Who’s Who: Dr. Reem A. Alfrayan, director at Soudah Development Company

Time: 07 April 2021

Dr. Reem A. Alfrayan

Dr. Reem A. Alfrayan is the newly appointed director of development and community partnerships at the Soudah Development Company, owned by the Public Investment Fund.

Previously, Alfrayan served as the executive director of G20 Saudi Secretariat, and in September 2014 was the first woman to be appointed as assistant secretary-general at the Council of Saudi Chambers.

Alfrayan received a bachelor’s degree in technical education and training, workforce development and education at Ohio State University in 2001.

In 2002, she earned a master’s degree in instructional technologies and media policy, and leadership from the same university.

Alfrayan obtained another master’s degree in educational leadership and organization, policy and leadership at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2013.

She completed a Ph.D. in educational leadership and organization at the same university in 2014.

After obtaining her first master’s degree, she joined the Arab Open University as instructional technology unit supervisor at its headquarters in Kuwait in 2003.

Between 2005 and 2006, Alfrayan served as a training specialist with a project launched by the General Authority for Tourism and Antiquities.

She then joined King Abdul Aziz Medical City as an administrative planning and processing development officer.

She also served as general manager of businesswomen’s affairs at the Council of Saudi Chambers from October 2007 to January 2010.

Alfrayan also actively participates in volunteer work.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Who’s Who: Sarah Al-Suhaimi, first woman member of Saudia’s Board of Directors

Time: 02 April 2021

Who’s Who: Sarah Al-Suhaimi

Sarah Al-Suhaimi has been appointed to the board of directors at Saudia airline as a representative of the private sector, following approval from the Kingdom’s Council of Ministers.

Saleh bin Nasser Al-Jasser, the Saudi minister of transport, congratulated Al-Suhaimi as she became the first woman to hold such a position since the company’s inception 75 years ago.

“I wish her success and for our company continued progress and prosperity,” Al-Jasser wrote on Twitter.

Al-Suhaimi is also the chairwoman for the board of directors at the Saudi Arabian Stock Exchange (Tadawul), the largest stock market in the Middle East. In 2017, she became the first Saudi woman to hold that position.

Three years before Tadawul, Al-Suhaimi was the CEO and a board director at the National Commercial Bank, also known as Al-Ahli Bank.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in accounting from King Saud University in Riyadh with the highest honors and completed the general management program at Harvard Business School in 2015.

Al-Suhaimi served as the vice chair person of the advisory committee to the board of the Capital Market Authority between 2013 and 2015.

She worked as the chief investment officer at Jadwa Investment, where she led the asset management and wealth management business lines and was also a member of its management committee between 2007 and 2014.

Al-Suhaimi started her career within asset management at Samba Capital. She is a trustee of the International Financial Reporting Standards Foundation and a We-Fi Leadership Champion.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Who’s Who: Reema Al-Asmari, BNP Paribas head of territory for Saudi Arabia

Time: 22 March 2021

Reema Al-Asmari

Reema Al-Asmari recently joined BNP Paribas as head of territory for Saudi Arabia, reinforcing BNP’s corporate and institutional banking (CIB) presence in the Kingdom.
In her new position, Al-Asmari will oversee the bank’s national commercial strategy, with a focus on strengthening relationships with strategic clients, multinational companies and government-related agencies.
She will also be responsible for expanding the bank’s product and service portfolio in all CIB segments, including sustainable finance.
Al-Asmari joined BNP Paribas from Natixis, where she held the position of CEO for Saudi Arabia.
Before joining Natixis, Reema worked for nine years with JPMorgan Chase & Co. in the Kingdom. Her last role in the US bank was treasury services country head. Before that, she was treasurer for Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Johannesburg.
Discussing her anew position, Al-Asmari said: “I am honored to join BNP Paribas with the mission to grow the bank’s presence here in Saudi Arabia. As a dynamic bank which continues to evolve alongside Saudi’s ever-changing business environment, I am enthusiastic about the opportunities to build upon its current success.”
Al-Asmari takes over from Jean-Francois Sibille, who will become head of compliance for BNP Paribas Middle East and Africa.
She will work alongside Ammar Pharaon, who heads the BNP Paribas Regional Investment Company (BRIC), also located in Riyadh. BNP Paribas has operated in the Middle East and North Africa region for more than 45 years, offering corporate and institutional banking, and international financial services.

