Saudi crown prince allocates $1 million as marriage grants

Time: 19 July 2021

Young Saudis also received a training course in financial awareness

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has directed SR3.74 million ($997,080) to be distributed as marriage grants to 200 young men and women across the Kingdom.
The money comes out of his “keenness to support orphans with special circumstances and people with disabilities, as they are among the priority groups of the ‘SNAD Mohammed bin Salman’ program,” Saudi Press Agency reported.
In 2019, the crown prince provided SR520 million to more than 26,000 people across the Kingdom under the same scheme. They also received a training course in financial awareness.

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The Place: Dhat Al-Hajj, a historically significant fort on the Shami Hajj Road in Tabuk

17/07/21

A prosperous village grew up around the fort, providing accommodation for pilgrims and a place to top up their stores of food and water
Dhat Al-Hajj fort lies between the Halat Ammar Center and Tabuk city on the ancient Shami Hajj Road, also known as Al-Tabukiya road, which was once a popular route for pilgrims from the Levant traveling to Makkah and Madinah.
Many of them would take the opportunity to rest at the fort during their long journey, and it was also a convenient meeting point for convoys of pilgrims — thus becoming a place where cultures would often mix, swap stories and trade goods.
Built in 1564 CE, Dhat Al-Hajj is a fine example of the regional architecture of the time and is one of the most historically significant forts on the Shami Hajj Road. Its name is reportedly derived from a plant that grew abundantly in the area.
The fort is a rectangular five-room building, with an entrance in the western wall through to the interior courtyard. Outside the fort stands a pool that is the source of the drinking areas used by passers-by.
A prosperous village grew up around the fort, providing accommodation for pilgrims and a place to top up their stores of food and water. The location became still more important when the Hijazi Railroad was established in the early 20th century.
Despite their names, both the fort and the road were used throughout the year by merchants, and not just by pilgrims during Hajj.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Social media users praise first-ever female-led Hajj security briefing

13/07/21

Saudi soldier Abeer Al-Rashed conducts the first ever female-led security briefing for Hajj
LONDON: Saudi soldier Abeer Al-Rashed conducted on Tuesday the first ever female-led security briefing for Hajj in which she presented security and traffic plans for the pilgrimage.

The female-led briefing was met with positive reactions on social media in Saudi Arabia and the region.

Twitter user Mohamad Matoua praised the soldier saying “God willing, may God bless you… what a confidence and a wonderful voice that distinguish the daughter of our nation, the soldierAbeer Al-Rashed, may God protect her from all evil” in a tweet.

Meanwhile, Saeed Almordi, said that women constitute half of society, “and we are proud of her and of the women in our nation in all fields.”

Another twitter user, Um Loulou, said: “God praise, may Allah her and give her health and wellness, we are proud of her”

The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah in Saudi Arabia revealed on Monday the launch of a smart card for pilgrims this year.

The card will facilitate access to pilgrims’ medical history and will be used to purchase necessities and goods during the Hajj season.

It will be the first time the technology is used to aid the pilgrimage journey.

According to the Hajj security commander, no one will be allowed to enter holy sites without a valid security permit in an attempt to curb the spread of coronavirus.

This article was first published in Arab News

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ThePlace: Shada Palace, one of the historical buildings in Saudi Arabia’s Abha

Time: 10 July 2021

Photo/Supplied

The residential quarters and living areas of the building are open to visitors and entry to the palace is free of charge, Saturday to Thursday
Shada Palace is located in Saudi Arabia’s city in the sky, Abha, and reflects the traditional architecture of the Asir region and the Kingdom as a whole.
It is one of the few historical buildings left standing in Abha and currently houses exhibits of handicrafts, old household items, antique coins, and early photographs depicting local life.
The palace, that stands prominently between modern buildings, was constructed in 1927 for the then-governor. The lack of windows and the high walls on the roof were designed to maintain privacy for female occupants. The residential quarters and living areas of the building are open to visitors and entry to the palace is free of charge, Saturday to Thursday.

