Saudi Arabia: the year ahead

With the developments already made by Saudi Arabia in 2017 and the ongoing reforms announced for 2018, we can expect to see continuous growth for the country next year. As the country continues to modernize and diversify the economy away from oil, there is encouragement for foreign investors and the promotion of development and innovation.

Women drivers

Saudi Arabia’s reform to allow women to drive brings numerous opportunities into the country. Not only are many car companies, such as Ford, Jaguar and Volkswagen taking advantage of this new market, but ride-services such as Careem have expressed interest in hiring women to work as drivers.

This development will mean an increase of women in the workforce as they have easier access to transport. This is aligned with the Vision 2030 and the National Transformation Program 2020, to increase women’s participation in the workforce, and will assist women to further progress their careers.

Entertainment sector

With the cinema ban lifted and the Saudi event authority’s new portal to fast-track issuance of  event permits, the entertainment and culture sector of Saudi is expected to boom in 2018. The opportunities available for cinema, theatre and entertainment companies is advancing, with 2017 witnessing the first public concert to host a female singer in the history of the Kingdom.

Entertainment companies such as AMC Entertainment and Secret Cinema are already underway in their plans to open cinemas in 2018.

Foreign investment opportunities

The privatization plan of Saudi Arabia encourages foreign investors to open their business in the Kingdom. The corresponding Vision 2030 objective is to ‘create an attractive environment for both local and international investors and enhance their confidence in our economy’. The plan aims to support foreign investors when they enter the Kingdom by providing them the resources, tools and incentives to expand successfully into the Kingdom and is mutually beneficial as the Kingdom diversify their economy away from oil.

This is being done is by privatizing public sector entities and giving foreign investors long-term ownership of state-owned entities. This process has already began and continues in airports, hospitals, Saudi Postal Corp, electricity and the water sector. New tenders are continually being presented by the Saudi government to investors and will continue throughout 2018.

Entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia 

Saudi Arabia are promoting the entrepreneurial society in the Kingdom by fostering the innovation of entrepreneurs in the country. Entrepreneurs have only recently been able to acquire a license to do business in the Kingdom. The first licenses were issued at the Misk Global Forum earlier this year and give precedence to entrepreneurs who bring patents, innovative services or a new business idea to the Kingdom.

Entrepreneurs, especially those in the tech industry, will play a major role in Saudi’s economic growth. Saudi Arabia are the biggest supporter of Japanese firm, SoftBank and their $100 billion tech fund and are highly invested in growing the tech startup industry in the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia continues to make large steps towards modernization in the Kingdom. “If there was to be a title for the 2018 budget, it would be the budget of expansion and development and investment,” said Saad al-Shahrani, general director of the ministry’s macro-fiscal policy unit.