DAMAC buys bankrupt Swiss diamond jeweler

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - LONDON: Saudi Arabia and the UK are far from maximizing their potential for collaboration in the field of e-commerce, officials said as the two sides staged an event in London to explore opportunities in the sector.

Dr. Emad Al-Dukair, co-chairman of the Saudi British Joint Business Council, told Arab News that the Kingdom had achieved a great deal in recent years and offered enormous potential for future growth.

“What’s happened in the last five years is equivalent to more than what’s happened in a half a century, and I think there is a great deal more to come,” he said.

Al-Dukair’s comments came as the Saudi E-Commerce Council, in collaboration with the SBJBC, held an event in London titled “Leveraging e-commerce to expand Saudi-UK bilateral trade.”

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It was hosted by the Kingdom’s Minister of Commerce Dr. Majid Al-Qasabi, who is also chairman of the ECC, and attended by leaders from 11 government agencies.

Al-Dukair said the UK was regarded as a hub for new technologies, e-commerce, fintech and e-services and was keen to encourage firms to build new relationships in the Kingdom, adding that there were also opportunities for Saudi firms to get involved in British startups there.

Al-Qasabi said that Saudi Arabia was among the top 10 developing countries in the field of e-commerce, with annual growth of more than 32 percent, and that developing the sector was one of the objectives of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.

Al-Dukair said that despite the size of the meeting, which attracted 120 business leaders, the two countries had not yet “scratched the surface” of their potential for working together. The event had, however, come at “an opportune time” following Brexit, COVID-19, the low growth forecast for the British economy and its search for new markets.

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E-commerce expert Karl Lillrud said at the event that his goal was to help firms with their expansion plans.

“I empower companies to grow faster and have been doing that for 25 years, and that could be from small startups, all the way up to Fortune 500 companies, where I step in and support them in understanding how to break down boundaries, how to overcome obstacles.”

Dr. Ahmad Dehwah, co-founder and managing director of Sadeem — a Saudi startup specializing in flood mitigation solutions — said his company was hoping to collaborate with UK companies.

Sadeem was looking to set up a hybrid model, where both sides would engage and work together “to ensure that we have sustainable cities and better flood mitigation systems,” he said.

The company was founded in 2010 following the deadly floods that struck the coastal city of Jeddah a year earlier. Dehwah said that many officials and organizations had expressed interest in working with his company because of the increase in flooding over the past decade and the impact of climate change.

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“Investment in flood mitigation solutions is increasing, and that shows how important it is,” he said.

Quintin Hicks, partnerships director at tech company What3words, said Saudi Arabia had “been a priority market for a long time,” and that the event in London provided an opportunity to meet potential partners and get reacquainted with developments in the Kingdom’s e-commerce and logistics market after the pandemic.

The company already works with the Saudi Red Crescent and other emergency services to enable people to share their location in crowded or remote areas. It also cooperates with ride-hailing app Careem to help identify destinations, from hotels to camping sites, in the desert.

“In rural areas, especially in some of these amazing new Saudi 2030 mega projects, like in NEOM … it’s a way to identify your location and share it with emergency services if you’re in some sort of trouble, but also from a planning point of view,” Hicks said.

While What3words had mostly partnered with private companies in the past it was keen to work with government entities in Saudi Arabia and by 2030 hoped its name would be “part of everyday language,” he added.

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