Saudi Global Competitiveness: Leveling the field, building new stadiums
If visions set the pathway for the future, the attributes should have innovation at the core. That’s one thing we can learn from global tech giants like Microsoft.
In an outtake on Microsoft’s digital transformation in the upcoming global shift, Microsoft explains, “Disruptions have always been a catalyst for business transformation. To lead on the forefront, we’re becoming more agile, efficient, and innovative. This means changing our systems and processes to support and quickly adapt to new products, services, business models, regulations, and anything else that comes our way.”
To contemplate the striking rise of global competitiveness in MENA, today we’re diving into one of its fastest-growing players: Saudi Arabia. The kingdom has effectively adopted a lean design approach in opening its governmental entities, infrastructure, and cultural makings to innovation. The vision creates a new medium where technology, inclusivity, and diversified output drive the ship.
The Saudi Vision 2030, now nearing its last and most pivotal stretch, has opened up the Kingdom on two pivotal fronts: the openness to private/public synergy and the openness to global contribution. Here’s why it’s important:
Private Organizations Contribute to Public Advancement
A great pillar of the initiatives rolled out under the Saudi Vision 2030 is the inclusion and enhancement of the private contribution to the public sphere. Many champions of this sphere could be brought to light, including the likes of Saudi Aramco, STC, and Zain have been pivotal to this transformational process.
This collaboration arises from acknowledging that the private sector has acquired the global know-how and world-class technology needed to get the public sector where it needs to be. On one front, the Saudi private sector is boosting its entrepreneurial communities either directly, where Saudi Aramco’s venture arm Wa’ed remains one of the top investors in local startups industry-wide, or indirectly, where entities like the Saudi Central Bank launching the first Regulatory Sandbox in the Kingdom bring immense value to the advancement of technology on a national level.
With the private sector stepping up, companies and executives understand the need to upskill their current and future talent to level the fields and serve the burgeoning technology market, which acquired a volume of $40Bn + by the end of 2021. On a national level, the goal is to upskill 40% of the youth-filled local workforce on basic AI and Data skills. On a private level, the sector is running organization-wide internal innovation programs to make sure its talent meets its ambition.
The best part of digital transformation is it has a long-term impact, all while presenting the organization with new and optimized revenue streams. We look back at our partnership with Banque Saudi Faransi, one of our many banking and fintech collaborators in KSA, on launching their first Digital Apprenticeship Program. The six months program gathered cross-departmental teams on a 3-pronged cycle, starting with coding & data-intensive boot camp, entrepreneurial and strategy mentoring, and ending with a viable product. This product not only enhances the Banque Saudi Faransi offering but also gives them an edge in digital banking.
Local Players Step Up, and Global Players Step In
Last month, we maneuvered the Saudi landscape for global players to set up their operations in the Kingdom.
Industry veterans in MENA understand the tremendous opportunity at hand where for the first time, global players are not only welcomed to set up in Saudi but are also incentivized (more on that in our upcoming outtakes). This bold maneuver has become a pillar of the Saudi Vision 2030, where global players are set to raise the level of innovation and available technology to serve a burgeoning demand and introduce fresh global perspectives to the way of doing business.
While we’ve been servicing the growing global interest in the Saudi market, expanding teams of all sizes from Europe, the US, and the region to scale into the Saudi market successfully, the national drive has been crystallizing. Earlier this year, Saudi Aramco and US tech giant IBM announced the launching of the newest innovation center in Riyadh, set to invest and grow local technology with a special focus on AI and hybrid technologies. This news was shortly preceded by global financial solutions provider Visa’s plans to open a digital payment and fintech-focused innovation center in Saudi Arabia.
While Saudi Arabia’s investment in its infrastructure and tech talent is leveling the field, its co-investment and partnership with global players are building an entirely new game. The scores are adding up, and Saudi Arabia has climbed 20 ranks to claim the second top spot amongst G20 countries on the Global Competitiveness index in 2021. The road to global championship is a long one, yet the entire world loves a transformational success story.