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Saudi Arabia’s youth unemployment numbers fall sharply

Time: April 16, 2019   

Saudi Arabia's youth unemployment numbers fall sharply
Total youth unemployment (20-24 years old) declined notably, from 42.7 percent in 2017 to 36.6 percent in 2018, according to latest figures.
By Sam Bridge

Unemployment in Saudi Arabia fell slightly in the fourth quarter of 2018 to 12.7 percent, according to latest figures.

Jadwa Investment, citing data from the General Authority for Statistics (GaStat) said unemployment had fallen from 12.8 percent in the same period in 2017.

Total youth unemployment (20-24 years old) declined notably, from 42.7 percent in 2017 to 36.6 percent in 2018, it noted.

Jadwa also said that female labour force participation continued to rise, reaching 20.2 percent by the end of 2018, up from 19.4 percent in 2017.

The data also showed that the total number of foreigners in the Saudi labour market declined by around 1.6 million since the start of 2017, with around one million leaving the market during 2018.

Looking at sectorial employment, the data showed that all sectors saw a drop in the number of foreign workers. The largest declines were seen in construction which saw 910,000 foreign and 41,000 Saudi departures, Jadwa said.

At the same time, five sectors saw an increase in the number of Saudi workers during 2018 compared to 2017, it added.

In 2018, the Ministry of Labour, in collaboration with the Human Resource Development Fund, laid out three stages of Saudization relating specifically to the retail sector.

These, added to a number of new initiatives during 2019, are likely to have had a positive impact on the labour market, Jadwa noted.

This article was first published in Arabian Business

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Saudi Arabia jumps 5 places in UN’s World Happiness Report

Time: March 21, 2019  

Saudi families enjoying national day. The Kingdom has moved up the UN’s happiness rankings (AFP file photo)

LONDON: Saudi Arabia has jumped up the rankings of the world’s happiest countries, according to a new UN report.

The Kingdom is now 28th out of the 156 countries included in the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network’s 2019 World Happiness Report, which was published on Wednesday.

Saudi Arabia climbed five places compared to 2018 and is now the third happiest country in the Middle East and Africa, with just Israel and the UAE in front.

Finland topped the rankings for the second year in a row, with other Nordic countries taking the leading spots along with the Netherlands and Switzerland. The United States was ranked in 19th place.

South Sudan came last with Yemen and Syria the Arab countries making up the bottom 10.

The list ranks countries according to things such as GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, social freedom, generosity and absence of corruption.

*With Reuters

The top countries:

1. Finland

2. Denmark

3. Norway

4. Iceland

5. Netherlands

6. Switzerland

7. Sweden

8. New Zealand

9. Canada

10. Austria

21. UAE

28. Saudi Arabia

Bottom countries

147. Haiti

148. Botswana

149. Syria

150. Malawi

151. Yemen

152. Rwanda

153. Tanzania

154. Afghanistan

155. Central African Republic

156. South Sudan

This article was first published in Arab News

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Empowering Saudi Arabia’s future via MiSK

Time: March 14, 2019   

For the greater good of Saudi youth and the world’s youth collectively, Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman launched a non-profit foundation under his name in 2011, which has become widely known as MiSK. Today, it serves as an educational and cultural beacon both domestically and internationally. MiSK is exceeding expectations and graciously serving its ultimate purpose of representing, promoting and empowering the most promising of youth.

Education, media and culture are considered the pillars which the foundation prides itself on supporting. When embraced and supported appropriately, the strengthening of the three pillars play vital roles in transforming the youth of today into the leaders and achievers of tomorrow. And MiSK is doing just that. Whether it’s through the foundation’s annual forums, trainee partnerships, internships, fellowship programs or generous donations, MiSK is offering prestigious opportunities to excelling Saudi youth and aiding youth globally as well. MiSK is also handling capacities of ambassadorship by promoting the Kingdom’s image abroad. Foreigners tend to become immediate fans of MiSK upon learning about the foundation and its positive contributions to society.

As the Deputy Permanent Representative of Saudi Arabia to the United Nations, Khaled Manzlawiy, expressed in a recent op-ed, “The primary goal of (MiSK) focuses on the country’s youth and provides different means of fostering talent, creative potential and innovation in a healthy environment that paves the way toward opportunities in the arts and sciences. (In doing so), Saudi Arabia projects a better image of its modernization to the world.”