This article was first published in Arab News

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OIC chief stresses women’s role in economic, social, cultural fields

Time: 09 July 2021

OIC Secretary-General Yousef Al-Othaimeen. (SPA)

Al-Othaimeen commends the unprecedented attention and time given to women issues in Saudi Arabia
OIC seeks to deliver a message to the world that the moderate Islam religion extremely values women, Al-Othaimeen says
CAIRO: OIC Secretary-General Yousef Al-Othaimeen commended the unprecedented attention and time given to women issues in Saudi Arabia during the eighth session of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Ministerial Conference on Women.

Egypt hosted the conference on Thursday under the patronage of President Abdelfattah El-Sisi.

Al-Othaimeen said the conference was held at a time where women’s empowerment to take part in political, economic, social and cultural fields has become a must.

He praised the Kingdom for unlocking the full potential of women as a driving force for development across all areas of Saudi Vision 2030.

Al-Othaimeen thanked Egypt for hosting the session, which reflected the country’s concern to promote the comprehensive objectives of the OIC and strengthen the foundations of the joint Islamic work in women empowerment and other fields.

He added that the OIC seeks to deliver a message to the world that the moderate Islam religion extremely values women and considers them as an effective partner in different fields.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Asir, Saudi Arabia’s summer destination for nature lovers

Time: 08 July 2021

Famous locations in the Asir region include Shada Palace, the mud-walled embodiment of traditional architecture
ABHA: In the high altitudes of Asir, green landscapes that stretch as far as the eye can see offer a unique connection with nature.
Asir topped the destinations announced by the Saudi Summer 2021 program launched by the Saudi Tourism Authority through the “Saudi Arabia Spirit” portal, under the slogan “Our Summer, Your Mood.”
The program began on June 24 and will last until the end of September. It includes 11 tourist destinations, with over 500 touristic experiences in cooperation with more than 250 partners from the private sector.
Famous locations in the Asir region, which can be accessed through roads paved between mountains and greenery, include Shada Palace, the mud-walled embodiment of traditional architecture, which has been turned into a museum.
As one explores the region, the archaeological village of Rijal Almaa appears from atop a hill with its immortal image that dates back over 350 years. The village retains its glory and beauty, illustrated by the white quartz that adorns its structures from the outside and merges into the rural scenery from afar, with the green terraces that extend along the mountains and on all edges.
Heritage is seen as an eternal symbol throughout the region, and this is reflected in its residents, who are proud of their deep-rooted sense of belonging to the land.
The small neighborhood of Al-Muftaha village is a distinct cultural center characterized by bright murals and narrow lanes with beautiful art.
Despite the ideal scenic landscape, the spirit of adventure remains the major motive for enjoying the trip.
Riding the cable car is one of the most enjoyable experiences in the Asir region, with panoramic views that will be remembered forever.
The cable car journeys between the mountains, traveling through four stations, the first based on the Abha Palace Hotel.
The new Abha cable car station, which heads toward the Green Mountain, is exciting in daylight and picturesque at night. The mountain is lit with green neon lights whose warm glow can be seen from all over the city.
The third station is the Al-Soudah cable car, which transports passengers from the Jabal Al-Soudah to the village of Rijal Almaa. The last station is the Habala cable car, which extends toward the old village of Habala, and is the only means of transportation since it can only be reached by cable car.
After experiencing the cable car, tourists can visit the high city linked to the summit of the mountain. Mountain rocks were carved into walls and sidewalks on which the city rests. The high city has recently flourished with cafes, restaurants, and various recreational activities that cater to everyone’s taste.
The Asir region offers a wide range of nature scenes every day depending on the light, wind or rain. The image of the earth changes from bright and glowing on clear days to refreshingly wet after rain, and the air tends to cool as people ascend the hanging roads that rotate around mountains.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Female workers help Saudi Arabia jobless rate hit five-year low

Time: 03 July 2021

The decline in the unemployment rate was helped by an increase in female participation in the workforce. (Supplied)

Economic and social reforms, pandemic response praised as experts hail rapid jobs growth
RIYADH: A rapid Saudi government response to the coronavirus pandemic, women’s active participation in the workforce and Vision 2030 economic reforms have been cited by experts as major factors in the Kingdom’s unemployment rate falling to its lowest level in almost five years.