This article was first published in Arab News

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How Shaima Al-Husseini and Sports For All helped promote a healthy lifestyle in Saudi Arabia


Shaima Al-Husseini is the Managing Director of Saudi’s Sports For All (SFA) Federation. (Sports For All)

The positive impact Saudi Sports For All (SFA) had on a homebound population’s mental and physical wellbeing during a suffocating lockdown has been tangible
Programs such as “Baytak Nadeek” (Your Home, Your Gym), the Women’s Fitness Festival, and others attracted thousands, and often millions, of participants through social media channels
The year 2020 will forever be remembered for one thing, and one thing only. But from adversity came innovation, and a fierce fightback.

What the rest of 2021 and beyond will look like after the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic abates remains to be seen, but the positive impact Saudi Sports For All (SFA) had on a homebound population’s mental and physical wellbeing during a suffocating lockdown has been tangible.

Programs such as “Baytak Nadeek” (Your Home, Your Gym), the Women’s Fitness Festival, and others attracted thousands, and often millions, of participants through social media channels.

“The lockdown of 2020 showed us how we can innovate and work around tight, necessary, restrictions.” Shaima Al-Husseini, managing director at SFA, told Arab News. “If we have another lockdown, we could build on the foundation of the successful programs we’ve put in place and innovate further as needed.”

While Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries are not short on major international sporting events, the SFA’s mission is to ensure that sports thrive at grassroots levels. It’s a bottom-up approach that has over the last three years seen the SFA sign a number of fitness initiatives at local communities across the country.

Among them is an agreement with the Ministry of Municipality and Rural Affairs and Housing to activate parks and public spaces in three cities, with multi-sport, running and walking programs, equipment rentals, and community academies being introduced to impact healthy long-term behavior.

In November, the SFA signed a memorandum of understanding with Majid Al-Futtaim under which the sports group will produce community programs at future Majid Al-Futtaim malls, while receiving guidance on how to ensure SFA facilities are aligned with international standard green building requirements.

There are other plans, on a more global scale.

“We also developed and strengthened partnerships both locally and internationally with parties such as the World Health Organization (WHO), PepsiCo, the Global Goals World Cup, The Association for International Sport for All, Saudi Arabian Federation for Electronic and Intellectual Sports, and many others,” Al-Husseini said.

“Our collaboration with the WHO will see the SFA host global events in the Kingdom, including the Riyadh edition of Walk the Talk,” she added. “The SFA’s strategy will also receive technical assistance from WHO which will keep it aligned with the global action plan of physical activity.”

Since its establishment in 2018, the SFA has become an integral part of the Saudi sporting scene, but for Al-Husseini, there is much work still to be done and no time to sit back and admire what has already been achieved.

“The SFA’s focus is to take a holistic approach to healthy living under several pillars that benefit all sectors of society. So, it’s difficult to be proud of one (particular) step, when we have achieved so much in different areas,” she said.

“With 2020’s lockdown restricting movement, we had to innovate to bring ‘at home’ solutions to Saudis throughout the Kingdom, and we were able to deliver a number of digital offerings to keep people active. We continue to work towards our goal to have 40 percent of all people in Saudi active by 2030.”

The level of engagement during the lockdown prompted SFA President Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal to say: “I’m awestruck by the power of our healthy and active community.”

Crowning a hectic 2020 for the SFA was the launch of the Women’s Football League (WFL) in November, with 24 teams taking part in the competition across Riyadh, Jedddah, and Dammam.

“The establishment of the WFL has been a landmark achievement in Saudi’s sporting history,” said Al-Husseini.

What perhaps went unnoticed beyond its cultural significance was the sheer scope of logistics needed to get the WFL off the ground, with the competition originally mooted for the start of the year but delayed by COVID-19.

“Having the WFL kick off in three parts of the country allowed for a wide scope of players to come forward and sign up, and we had 607 players in 24 teams that had all-female organizational and technical teams,” said Al-Husseini, adding: “The players’ enthusiasm for the game and their sheer talent were remarkable. It’s exciting to think about how the SFA can continue to develop the League, both in terms of enhancing the infrastructure for women in sports and offering training opportunities for local referees.”

