170,000 REGISTERED COMMERCIAL ENTITIES

Saudi Arabia 2019-2020 | REAL ESTATE & CONSTRUCTION | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Ajlan Al Ajlan, Chairman of the Board of Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry, on the new metro, the entertainment sector, and the industrial value chain.

Riyadh is shaping itself for the future with the metro project reaching its final stages, other infrastructural development projects and projects like KAFD and ITCC that bring new technology to the forefront. What role do you see for Riyadh guiding the urban development in the Kingdom?

Vision 2030 formulated a broad range of objectives, improvements, and project to increase the stand of living in Saudi Arabia. Riyadh, as the capital, plays a fundamental part of this vision. Within the chamber of commerce, we have 170,000 registered commercial entities. We provide them with information, contacts, and other support services, as well as the opportunity to participate in our various committee meetings. It is important that our members voice their concerns and challenges so we can improve the business environment together. Riyadh is currently under visible rapid transformation. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been working in just a few years to change the next 20 years. In the next five years, the Saudi economy and many aspects of life in the Kingdom will fundamentally change. The cabinet and other government entities are changing their way of working, and there are clear KPIs now. The pace of transformation reminds me of a marathon, and it is exciting to see people coming together and working together to achieve great things. With such a commitment, we will truly see improvements over the coming five to 10 years.

There are major developments in the field of entertainment culture and sports. Do you foresee economic growth potential in this trend?

In the entertainment industry, we are starting from scratch, as it was largely absent in the Kingdom to date. There is huge potential to build this industry and, as a government, provide opportunities for the private sector to start new businesses in this field. The Riyadh Chamber welcomes this new development, and it is establishing a dedicated entertainment committee to monitor these developments and provide a platform for industry players to discuss how we can improve the investment climate. Sports are another big and potential sector, albeit not entirely new. Football has always been popular, as well as other sports. The difference is that we see new sports, like racing, coming to town. In December 2018, we had a unique event with the Formula E race in historic Diriyah. There are already other racing classes in the Kingdom as well. These are great developments and give us the unique opportunity to put Riyadh on the map internationally, while presenting new opportunities to the local business community.

How is the chamber assisting industrial companies to move up the value chain as part of Vision 2030?

Supporting traditional industries is still one of the core activities of the Riyadh chamber, and we have a well-established network of committees and subject matter experts to build expertise and industry dialogue. Moving up the value chain is an important objective, especially for local manufacturing industries. It will reduce import dependency and increase export capacity. Another key objective of the Riyadh chamber is supporting SMEs; these are the true engines of jobs in the Kingdom, and this segment of the market is only set to grow even further. 70% of the Saudi population is under 30 years old, and many recent graduates are choosing jobs outside the public sector and traditional industries. We have our internal committees as well as strong partnerships with various ministries and other organization that underline SME growth.

What is your message to foreign investors, and why is Riyadh a destination for investment and partnerships?

In Riyadh, there is an active government working hard to assist investors. The population of Riyadh is 7.5 million, with largely young people, which means there is a strong market for a broad range of products and services. The leisure and hospitality industries are currently in exponential growth, for example. The financial infrastructure is extremely advanced, and there are many banks and financial institutions to team up with. Riyadh is an active city for business, and with a number of real estate development projects, there is no market saturation in sight yet.