The decline in the jobless rate comes as the Saudi economy begins to rebound from the pandemic and women join the workforce in record numbers.

The overall Saudi unemployment rate fell to 11.7 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared with 12.6 percent in the last quarter of 2020, the General Authority for Statistics (GASTAT) said on Wednesday.

According to GASTAT, the joblessness figure is the lowest since an 11.6 percent rate in the second quarter of 2016.

The decline in the unemployment rate was helped by an increase in female participation in the workforce, which rose to 33.6 percent from 32.1 percent in the previous quarter.

The Kingdom is benefiting from a surge in investment as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman seeks to diversify the economy under the Vision 2030 reform plan.

Economic reforms since 2016 have created millions of jobs, with plans to reduce unemployment to 7 percent by 2030.

Speaking to Arab News, economist Talat Zaki Hafiz said that unemployment in Saudi Arabia has fallen to its lowest level in almost five years for many reasons, including rigorous efforts by the government to Saudize most of the commercial sectors in private businesses.

HIGHLIGHT
The overall Saudi unemployment rate fell to 11.7 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared with 12.6 percent in the last quarter of 2020, GASTAT said.

“Empowering women in the labor market and offering them a wider chance to work and participate more actively has reflected positively in unemployment sliding in the Kingdom,” he said.

“Today we have more and better Saudis to work in the private sector from the point of view of qualification or even willingness to accept the kind of jobs that were not appealing to them.”

Hafiz said that he was confident the Kingdom will reach its Saudi Vision 2030 target of 7 percent unemployment.

Dr. Osama Ghanem Al-Obaidy, adviser and law professor at the Institute of Public Administration in Riyadh, said: “Saudi Vision 2030 highlights the importance of raising the employment levels of Saudis. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, Saudi Arabia managed to lower its unemployment rate, while other countries suffered huge job losses.

“Policies implemented by the government were effective in avoiding an increase in unemployment rates,” he said.

Al-Obaidy said that employment programs and initiatives for young Saudis, especially women, and investments by the Saudi Public Investment Fund as well as economic reforms undertaken by the Saudi government have led to a lowering of the unemployment rate.

This is in addition to the support and incentive packages that the government provided to businesses and business owners to help avoid mass job losses, he said.

“The lowering of the unemployment rate in the Kingdom is a testament to the strength and resilience of the Saudi economy and its labor market,” Al-Obaidy added.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Who’s Who: Moudhi Al-Jamea, VP at Saudi Telecom Co. and dean of STC Academy

Time: 01 July 2021

Moudhi Al-Jamea

Moudhi Al-Jamea was recently appointed vice president of Saudi Telecom Co. (STC) and dean of STC Academy, STC’s technology and leadership academy. Previously, Al-Jamea was the acting dean of STC Academy and acting vice president of STC between January and June this year.

Al-Jamea was also the general manager of digital technology at STC Academy from February 2019 until June 2021.

She has a bachelor’s degree in computer and information systems from King Faisal University, a master’s degree in information technology and e-business from the University of Greenwich, and a doctorate in computer security and informatics from King’s College London.

After graduating in 2006, Al-Jamea took on the role of CEO at Superior IT Services for seven years. In 2013, while studying in the UK, she became the vice president of the Scientific Society for Saudi Students.

From 2015 to 2016, she was a member of the board of trustees behind the first Innovation and Entrepreneurship Prize for Saudi Students in the UK, aimed at encouraging students to participate in creative thinking.