The mission of the Prince Muhammad Bin Salman Bin Abdulaziz Foundation (MiSK), as the organization puts it, is to build a “society of knowledge where young people are able to learn and advance in the fields of education, media and culture through establishing incubators and encouraging esteemed institutions to provide an attractive and stimulating environment.” Now, that’s a statement we all ought to admire. A statement any young individual from any country would love to hear. MiSK is a serious asset to our society, and the Crown Prince is once again championing for the Kingdom’s youth through this foundation.

With about half of the Saudi population still under the age of 25, MiSK is an extremely fitting establishment to have in the Kingdom. And with half a nation under 25, this could only mean that many have either yet to reach legal employment ages or have just recently begun their professional careers. Here, we see exactly why MiSK is a crucial role-player. The foundation will surely assist in achieving Vision 2030 and the Kingdom’s progress overall. By ensuring the best of our youth get the support they need, we can produce tomorrow’s contributors to our economy.

With Bader Al-Asaker having led the foundation’s execution for years, along with a dynamic young team, it’s no surprise that MiSK has flourished. Under the supervision and direction of the Crown Prince, Al-Asaker has diligently carried the foundation to great heights. The recently appointed secretary general, Bader Al-Kahail, shall continue unlocking the foundation’s immense potential, while Al-Asaker remains hands-on as Chairman of MiSK Initiatives Center. The Crown Prince’s vision for the non-profit is coming to fruition.

I discussed MiSK and its potentials with my good friend and fellow youth, Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki Al-Farhan Al-Saud, and he stated, “MiSK’s contribution to society and education is of substantial importance. I believe that in the upcoming future, it will become one of the world’s leading charity foundations, playing an integral role in the region’s social and educational progress”.

Crown Prince Muhammad founded a gem that the Kingdom has longed for. And with MiSK’s current initiatives and continued growth, the most talented of our youth are in good hands.

The writer is a Saudi political analyst who specializes in foreign affairs and protocol. He may be reached at: Twitter: @waleedalg

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette

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Saudi twins take world by storm at international arithmetic competition

Time: March 06, 2019  

Twins Emad, left, and Muath Al-Amoudi. (Supplied/Photo)
  • Muath Al-Amoudi: My mother could not hide her feelings of happiness and she burst into tears

JEDDAH: When it comes to mental arithmetic Saudi twins Emad and Muath Al-Amoudi have it all worked out.

The gifted brothers have just taken the world by storm in beating off more than 9,000 other youngsters to come first and second in a major international mathematics contest.

The 7th graders at Makkah-based Sheikh Abdullah Khayat Intermediate School took part in the 23rd UCMAS Abacus and Mental Arithmetic International Competition, held at the International Islamic University in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.

Emad won first prize in level 2 of the competition, while Muath came second in the level-1 category.

“I have been training on mental calculation in a UCMAS training program for nearly six years,” Emad told Arab News. “The program is divided into eight levels, and the higher you go, the more difficult it becomes. I did the second level perfectly.”

Emad said he had not expected to win the contest, which attracted entrants from 83 countries. “Last year there were 5,000 contestants, and so this year I wondered how I could compete with such a large number of participants. I didn’t believe my capabilities could be compared to theirs.”

He added that the support of his family had given him the courage and self-confidence to succeed. “My mother accompanied us to Malaysia. When we arrived at Kuala Lumpur, I knew that there were 9,000 taking part in this year’s competition. My mother reassured me and Muath, saying we were no less than them and that we could make it.”

Muath said that coming runner-up in his category had motivated him to go for top spot in the next competition. “I had a tough competition, especially with the presence of competitors from India, Iran, Japan and Malaysia,” he added.

The most emotional moment of the event for Muath was when he saw his brother on stage waving the Saudi flag.

“It was a touching moment. I felt like I needed to kiss the soil of my country. My mother could not hide her feelings of happiness, and she burst into tears,” he said.

