SOURCE: Arab News
Time: July 14, 2017
RIYADH: France has deep and longstanding economic ties with Saudi Arabia, and Vision 2030 is one more incentive to strengthen a win-win relation that serves the Kingdom’s best interests.
France is the third-biggest investor in the Kingdom, with more than $15 billion of investments, while Saudi Arabia is France’s leading commercial partner in the Gulf, with commercial flows amounting to more than $8 billion.
More than 80 French companies, some of them global leaders in their fields, have an active presence in Saudi Arabia and employ more than 27,000 people, with a Saudization rate of 36 percent. The average Saudization rate for the overall economy is 16 percent
French companies are involved in many strategic projects throughout the Kingdom, serving the Saudi ambition to develop a world-class railway and urban transportation infrastructure, energy network, tourism industry, financial services, telecommunications and health care.
While France’s involvement in the Kingdom already spans most of the strategic sectors, room remains for even broader and deeper cooperation in the new strategic sectors the Kingdom wants to develop, such as education, health care, financial services and renewable energy. There is momentum for such renewed bilateral cooperation.
For example, the Paris accord on climate change offers a wide range of cooperation opportunities on matters such as energy efficiency and transitioning to renewable energy.
In May, France and Saudi Arabia reaffirmed their commitment to the agreement, and could be leaders in developing carbon-efficient technologies.
French companies are already involved in solar and nuclear projects that will help the Kingdom diversify its energy mix.
But there could be greater Saudi business involvement in France. Total investment caps are at less than $1 billion, and are mostly directed toward real estate. The 24 Saudi companies operating in France employ 3,200 people and achieved a combined turnover of some €350 million ($399.5 million).
Given the priorities outlined in Vision 2030, France is a vital destination for Saudi businesses, especially for the technologies of tomorrow. In 2016, France was the fastest-growing hub for start-ups in Europe, and on the verge of becoming the continent’s No. 1 in terms of market capitalization for start-ups.
As an example of the dynamism of the start-up ecosystem, the giant Station F incubator, created by French entrepreneur Xavier Niel to enhance the growth of more than 1,000 start-ups, opened its doors less than a month ago.
France is also a leading player in fields such as financial services, health care and education, sectors the Saudi economy is willing to develop and invest in.
New governments in France and Saudi Arabia pave the way for new opportunities.
Upcoming bilateral events will be occasions to show how close our business relations can be. Efforts will be made to bring together businessmen and let them discuss opportunities. France and Saudi Arabia are ready to work together on a long-term basis. We undoubtedly have the capacity to strengthen our strategic partnership.