She then worked as a security consultant partner at Ibtkar Strategic Consultancy, liaising between its offices in the UK, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

Al-Jamea has retained a career in education while completing her studies and acting as CEO. She began lecturing in 2010 at Imam Abdulrahman bin Faisal University in Dammam. In 2017, she became an assistant professor while also serving as president of the entrepreneurship and incubator unit. She is certified in ethical hacking from the EC-Council and in 2017 completed the women’s leadership program at Prince Mohammed bin Salman College of Business and Entrepreneurship.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Thank You, Jeddah! Thank you, Saudi Arabia! Until we meet again

Time: 29 June 2021

Ryan M. Gliha

When I first arrived in Jeddah in 2002, Saudi Arabia was not the country we live and work in today. It was a different time, and our two countries were facing different challenges together.
Jeddah was my first assignment as a diplomat. Naturally, I felt very far from home in the beginning. I struggled with learning about Saudi history, customs, and the Arabic language. It did not take long, however, for the city and people of Jeddah to welcome me into their hearts and homes with warmth and kindness.
I grew to love this city. The desert, the mountains, and the sea; the architecture and art; grabbing mutabbag for breakfast, making a late-night stop at Al-Baik, or sampling different families’ sambousek recipes during Ramadan. It was with sadness that I departed in 2004, wondering if I would ever return.
When I was selected to return to Jeddah in 2018 as the consul general, I was deeply honored. I joined a talented team, dedicated to strengthening and expanding the important relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia. As I complete my three-year tenure as US consul general in Jeddah, I am honored to have helped lead and extend the partnership between our two countries and our two peoples. Our partnership began more than 75 years ago with a meeting between King Abdul Aziz and President Franklin Roosevelt. It has grown now to encompass countless Americans and Saudis, extending far beyond the official relationship between our two governments. Tens of thousands of Americans call Saudi Arabia home; dozens of American companies have partnered with Saudi businesses to generate prosperity in both countries; more than 30,000 Saudis study in the US each year and American professors teach at top Saudi universities.
As part of my work, I have had the good fortune to travel all over western Saudi Arabia, from Madinah to Tabuk and from Abha to Yanbu. I am continuously amazed by the beautiful diversity of the Saudi people, of their local traditions, language, and food, which highlight the unique Saudi culture. I am deeply appreciative of the Saudi people’s hospitality and welcoming spirit. Those visits left many beautiful memories that I will carry with me forever.

I have also seen the remarkable changes at work in the Kingdom and the impact that Vision 2030 has had on the economy and society.

Ryan M. Gliha

On my travels, I have also seen the remarkable changes at work in the Kingdom and the impact that Vision 2030 has had on the economy and society. My colleagues and I at the consulate and throughout the US Mission to the Kingdom are committed to working with Saudi Arabia to advance the goals laid out in the vision. Leading US companies and institutions are uniquely positioned to serve as partners in developing sectors like infrastructure, transportation, film and television, education, tourism, digital services, and many more. American universities offer top-quality education and training to Saudi students, who can then return to help build and diversify the economy.
Over the past three years, my team and I have launched a series of initiatives designed to foster these connections to the benefit of both countries. I am confident that these important efforts with Saudi partners will continue to bear fruit and strengthen the relationship long after my departure.
As my family and I prepare for this second departure from Saudi Arabia, I have been honored to work with a talented team at the consulate, and I am deeply appreciative of the warm hospitality and welcoming engagement that my Saudi hosts have shown everywhere I have traveled. Working together, we have demonstrated that with shared goals, with communication, and with the exchange of ideas and people, we can build lasting bridges between our two countries.
I know I will leave a piece of myself here on the shores of the Red Sea. But I will take with me a heart full of friendships and memories and the sincere hope that we will meet again soon.
Thank you, Jeddah! Thank you, Saudi Arabia! Until we meet again.

• Ryan M. Gliha is the outgoing US consul general in Jeddah and the US representative to the OIC.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Princess Reema tells Saudi women entrepreneurs to dream big

Time: 28 June 2021

https://youtu.be/7CM0Flpp32w

Source by Stefanie H. Ali

On June 23, 2021 the Atlantic Council’s empowerME Initiative held a workshop featuring a keynote fireside chat with Saudi Ambassador to the United States, Her Royal Highness Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud, which was moderated by US Embassy Riyadh Chargé D’Affaires Martina Strong, and a panel discussion with Endeavor Saudi Arabia Managing Director Lateefa Alwaalan, 500 Startups MENA Partner Amal Dokhan, S&P Global Chief Public & Government Affairs Officer Courtney Geduldig, and UPS Vice President for Community Relations Esther Ndichu, which was moderated by empowerME Director and Resident Senior Fellow Amjad Ahmad.