The UCMAS program, which develops the mental power of children from an early age, was established in October 1993 and now has a global network of more than 5,000 centers across 55 countries.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia to become ‘global player in education sector’

Time: March 05, 2019  

1 / 3
Organizers hope the exhibition will provide the springboard for helping the Kingdom become a leading world player in the sector. (AN photo)
  • Major exhibition aims to make Kingdom global player in education sector

JEDDAH: A major initiative aimed at propelling Saudi Arabia to the top of the class for education provision has been launched in the Kingdom.
The two-day Global Educational Exhibition of Development and Support (GEDS), which kicked off on Monday at the Hilton Hotel in Jeddah, is the first event of its kind to be staged in the country.
And organizers hope the exhibition will provide the springboard for helping the Kingdom become a leading world player in the sector.
British, American, Lebanese and Emirati education specialists were among experts taking part in GEDS, which aims to throw the spotlight on the latest learning products, technologies and innovations in a bid to transform Saudi society.
With education a key plank of the Saudi National Transformation Program (NTP) 2020, the GEDS event played host to a range of education suppliers and service providers with a view to promoting investment opportunities in the Kingdom’s education sector.
GEDS’ executive manager, Eman Khankan, told Arab News that the exhibition presented an inspiring mix of content for teachers, students and businesspeople.
She said the event had attracted worldwide interest, with teaching experts volunteering to run workshops and give presentations as part of ambitious efforts to modernize the Saudi education system.
CEO at publishing firm World Book Company (WBCO), Dr. Ahmad Al-Kubaisi, said that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s focus on driving the sector forward via the country’s Vision 2030 reform plan was adding great value.
“The crown prince’s special care for education is giving a strong push to the educational sector, and this fills us with hope of becoming a global leader in the sector. The determined move has started, and a thousand miles begins with a step,” Al-Kubaisi told Arab News.
Medeni Menekse, sales director at McGraw-Hill Education, emphasized the need to modernize the public- and private-sector education systems by using the latest technologies such as digital learning, interactive communication, and virtual reality to hone student skills.
Zulfiqar Ali Mian, sales and marketing director at WBCO, said: “Saudi Arabia has the largest generation of young people. Investment today in the education sector, training and skills development, will be transformational for young people over the coming years and will contribute to achieving the national educational goals of Vision 2030.
“Increasing investment in young people is key to transforming any country in the world,” he added.
As well as workshops, more than 150 companies exhibited the latest innovations in education at the GEDS gathering.
Among these was “Administrative Development in Education in light of the requirements of the Saudi Vision 2030,” with researcher Moodhi Al-Hilfi delivering a presentation on possible solutions to dealing with a national deficit of teachers and stressing the important role of human resources.
She recommended separating non-educational services from school administration and introducing electronic management systems.
In January 2019, Saudi Education Minister Dr. Hamad bin Mohammed Al-Asheikh stressed the importance of studying the current status of education and overcoming the challenges facing its development.
He gave education leaders 100 working days to come up with a practical plan to move the sector forward.
Recently, Saudi Arabia and China agreed to include the Chinese language in the curriculum at all stages of education in schools and universities across the Kingdom. This came during the crown prince’s visit to China.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Syrian boy’s ‘Doctor Robot’ wins global technology challenge

Time: February 25, 2019

1 / 2
Zayd Nashed poses with his ‘Doctor Robot.’ Nashed’s mother has urged parents to stimulate their children’s interest by working together as families. This will help kids to boost their skills. (Photos/Supplied)
  • Zayd Nashed’s device is aimed at helping young asthma sufferers in the region

AL-KHOBAR: A 10-year-old Saudi-based Syrian boy, Zayd Nashed, has been crowned the Middle East regional winner of the 2018 “Micro:bit Global Challenge” for his entry “Doctor Robot,” a device for helping young asthma sufferers living in dusty regions like the Arabian Peninsula. Established in 2015, the challenge, run by the UK-based Micro:bit Education Foundation and partnered with UNICEF, accepted hundreds of entries from across the world this year, from children aged 8-12, designed to help achieve 17 “global goals” the foundation has prioritized to improve the world by 2030.
They include the alleviation of global hunger and poverty, action on climate change, and the production of affordable, sustainable clean energy.
The 2018 winners were announced in January, with Zayd joining children from Europe, North and Latin America, Africa and the Far East as winners, with their successful entries doing everything from improving posture to cleaning polluted rivers.
Zayd’s confidence in his ability to design complex technological projects, he said, stemmed from his parents’ early introduction of tech into his education.
“First, I started with simple coding — my parents introduced me to (children’s coding programs) Tynker and Scratch, so I started going through tutorials and having lessons until I felt that I was ready to move on to electronics. It was difficult for me at first, but then I got used to it, and loved it. It’s OK to be nervous — nothing happens without mistakes.”
His enthusiasm for robotics led him to enter the London-based competition.
“One of the world’s problems is ‘health and well-being’ and I knew that many people in the Eastern Province (of Saudi Arabia) suffer from asthma, so I though ‘why don’t I help?’ I decided to make my entry, ‘Doctor Robot,’ help asthma patients, by being a friend and giving them medicine on time,” he explained.
“The three important factors were the touch, distance and weather. The robot can sense the amount of dust in the atmosphere, and also tell their kid if there’s a dust storm coming.
“The distance makes the robot more interactive as a friend — kids will get bored if the robot only gives them medicine, so I wanted to make ‘Doctor Robot’ their friend as well — make it move its eyebrows, make expressions and laugh, or be sad if the kid has an asthma attack or it can sense dust in its environment.
“Finally, when the kid touches the robot’s touch sensor, it will understand that something is going on, or that the kid can’t breathe very well, and will show a ‘danger’ warning on its electronic screen. The patient will then open the medicine box in the robot to receive treatment.”
Being easy to use and fun for children, the robot also has a remote control that makes it move, and a clock equipped with an alarm to attract the attention of parents and carers in the event of an emergency.

