Second Annual Saudi-U.S. CEO Forum Recap
The second annual Saudi-U.S. CEO Forum successfully concluded, having brought together more than 200 business leaders from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States of America, and resulted in the signing of 36 MOUs totaling more than $20 billion. The annual forum is a testament to the importance of not only creating partnerships, but maintaining them, to the Saudi-U.S. relationship. It helps further strengthen the economic ties, promote trade, expand awareness, and create a cultural exchange that is to the benefit of both countries, as this forum brings forth discussions on mutual investment opportunities.
Below are some of the Forum's highlights:
Importance of the Saudi-U.S. partnership:
- Secretary of Commerce, Mr. Wilbur Ross acknowledged the long history and relationship between the Kingdom and the United States, where he noted the United States standing with the Kingdom as far back as 1938, and that today America stands with Saudi Arabia as it is “about to transform both their society and their economy”.
- His Excellency Mohammed Al Jadaan, the Kingdom’s Minister of Finance, stated that “2030 aims to deliver an expanding economy with sustainable momentum that generates business opportunities for both our companies and our business partners in the United States”.
Investing in Human Capital, Particularly Youth and Women:
- As emphasized in Vision 2030, the Kingdom’s human capital, particularly the youth, is a resource that will be developed to help the country grow. It is not just Saudis who noticed this move, or support it. Many outside the Kingdom have recognized this change, including Ariana Huffington, founder and CEO of Thrive Global, who said at the forum that “the biggest renewable resource is not oil, it’s human capital, it’s the ambitions of the Saudi people, it’s the ambitions of the young.”
- Ms. Lubna Al Olayan, of Olayan Group, made a statement arguing that for the Kingdom “one of our most important resources is our youthful population. As you all know, 50% of our population is under the age of 25. This is why education spending represents 20% of our government budget.”
- Dr. Mounira Jamjoum, CEO of Emkan Education, reinforced the argument, stating that the Kingdom has set out to “carve out opportunities for youth both at the mindset and at the skill level in education, employment and entrepreneurship.”
- Ms. Indra Nooyi, Chairman & CEO of PepsiCo, stated that the changes the Kingdom aims for, as described within Vision 2030, will require that the Kingdom “deploy all the talent in Saudi Arabia, which means men and women.”
- Explaining that development within the Kingdom goes back years, and that what Vision 2030 has done is accelerate and push the trajectory of inclusion and growth forward, Ms. Sarah Al Suhaimi, Chairperson of Tadawul, told the audience that “it took less time for women to actually lead investment banks in Saudi Arabia than it took in the west,” and that “in 2017, 44% of the hires in our financial sector were women.”
- HRH Princess Reema bint Bandar, the President of the Mass Participation Federation and the Vice President of Development and Planning at the General Sports Authority, noted that message from the Kingdom’s leadership is saying that each individual belongs, that “we [women] – we collectively belong” and that is a huge game changer.
- “It’s phenomenal to have seen the one thing that hasn’t been talked about […] which is trained human capital. So the people -35,000 young Saudis – are now working at Sadara, that we have trained around the world, that have come back.”Mr. Khalid Al Mudaifer, CEO of Maaden
Changes to the Underlying Infrastructure and Systems:
- The Kingdom’s Minister of Energy, His Excellency Khalid Al Falih, stressed that “the economic model will shift from government-driven to a privet sector-driven one. And the private sector contribution, which is currently less than 40%, will grow to 65%”.
- His Excellency Majid Alkassabi, Minister of Commerce and Investment, noted that the Kingdom is “implementing an infrastructure and a rule of law to guarantee the protection of investors” as a measure to ensure the Kingdom is functioning at a benchmark of global excellence.
- Recognizing the impressive dedication of the Kingdom, Mr. John J. Hamre, CEO of CSIS, noted that “the Kingdom is going through this remarkable transformation, at the same time it’s at war. Only two days ago, 7 missiles were launched at Riyadh.”
- “Everything that is required to facilitate business is being done, the right tone is there and the ecosystem is built around that.” His Excellency Amin Nasser, CEO of ARAMCO, iterated.
- “In Saudi Arabia we have a really great investment environment, and a strong political will. The combination of these two things makes a fantastic opportunity for anybody who wants to come in.” His Excellency Yasir Al Rumayan, Managing Director Public Investment Fund highlighted.
Opportunities and Possibilities:
- Speaking about Saudi Arabia’s commitment to technological advancement, Mr. Marc Raibert, founder and CEO of Boston Dynamics noted that “you don’t want to just be the consumer of technology, you need to be the producer of those technologies. That is something Saudi Arabia is interested in doing and working on. And I hope we can help with that”
- With regards to the multitude of opportunities available in the Kingdom, Cary Knell, CEO of National Geographic Society, argued that “think there’s a huge opportunity for an emerging sector around tourism, one that shows off the cultural heritage of Saudi, there are incredible archeological sites that the world doesn’t know about, that equal –or might [be] better- [than] other places … like Petra Jordan.”
- The Kingdom is seeking to compete at a global level, and create at a global level, as well. Which is what Mr. Klaus Kleinfeld, CEO of NEOM, has highlighted stating that “with NEOM, HRH Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman wants to create something not just for Saudi Arabia, but something for the world. He wants to use this pretty amazing piece of land to create a place where the future can be built.”
- “The defining characteristics of the Red Sea Project are 50 of the most beautiful, pristine islands, and what I would argue are the best coral reef in the world” Mr. John Pagano, CEO of the Red Sea Project emphasized.
- Inclusion and mobility on a social level includes changing the social culture, and that was manifested in the growth of the sports sector within the Kingdom, where, HRH Prince Abdlaziz Turki AlFaisal, of the GSA, has stated that “within the span of 7to 8 months, we went from 32 to 62 sport federations”.
- “In Saudi Arabia, we are seeing massive ideas that seem like moonshots or dreams to people, that are actually being executed” Mr. Rob Lloyd, Hyperloop, stated.
- “If there’s a competition in the world that Saudi Arabia can well compete in, it’s the competition for jobs. Jobs of the century, not yesterdays” Mr. Andrew Liveris, CEO Dow Chemical, mentioned.