This workshop was part of the Igniting Women’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Saudi Arabia program and was led by the Atlantic Council’s empowerME Initiative in partnership with the US Mission to Saudi Arabia, the American Chamber of Commerce Saudi Arabia, and Quantum Leaps. The program is bringing US entrepreneurs, experts, and business leaders together with their Saudi counterparts to build relationships, share knowledge, and develop partnership opportunities via hybrid workshops and networking sessions.

Key takeaways:
Saudi Arabia’s Changing Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

Amjad Ahmad discussed the importance of more US-Saudi partnerships and knowledge sharing to bring entrepreneurs, business leaders, and experts from both countries together to promote economic prosperity, and added that “Saudi Arabia has embarked on an essential economic transition with a substantial rise in entrepreneurship and with women playing a greater role in the country’s economy.”

Martina Strong emphasized the United States’ desire to see Saudi women equipped to take full advantage of the rapid pace of change: “In today’s Saudi economy, one can sense the dynamism, the creativity, new sectors and opportunities are being generated and expanded every single day…We want to see many more women take their rightful place of leadership in the economy and across Saudi society.”

Her Royal Highness Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud emphasized that: “Vision 2030 changed everything…today, when I look at these young female entrepreneurs, the challenge isn’t regulatory anymore. The challenge isn’t really even financial anymore because the opportunities are there for financial development and support and growth. Mentorship is available. The limitation today is your dream.” She added that Vision 2030 has unlocked so many opportunities for women to not just dream but bring their dreams to fruition. “That is the profound difference” from the past, she said, and it is a “fundamental shift.”

Her Royal Highness Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud also shared an anecdote illustrating the rapid pace of change in the Kingdom and the importance of timing for a business to be successful. In 2005 when she co-founded Yibreen, a women’s gym chain, she struggled to expand it because of the legal, regulatory, and cultural environment at that time. Then, a few years ago in her role working for the Saudi General Sports Authority, she was asked to deregulate that very same sector, which has enabled women’s gyms to flourish.

Lateefa Alwaalan noted that “there is a rise of a subsector of women getting into their own businesses enabled by technology, delivery apps, and e-commerce solutions to put their innovative ideas out there and start sourcing.” She added that internet penetration and digital access is also helping.

Amal Dokhan highlighted the positive funding trajectory in the MENA region and in Saudi Arabia, with the MENA region passing the $1 billion funding mark in 2020 even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. She added that Saudi Arabia had $156 million in startup funding in 2020 and there was a 56 percent increase in startup funding in 2021 year-to-date. These trends are positive and demonstrate investor interest, Dokhan added.
Challenges for Women Entrepreneurs & Strategies to Address Them

Her Royal Highness Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud discussed an ongoing challenge for women entrepreneurs: access to funding. She noted that this is an issue not just in Saudi Arabia but worldwide, since there have been more men than women entrepreneurs historically, meaning that investors are more accustomed to funding men entrepreneurs. She urged women entrepreneurs to get advice and support on structuring and running their business to ensure their endeavors are competitive and viable.

Her Royal Highness Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud emphasized the importance of financial literacy and financial security for all women entrepreneurs to ensure that financial insecurity does not become a significant stress factor that derails a business endeavor.

