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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - RIYADH: From investments in multi-billion-dollar megaprojects and online learning, to fintech and green financing, there are many sectors Saudi Arabia and the UK see as opportunities for growth, especially as the latter prepares to leave the EU and adopt a more global, independent trade outlook.
Speaking at the biannual meeting of the Saudi-British Joint Business Council, hosted by the Council of Saudi Chambers, Saudi Minister of Commerce Dr. Majid Al-Qasabi said there are a myriad of opportunities where the two Kingdoms can cooperate across different sectors.
Dr. Emad Al-Thukair, chair of the Saudi-British Joint Business Council, told the virtual event that in a post-Brexit world “there are huge opportunities of cooperation between the Kingdom and the UK in the health, education and energy sectors.”
Prof. Lilac Al-Safadi, president of Saudi Electronic University, highlighted opportunities in the distance education sector, pointing out that Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan emphasizes innovation and education as fundamental drivers for social and economic growth.
“COVID-19 alone did not create the transformation of e-learning in KSA. Underlying factors have driven the education transformation before COVID-19. These were continuously changing job market needs, the acceleration of technology diffusion and ease of deployment in the country, and the leadership’s determination to lead digital transformation and raise the efficiency of government spending,” Al-Safadi said.
She said that a recent study by the OECD in collaboration with Harvard University recognized Saudi Arabia as one of the countries best prepared to respond to educational emergencies.
Al-Safadi said that the Kingdom’s digital readiness, its training of teachers to use modern educational tools, and the cooperative relationship the Kingdom’s educators enjoy within the wider social community were behind the result.
Ajlan Al-Ajlan, chairman of the Council of Saudi Chambers, said the Kingdom has seen unprecedented economic reforms since the launch of the Vision 2030 and Saudi megaprojects. He said NEOM city, Qiddiya entertainment development and the tourism-focused Red Sea Project are “physical manifestations” of the Kingdom’s reforms.
“There are copious opportunities in the education, healthcare and fintech sectors. Our British partners are invited to explore these promising investment opportunities,” he added.
One of the megaprojects presented during the investment segment was the Red Sea Project. Announced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in July 2017, the first phase of the flagship project is due to open in 2022. When completed in 2030, the coastal development will comprise 50 hotels offering up to 8,000 hotel rooms and 1,300 residential properties across 22 islands and six inland sites.
Al-Ajlan stressed the importance of the Saudi-British partnership, describing it as “unique.” Echoing his words, Baroness Symons, co-chair of the Saudi-British Joint Business Council, said the Saudi-British economic relationship is “strong and evolving,” commending the Kingdom’s recent presidency of the G20 Summit and the contributions it made to support global economic recovery.
Lord Mayor of the City of London Alderman William Russell also highlighted fintech and green financing opportunities in both countries, emphasizing London’s expertise in the sectors.
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