GLOBAL REACH

Saudi Arabia 2016 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Dr. Abdullah Al-Ghalib AlSharif, Secretary General of the Mecca Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI), on innovative projects in the city to boost the hospitality sector, helping local SMEs to go global, and engaging with companies to realize Saudi Vision 2030.

Dr. Abdullah Al-Ghalib AlSharif
BIOGRAPHY
Dr. Abdullah Al-Ghalib AlSharif has a PhD in quality in management construction engineering and currently works as the Secretary General of the Mecca Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI). Former positions have included Program Director at WorleyParsons and Director of the Program Controls Department at the Jeddah Municipality.

The city of Mecca is undergoing a massive process of expansion. What sectors offer major opportunities for local and foreign investors in the city?

The Saudi Vision 2030 aims to boost the Kingdom's hospitality industry by more than half and attract 1.5 million tourists by 2020. Therefore, I believe that the sector offering major opportunities is the Haj and Umrah sector and its related logistic support services, such as housing and hospitality, food and beverage, transportation, retail and “Made in Mecca" products. Productive individuals in the city can benefit from the increasing number of pilgrims and visitors. We are also extending our support trying to reduce unemployment in the Mecca region in particular and the Kingdom in general, which is in accordance with the Vision 2030 plan of the government. Our chamber organized a career day, on which graduates of colleges and technical institutes in Mecca signed contracts for 300 jobs. The aim of the career day event was to serve the community in Mecca and this was made possible thanks to the 85 local companies that participated in the event and offered job opportunities to those who had just graduated from their colleges and technical institutes.

The Cabinet of Ministries just established the Public Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises. How do you envision the future for SMEs in the Mecca region?

The Public Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises is an extremely promising step for young entrepreneurs, especially in the Mecca region, and there are many industrious people aiming to produce Mecca-made products. We are marking the current year as “The Year of Productive Families" to extend support to these families and their handmade products by allocating special sections at various events. Families in Mecca have interesting products that include not only food items but also clothing and handcrafts. In December 2015, the Mecca Chamber of Commerce and Industry launched a webpage on Alibaba.com, which is the largest online commercial platform in the world. The platform will increase commercial activities between various targeted sectors and will move businesses from traditional sales methods to the electronic domain. The platform will open great horizons for businessmen and productive families, cut down on expenses of distribution and promotion, and shorten travel distance from production sites to consumers. Local families can promote the “Made in Mecca" project through the website, giving it a global outlook, and their products international reach. The project is aimed at providing for the needs of pilgrims and visitors for material manufactured in Mecca such as souvenirs to keep as lifelong mementos from the Holy Land.

HRH Mohammed bin Salman said recently the Kingdom is experiencing a “more certainly Thatcher revolution." What opportunities will arise for the private sector with this privatization process that the government intends to implement?

The private sector will flourish with the inclusion of the private sector to new business opportunities such as transportation infrastructure and the oil industry.

What measures will the MCCI implement to support companies in light of the recently announced Vision 2030?

We are embracing all commercial and industrial communities to engage in the Vision 2030 workshop and concentrating on the strength of the Islamic background of Mecca.

As Secretary General of MCCI, what are your expectations and goals for 2016?

My goal is to raise the number of active members in the chamber to 30,000.