Lateefa Alwaalan noted that, while more and more women are launching businesses, scaling and turning them into a sustainable venture is a challenge. Courtney Geduldig expanded on this point, stating that there has been a 72 percent increase in companies founded by women in the past few years, but scaling is not happening at the same rate in part because more venture capital funding goes to men. According to Geduldig, getting more women into venture capital firms will help address this issue since gender diversity brings diversity of thought no matter the field.
When asked about the percentage of women founders in the region, Amal Dokhan stated that approximately 14 percent of the MENA startups are women-led. She emphasized that there is not a lack of women entrepreneurs and that there are more and more every day, but there is a need for more women-led technology startups. According to a 2019 report, 16 percent of startup founders in Saudi Arabia are women.
Courtney Geduldig shared findings from research for her book: Where the Jobs Are: Entrepreneurship and the Soul of the American Economy. Challenges she discovered for women entrepreneurs in particular include: lack of financial literacy, lack of confidence, difficulties finding access to funding and access to loans, and the heavy burden of caregiving responsibilities. Geduldig emphasized that these challenges are ongoing in the United States and it would be prudent for us all to learn lessons from other countries working to address these issues. She added that there is a need for more access, guidance, and support focused on opening doors and creating a more inclusive network for women business founders.
Programs to Support Women Entrepreneurs

Her Royal Highness Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud directed women entrepreneurs to visit the Saudi Ministry of Commerce and the General Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises (Monshaat) websites for further resources on funding opportunities for their businesses.

Esther Ndichu pointed to corporate programs such as UPS’s work with the American Chamber of Commerce in Saudi Arabia, UPS’s recently signed memorandum of understanding with the Saudi General Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) (Monshaat) to promote and engage with SMEs in Saudi Arabia, and UPS’s partnership with the International Trade Center’s SheTrades Initiative, to provide channels for women entrepreneurs around the world to access global markets. She discussed UPS’s approach to promoting SME growth around the world through three focal areas: (1) capacity building to close the gap to ensure women entrepreneurs have the skills to access global markets, such as factoring in real costs, (2) market access to bring in private sector partners, and (3) providing logistics perspectives to governments to ensure that the MENA countries’ legal and regulatory frameworks encourage women to become entrepreneurs.
Advice for Women Entrepreneurs

Her Royal Highness Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud encouraged women entrepreneurs to:
Take public speaking and debate classes and get advice from experts on core business competencies in areas where they are weak. She also challenged would-be entrepreneurs to make the case for why they are the best person to take the idea forward since having a great idea is not enough.
Move forward despite rejections and recognize that rejections and “nos” from funders help hone a business idea.
Get a job in the industry related to their business idea and learn from a person in the field and develop their concept from there.

Amal Dokhan urged women entrepreneurs to look at the gaps and find a team that complements their capabilities and ask themselves if the market for their idea is big enough to scale and has enough customers. “It’s about finding the right formula,” she added.
Amal Dokhan also underscored the importance of having the courage to speak in public and share success (and failure) stories: “I meet female entrepreneurs in different parts of the world, but something repeated in every culture is that we don’t want to be out there until we are absolutely perfect. If you get the chance, allocate maybe four times a year, every quarter, to get out there and share your story, or at least offer mentorship.” She added that storytelling is critical and makes you a role model for other would-be women and men entrepreneurs and mentoring is a great way to give back and help the next generation.

Lateefa Alwaalan emphasized the importance of surrounding yourself with the right networks because those can be enablers that help an entrepreneur find success faster. She added that it is wise to build a team of co-founders and co-investors rather than going it alone, saying: “You will face roadblocks and it is good to find people smarter than you or those who complement you to help you on this journey.”

Courtney Geduldig shared that one learning from her research with women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs in general is that they need to find opportunities for mentorship, relationship building, and insider knowledge in order to obtain not just access to finance and credit, but to leverage that access and build on it successfully.

Esther Ndichu urged women entrepreneurs to check out UPS’s Women Exporter’s Program, which provides information and builds capacity for women-led SMEs. She added that UPS has found that, in the age of tech and ecommerce, businesses can leapfrog the normal process of distribution only in the local community and go straight to global product distribution.
Poll Results

At the workshops, we polled attendees on the following questions related to women’s entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia. As the results below indicate, the environment for women entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia is improving, but more access to support and training is still needed.

Stefanie H. Ali is deputy director of the Atlantic Council’s empowerME Initiative. Follow her @StefHausheer.

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