On Dec. 17, Challenge Riyadh defeated Jeddah Eagles to take home the WFL Champions Cup and the prize money of SR150,000 ($39,975). The league is set to return for a second season.

Its success bodes well for the future of other organized sports competitions.

“If the interest in the WFL is any indicator, women’s sport in Saudi Arabia is likely to expand exponentially,” Al-Husseini said. “We are working towards developing sports across all sectors and women’s sport is certainly included in that.”

Despite her busy schedule, Al-Husseini herself continues to regularly play tennis and squash, and is an avid follower of basketball and American Football. And while she has no particular favorite individual athletes, she points to several inspirational Saudi female role models.

“HRH Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud is a role model for any young female Saudi,” she said. “Not only is she the former Chair of the SFA, but she is also currently the Saudi Ambassador to the US.

“In July, she was confirmed as a member of the International Olympic Committee, which further cemented her commitment to continue endorsing the ongoing endeavors of the SFA, where she remains a member of the board, to reach its Vision 2030 goals.”

Al-Husseini believes that while the SFA’s role is to encourage a healthy and active lifestyle at community level, it can also be a catalyst to promoting the nation’s high-achieving athletes towards professional careers in sport.

“We are working with different bodies to develop the necessary infrastructure to keep raising the caliber of sporting talent in the Kingdom,” she said.

“As different sports continue to receive the necessary support in terms of funding and facilities, and as athletes continue to be given the right environment, training, and encouragement to achieve their best, Saudi Arabia will continue to produce competitors that will make their mark in the international and Olympic arenas.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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‘Remote learning is one of the greatest opportunities’: Saudi expert

Time: 26 November 2020

Raising awareness about remote learning is important, says Abeer Hassan, an educationist

MAKKAH: Saudi society has been torn between the pros and cons of remote learning, which has laid the foundations of a new technological era.
“Remote learning is one of the greatest opportunities,” noted education expert, Abeer Hassan, the director of the innovation club at King Saud University.
“Analysis of the educational developments currently taking place around the Arab world … within the scope of remote working are the most significant evidence of (its) success, through the adoption of its models and the exchange of skills,” she added.
“Although we have been greatly successful, there are still some shortcomings such as the high financial costs, some communities not accepting this type of education, and some people refusing to replace teachers with television,” Hassan added.
“Awareness raising and highlighting the pioneering role of remote learning are of great importance. The first signs of its success are found in the continuous dynamic developments we are witnessing in the remote learning system,” she pointed out.
Nasser Bukhari, a parent, said that “remote learning burdened the families that now have to monitor their children throughout the year. Many families are now suffering due to the negative repercussions of students using tablets and mobile phones for long hours.
“This issue has affected their ability to focus,” he added, noting that “what characterized remote learning is that it helped families learn about technology and applications, shortened distances and vanquished the pandemic that took over the world.
“Remote learning helped preserve the health of Saudi Arabia’s citizens and residents. It was a courageous decision … that was lauded by all the beneficiaries, who clearly contributed to the harnessing of this technology, which might still be used even after the pandemic ends,” Bukhari added.
Waleed Shanaq, a student at Makkah’s Ali bin Abi Taleb High School, stressed that “remote learning was a wonderful idea, through which students were able to interact and complete their assignments since day one. This is a great platform that has diversified the means of learning.
“Remote learning is not a good decision when it come to all the subjects, as mathematics, physics and chemistry require an attendance in person. As for the other subjects, it would be a good idea to keep providing them remotely even after the pandemic ends,” he added.
“One of the problems facing remote learning is the indifferent students that are hard to monitor. This technology requires a quality of students who are aware of this technological and educational change, which demands an educational and moral commitment,” Shanaq said.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia to make coronavirus vaccine free for citizens and residents

Time: 24 November 2020

Muslim pilgrims wearing protective face masks arrive to circle the Kaaba at the Grand mosque during the annual Haj pilgrimage amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia July 29, 2020. (Reuters)
  • It hopes the vaccines would cover 70 percent of the Kingdom’s population by the end of 2021

JEDDAH: The Saudi Ministry of Health is aiming to offer free vaccines to 70 percent of citizens and expats in the Kingdom who have not yet contracted the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Officials are hoping to have met the target for inoculations by the end of next year.

