AJLAN AL AJLAN

Saudi Arabia 2020 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

Ajlan Al Ajlan is Chairman of the Board of Riyadh Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

BIOGRAPHY
Ajlan Al Ajlan was appointed Chairman of the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 2018. He is a renowned Saudi businessperson, establishing Ajlan & Bros in 1979 and building it into one of the largest investment and commercial groups in the Kingdom. Al Ajlan serves as Chairman of the Board of Ajlan & Bros, which currently has more than 9,000 employees across 10 companies. He sits on the board of various other textile, real estate, and investment companies, as well as charity organizations.

What is Riyadh's role in guiding urban development in the Kingdom?

Vision 2030 formulated a broad range of objectives, improvements, and projects to increase the standard of living in Saudi Arabia. Riyadh, as the capital, is a fundamental part of this vision. Within the chamber of commerce, there are 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 a visibly rapid transformation. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been focused on transforming Saudi Arabia in the next 20 years. In the next five, the 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. 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. Sport is another major sector, albeit not entirely new. Football has always been popular in the Kingdom, as well as other sports. The difference is that we are now seeing new sports, such as racing, gaining popularity. In December 2018, we held the Formula E race in historic Diriyah; there are also other racing classes in the Kingdom. These are great developments as they give us the unique opportunity to put Riyadh on the international map, 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. Around 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 internal committees as well as strong partnerships with various ministries and other organizations 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 majority of Riyadh's 7.5-million population is young, 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 businesses and has a number of real estate development projects underway; there is no market saturation in sight.