Family Project
Zayd’s parents, Eyad and Razan, both work in information technology. “We kept finding stories about children who were creating robots online, so we looked into how we could help Zayd do the same,” Eyad said. “We drafted a simple curriculum for Zayd, to plan his progress week by week.”
Zayd’s mother Razan, a computer science specialist, felt it important they should have a family tech project. “It is important that parents try to stimulate their children’s interests, and work together as families to build a community of thinkers,” she said. “It pays off when you find that your children’s social and cognitive skills are evolving every day.”
Bright Up
But passionate family members are not always to be found, and even then, are often not enough to create a generation of tech-literate youngsters. Bright Up, founded by Mohammed Yaqoub, is a creativity hub and a tech-focused space in Alkhobar that offers a range of activities for both kids and adults who are keen to learn.
It was the assistance provided by Bright Up that supported Zayd in the development of his robot. “The Bright Up team gave me ideas on how to make the robot, how it could move, how much battery it needed, and much more!”
Eyad added: “We pitched ‘Doctor Robot’ and the Micro:bit Global Challenge to Bright Up, and they made a great effort in backing Zayd until he won. They were a great help as mentors for Zayd.”
The young designer is not stopping at the creation of one robot, though. Zayd has big plans for the future, and said that when he leaves school, he wants to be a technology scientist, is planning to use the internet to learn about as much as he can in the field of tech design (including using a special computer designed for programming, called “Raspberry Pi”) and wants to enter many more global technology competitions.


This article was first published in Arab News

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The next Thomas Edison

Time: February 21, 2019  


By Amrina Qaiser

The beginning:

Meshal Harasani, A young saudi inventor entered the world of innovation in 2000. His first innovation, at the young age of 13, served people with special needs. As of today his innovations and inventions exceed, in various human, scientific and social fields. He later joined King Abdulaziz university in 2005 . In the same year he got a full scholarship at UBT University to study marketing.


Harasani completed various courses in the field of innovation and technology; the most important studies were at Harvard University and MIT. He was honored by many local and international organizations; the most important one was the United Nations- when he passed the international leadership course organized by the US State Department.

Return to KAU University:

Currently Harasani works as an advisor at King Abdulaziz University and is pursuing a PhD in knowledge management at the same university to achieve his dream, which is to serve together with other creative young people.

Inventions within hours

The latest patent is for a serrated needle to serrate the cartilage. The product was made in France and was used in Germany for the first time with Dr. Abdulkareem Fida and Dr. Faisal Zagzoog. Recently, he received another patent to serve the new born babies at hospitals in emergency cases, and he’s working with his team to make a product. In the media, CNN also talked about Harasani and how can he invent thing within hours.

Edison patents

As a hobby, Harasani a collector of vintage patents, inventions, autographs and books about Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla and Albert Einstein. Till now he has collected more than 10 patents out of 1092 Thomas Edison patents when he visited Edison’s birth place and was inspired by old inventions to think about the future.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette

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Al-Ula Royal Commission launches second phase of university scholarship program

Time: February 20, 2019  

The program is intended to broaden the horizons of Saudi students. (SPA/File)
  • High-quality education will make students ‘valuable assets’ in transformation of the region

JEDDAH: The Royal Commission for Al-Ula has launched the second phase of its overseas scholarship program, giving students the chance to study at universities in the US, UK, France and Australia.

