 2030, and is fully in line with the sustainable-development goals set by the United Nations,” said Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture Abdulrahman Al-Fadhli.

Neom CEO Nadhmi Al-Nasr said that the megacity project has easy access to abundant amounts of seawater and completely renewable energy resources, which puts it in the ideal position to produce low-cost and sustainable fresh water using solar-powered desalination.

He added that the adoption of this type of technology reflects Neom’s commitment to supporting innovation, protecting the environment and preserving its purity to provide a comfortable and exceptional life. It also raises the possibility of using the technology in other parts of Saudi Arabia in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture.

David Reavley, the CEO of Solar Water Ltd, said: “Currently, thousands of desalination plants around the world rely heavily on burning fossil fuels for water extraction, and we have the technology to desalinate water in a way that is completely sustainable and 100 percent carbon neutral.

“We are happy to partner with Neom, which has a strong vision of what the new future looks like in harmony and integration with nature.”

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Saudi women tops in World Bank study

27/01/20

Wide-ranging reforms have given Saudi women the lead when it comes to improved economic opportunities, according to a World Bank Women, Business and the Law (WBL) report.

The study looked at reforms in 190 countries targeting restrictions on women’s work options.

A series of performance indicators was used to rank countries, with the Kingdom scoring 70.6 out of 100.

For the past decade the World Bank’s WBL project has focused on gender equality and worked to empower women. Its coverage of 190 economies is based on eight indicators relevant to women’s economic participation: Mobility, workplace laws, pay, marriage, parenthood, entrepreneurship, assets and pension.

The mobility indicator examines constraints on women’s freedom of movement, while the workplace indicator analyzes laws affecting women’s decisions to enter and remain in the labor force. The marriage indicator assesses legal constraints to marriage alongside the parenthood indicator evaluating laws affecting women’s work after having children.

Saudi Arabia has made an outstanding improvement in six out of the eight indicators, with a top ranking among GCC countries.

Undoubtedly, the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reforms have helped Saudi women achieve the outstanding ranking. Government initiatives have empowered women and provided them with equal work opportunities.

Additionally, the Saudi government has allowed women to drive in order to commute easily between their homes and workplace, and also introduced regulations related to women’s work and business, such as giving women 21 years of age and over the right to travel, and protecting women from discrimination, especially with regard to employment and salaries.

All these reforms and others have encouraged Saudi women’s participation in the economy and the labor market.

Women’s contribution to the economy will grow in future in order to meet one of the Vision’s main objectives — raising female participation in the labor market from 22 percent to 35 percent by 2030.

Talat Zaki Hafiz is an economist and financial analyst.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point-of-view

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Plan afoot to make Riyadh the Middle East’s ‘mega-metropolis’

Time: 22 January, 2020

Al-Bujairi Square in historic Ad Diriyah. (Shutterstock)
  • Head of Royal Commission for Riyadh outlines ambitious program in conversation with Arab News
  • Fahd Al-Rasheed says the aim is to make Riyadh a “more sustainable, mobile and livable city”

DAVOS: Saudi Arabia is planning for a dramatic increase in the population of the capital, Riyadh, to make it a “mega-metropolis” in the Middle East, Arab News can reveal.

Speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Fahd Al-Rasheed, who last November took up the role of president of the Royal Commission for Riyadh – the city’s ultimate planning and development authority – said that the population could double by 2030, with planned population growth of 8 per cent per year.

“Riyadh is already the biggest urban economy in the region, but with the scale and leverage this plan bring will turn it into a mega-metropolis,” Al-Rasheed said.

“What we’re going to see in Riyadh is an economic revolution the like of which the world has not seen.”

The master plan for the city will also involve a change of lifestyle and image for the Kingdom’s capital. “It is not just about growth, but about the quality of growth,” Al-Rasheed said.

“The aim is to make Riyadh a more sustainable, mobile and livable city, with family facilities, sports, events, health facilities and schools.”

He added that the Royal Commission is planning some 424 initiatives of varying sizes over the next decade, and the aggregate value of projects amounted to $55 billion (SR 206.25 billion).

Al-Rasheed said the projects would be built via public and private sector initiatives, and he would welcome foreign participation in the projects.

There have been several mega-projects under way in the capital for some time, and Al-Rasheed is planning to prioritize completion of some of these in the next 12 months.

He said that the Riyadh Metro and the King Abdullah Financial District projects would be “soft-launched” in time for the G20 meeting of global leaders in November.

“Big parts of KAFD are already occupied, commercial and residential, but these are very complex projects. The Metro involves a space of 4 million square meters, most of that underground,” he said.

We will see an economic revolution in Riyadh the like of which the world has never seen.

Fahd Al-Rasheed, President, Royal Commission for Riyadh

Other big developments to transform the city are the Green Riyadh project, which involves the planting of a tree for each of the current population, which would make the capital “as green as London” and also help reduce temperatures.

Riyadh has grown on average at around 4 per cent per year over the past two decades, and currently has a population of around 7 million.

“We are already adding 300,000 residents per year,” Al-Rasheed said.

“It is a very exciting project because it represents the future of the capital of the Kingdom.”

Under Al-Rasheed as chief executive, the King Abdullah Economic City on the Red Sea coast became one of the most successful developments in the region.

“KAEC has the second largest commercial port in the Kingdom, the most successful non-oil industrial zone in the country, as well as a diverse residential community with world class sports and events,” he said.

The plan to grow the Riyadh is the latest of the mega-projects of the Vision 2030 strategy to diversify the country away from oil dependency, in the same league as the Red Sea Development, the Neom project in the northwest, and the Qiddiya leisure resort south of the capital.

Last week, Arab News revealed that Khalaf Al-Habtoor, the UAE property and leisure tycoon, was planning a huge development in Riyadh involving parks, hotels, lakes and recreation facilities.

Riyadh, which was made the capital city when the Kingdom was established in 1932, is one of the fastest grown in the Arab world.

Over the past two decades its population has doubled as the Kingdom’s economy boomed on rising oil prices and, more recently, as the hub for the Vision 2030 transformation of the Saudi economy.

The Royal Commission was set up last year to replace the Riyadh Development Authority.

In addition to the Metro and the KAFD, it oversees several other urban initiatives, including the historical Addiriyah development program and the King Abdulaziz Historical Center Project.

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