“Those who have not tested positive for COVID-19 will be given priority in the vaccine campaign in the coming months,” said Dr. Abdullah Asiri, the ministry’s assistant undersecretary for preventive health.

However, under-16s are not to be vaccinated unless research or tests prove there to be a need, he added.

He noted that the Kingdom planned to announce a clear schedule of vaccinations arrival to the country in the coming weeks.

“The Kingdom worked on two paths to obtain the vaccine, through the COVAX organization, which the G20 had a role in creating and financing.

“Saudi Arabia will obtain a large amount of vaccines through this facility, while the second track is direct contracting with the big companies to cover the gap that cannot be covered through COVAX,” Asiri said.

COVAX is a global initiative aimed at working with vaccine manufacturers to provide countries around the world with equitable access to safe and effective vaccines once they are licensed and approved.

Asiri pointed out that obtaining effective vaccines required a long preparation plan and supply chain, and time for the vaccine to arrive in large enough quantities to the countries requiring it.


The Kingdom plans to announce a clear schedule of vaccine arrival in the coming weeks.

“Therefore, what will be released this year is not expected to be in the large quantities that would affect the pandemic’s trajectory, which isn’t expected before mid-2021,” he added.

Assistant to the minister of health and official spokesman, Dr. Muhammad Al-Abd Al-Aly, said that the ministry would only provide COVID-19 vaccines that were effective against the virus, had no side effects, and were approved by the authorities concerned with granting licenses.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia recorded 19 new COVID-19-related deaths on Monday taking to 5,796 the total number of people in the country who had now died after contracting the virus.

There were 231 new cases reported in the Kingdom, putting the total so far at 355,489. Officials said 5,877 cases were still active, of which 765 patients were in a serious or critical condition.

According to the Ministry of Health, 46 of the newly recorded cases were in Riyadh, 18 in Makkah and Jeddah, and 11 in Madinah.

In addition, 445 patients had recovered from COVID-19, moving the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom up to 343,816.

Saudi Arabia has so far conducted 9,295,599 polymerase chain reaction tests, with 40,395 carried out in the last 24 hours.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Volunteers step up to provide services to worshipers in Makkah

Time: 17 November 2020

MAKKAH: The Saudi Red Crescent Authority (SRCA) has confirmed that a large number of people have stepped up this year to volunteer in Makkah’s Grand Mosque, eager to serve pilgrims after months of the mosque’s closure due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Only a small number of volunteers were taken in, however, due to the need to maintain social distancing and ensure the safety of pilgrims.

Director of the voluntary work at the SRCA in Makkah, Hanaa Al-Shamrani, told Arab News that in the first week of Umrah, volunteers were eager to serve pilgrims.

“Applications were received from all Saudi cities and towns without exception, but due to the current circumstances, the SRCA only accepted applications from Makkah to provide quality services in line with predefined health protocols,” she said.

Over 300 volunteers, including doctors, engineers and health practitioners, are providing first-aid services and raising awareness among pilgrims regarding the measures necessary to prevent the spread of the virus, such as observing social distance and wearing masks.

Volunteers speak Urdu, English, and Turkish, among other languages they have acquired over the years by coming into contact with pilgrims during the Hajj and Umrah seasons in Makkah.

“First-aid services are mainly provided for patients with diabetes and blood pressure issues, as well as those who have been exposed to heat stress and sunstrokes and those suffering from small wounds,” said Al-Shamrani. “Volunteers deal with these cases in a very professional manner, and serious cases are sent to nearby hospitals.”

She added that before the pandemic, volunteers used to distribute gifts to pilgrims, including prayer beads, rugs and light snacks, but this is no longer possible due to the virus.

SRCA Spokesman Abdul Aziz Badamoan told Arab News that its voluntary team started working in the Grand Mosque on Friday, in four different locations, with 20 female and 26 male volunteers.

“Volunteers have been providing various services in all the mosque’s corners, covering the halls, squares and prayer places allocated for women,” he said.

This article was first published in Arab News

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