The program is intended to broaden the horizons of Saudi students, creating more rounded graduates with wider experiences of foreign cultures and practices.

The students will also learn the languages of their host countries, which will aid them in later life depending on what path they choose, and encouraging interaction and exchanges between the Al-Ula region and the rest of the world.

Rami Al-Sakran, capabilities development manager for the commission, said the Al-Ula scholarship program was one of four strands in a community development plan.

“We have four different units, sector planning and business licensing so that covers economic development, with community engagement and human capability under the social development plan,” he told Arab News.

The second phase of the scholarship program will run for five years following the positive response to the first phase, which was launched last year. The second phase has been expanded to accommodate 300 students and is open to all genders.

Last September, 165 students were sent to the US, UK and France with Australia to focus on fields such as hospitality, tourism, agriculture, archaeology and heritage.

Many residents from the area had migrated to larger cities because of the lack of job opportunities, he said, so it was important to engage and employ locals first.

“We’ll flood the equation. We’ll see people coming in and our priority is the local community and to provide them with jobs. We want these jobs that we’ll create to be filled by the locals first.

“We’ve currently provided jobs, whether directly or indirectly, some of them temporary and others permanent. At Winter in Tantora, we have volunteers, ushers, drivers as this is seasonal but we’ve established a database and some jobs are permanent, whether they’re directly employed by our CEO or some contract.”

Al-Sakran said locals were key to the success of turning Al-Ula into a major tourist destination.

“Locals, locals, locals. Without the locals, we can’t succeed. We have a very transparent relationship, it’s a two-way street with them. We cooperate with them and communicate with them on every basis. We have a strong relationship with the governor of Al-Ula and we listen to the locals.

“Whether it was our social or economical development, as you can see Winter in Tantora has a major socio-economic impact on the area and … the locals are working everywhere here and that’s what we want. It’s theirs. We’ll unveil it to the Kingdom … that’s the idea, to make it a strong and significant destination for all.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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Youth alliance attracts around 500 students to first event of the year

Time: January 22, 2019  

All 4 Youth kicked off its activities in 2019 with an event at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah.

JEDDAH — All 4 Youth, an alliance of young Saudis launched Arabia last year, kicked off 2019 with Youth Day activities at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, attended by around 500 students.

The event featured presentations by alliance partners Al-Awal Bank, IKEA Saudi Arabia, Mayar (Muhaidib Foods), Nestlé Middle East, Nielsen, Savola, and Tamer Group.

Panel discussions and workshops focused on promoting self-awareness and self-management among the Kingdom’s youth, advising on required competencies to thrive in competitions, bridging the gap between education and the workplace, and highlighting how to get the most out of internships.

All 4 Youth brings together companies and other entities interested in helping young people enhance their skills and develop their careers. It is committed to impact 50,000 and employ 3,000 young Saudis by 2020.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette

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Program launched to empower young Saudis in nonprofit sector

Time: January 13, 2019

The program will change the perception of young generation about the nonprofit sector in line with Vision 2030. (AN photo)
  • “The partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will change our view of the nonprofit sector in line with Vision 2030 project,” Princess Banderi bint Abdulrahman Al-Faisal said

JEDDAH: The second Saudi Philanthropic Fellowship program, organized in tandem with the King Khalid Foundation (KKF) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was launched on Saturday at the KKF’s headquarters.
Called Shaghaf, meaning “passion,” the program will aim to attract young Saudis curious about careers in the nonprofit sector by providing information, improving its image, and organizing international training and experience.

Shaghaf will run for 16 months, and include intensive lessons in the management of nonprofit organizations at Columbia Business School, as well as visits to various non-profit organizations based in New York.
Monthly orientation and vocational guidance sessions will also take place, in addition to quarterly developmental workshops.
Princess Banderi bint Abdulrahman Al-Faisal, director general of the KKF, said. “The partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will change our view of the nonprofit sector in line with Vision 2030 project,” she said.
Work is scheduled to start between participants and nine nonprofit organizations in January 2019, including the Society of Majid bin Abdul Aziz for Development and Social Services, Ghadan Consulting and Capacity Building, the Salem bin Mahfouz Foundation, and the Zahra Association.
The Wareef Charity, Tasamy for Social Entrepreneurship, Mawaddah Women’s Charity for Reduction of Divorce, Al-Nahda Philanthropic Society for Women, and Al-Ahsa’s King Khalid Foundation for People with Disabilities will also take part.

This article was first published in Arab News

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