Women are increasingly taking center stage in the business world of the GCC as they feel empowered by recent progressive reforms undertaken by some of the regional countries.
Led by the UAE and Saudi Arabia, the region has been witnessing a change in recent years as countries are pushing ahead with gender neutrality measures as part of their national strategy to achieve sustainable growth for society.
For the Kingdom, one of the most important aspects of Vision 2030 is women’s empowerment. Since the plan was put in motion, women are driving, traveling alone, and are increasingly present in the workplace.
Its neighbor, the UAE, launched a plan in 2015 for the empowerment of Emirati women as part of the region’s aim to address the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, also known as UNSDG. This followed the UAE’s decision to update the Federal Crime and Punishment Law last year to strengthen women’s rights.
These changes are empowering women and encouraging them to bring their businesses into the limelight. This year’s Forbes list of 50 most influential and successful businesswomen in MENA included 19 different nationalities, with the UAE and Egypt coming first followed by Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Kuwait and Oman.
“Women in the GCC are benefiting from engaging reforms stemming from ambitious national agendas that fall in line with the UNSDG and an overall aim to diversify the region’s economy,” said Leila Hoteit, managing director and senior partner at BCG Middle East.
In the UAE, she said Gender Lens Investing, or GLI as it’s commonly known in the business world, is empowering women entrepreneurs to stimulate startup creation and increasing the probability of being home to the next unicorns, thereby building strong, resilient economies of the future.
GLI is about integrating gender analysis into investment analysis and decision-making, outlined under the commitment made by 193 countries in 2015 to achieve 17 Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs by 2030.
Hoteit who is featured among the Forbes top 50 most influential women in business in the MENA region this year underlined the significant progress made by businesswomen in the region.
“Just last year, 11 percent of venture capital funding in the UAE went to female-only founders, compared to the international average of 3 percent,” she said.
Moreover, Hoteit pointed out that the UAE is the second country in the world to make it mandatory for corporations and government entities to include women on boards of directors.
On the other hand, in 2020, she said Saudi recorded the biggest improvement on the World Bank “Women, Business and the Law index” that identifies legal impediments to women’s economic opportunities.
This has translated into many success stories at the regional business level.
Sarah Al-Suhaimi is one example among many in the region. As the chairperson of Saudi Tadawul, the Saudi stock exchange, she leads the Group’s effort to meet global standards and best practices. She is the first woman to lead the Saudi stock exchange, which is considered traditionally a man’s domain.
In her own words published on Tadawul, she underlined her institution is contributing to the development of an advanced capital market, “which is a core pillar of Saudi Arabia’s Financial Sector Development Program as it seeks to create a thriving financial sector to enable and support Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030.”
Al-Suhaimi is also a board member of several companies including the Saudi Telecom Company, the Saudi Arabian Airlines Public Agency and the Cultural Development Fund.
Qatari Hanadi bint Nasser Al Thani is another powerful example. A former assistant lecturer in economics, she first founded Amwal, an investment company, in 1998. In 2005, she founded the $3.2-billion Al Wa`ab City, a real estate development project in Doha.
In the UAE, Hana Al-Rostamani has been brought up in a famous enterprising family, A W Rostamani group, from which she inherited her business acumen. But she has ventured beyond her family business to become the first female CEO of First Abu Dhabi Bank. FAB is currently the UAE’s largest bank with total assets of $268 billion as of September 2021, according to Forbes.
When asked what skills and knowledge should women have to succeed in the GCC business world, Hoteit simply answered, “Opportunity.”
“In the UAE alone, women make up the majority of all university graduates, half of whom are in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics,” she said.
The BCG MD pointed out that the rising representation of women in key decision-making roles in the public and private sectors in the GCC is providing the next generations of women and girls with inspiration not only to pursue their education but to achieve greater success in the market — thereby gaining more visibility in the workplace across the value chain and all facets of success.
Yet, being a woman is both a challenge and an advantage in the GCC market today. The challenges were evident at a global level in their worst forms during the pandemic.
UN Women, a United Nations entity working for gender equality and the empowerment of women, has exposed at the time fundamental inequalities across different segments — from the economy and workplace to health and unpaid childcare, explained Hoteit.
Additionally, in a region where a more traditional view of a woman’s role widely prevails, women are expected to take full responsibility for their household while trying to balance a career.
“However, the leadership in the region has addressed this issue early on and set clear pathways and strategies for women empowerment that placed and continues to place women at the highest decision-making positions in the corporate and government world,” concluded Hoteit.
RIYADH: In recognition of its ships high marine quality standards in US ports, Saudi Arabia has become one of only 26 countries — and the first in the Middle East — to be awarded the Marine Quality Certificate for the 21st century.
This achievement was awarded to the Kingdom’s ships for fully complying with environmental and safety standards and requirements whilst visiting US ports according to the Saudi Press Agency.
The certificate is awarded by the US Coast Guard, which ensures safety and environmental management in US seaports and sea-lanes.
Obtaining the Maritime Quality Certificate marks an important step forward in the development of the Saudi naval fleet, which includes 426 ships.
This certificate facilitates the movement of Saudi naval vessels in regional waters and American ports and assists in increasing trade exchanges and strengthening the economic relationship between the two nations.
The US Coast Guard develops and publishes legal regulations and standards for safe design, shipbuilding, stability, electrical and mechanical systems, life-saving systems, fire safety equipment, and other ship equipment to achieve the highest levels of efficiency and quality.
RIYADH: The ownership of qualified foreign investors in Saudi Arabia’s stock market surged to SR284 billion ($76 billion) by the end of the second quarter of 2022.
This is 31 percent up from SR216 billion in the same period last year, according to a report by the Capital Market Authority.
“Qualified foreign investors are playing an increasingly significant role on the Saudi exchange,” said an earlier CMA report.
Foreign investors’ ownership in Saudi-listed stocks touched the highest level of SR340 billion in April 2022.
When it comes to total foreign investment by swap holders, foreign residents, QFIs, foreign diversified portfolio managers, and foreign strategic investors, the ownership rose to SR354 billion at the end of the second quarter from SR276 billion a year ago.
Overall institutional investors held 96.6 percent of the total ownership in the market of SR11.4 trillion, while the remaining 3.34 percent belonged to non-institutional investors at the end of the three-month period.
In the same period of 2021, the breakdown of institutional and non-institutional investors was 95.9 percent for the former and 4.05 percent for the latter out of SR9.7 trillion in total.
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia produces around 20 percent of the world’s desalinated water, with 9 million cubic meters produced per day, the deputy minister of environment, water and agriculture said.
While speaking at the Future of Desalination International Conference in Riyadh on Sept. 12, Mansour Al-Mushaiti added that Saudi Arabia has desalinated seawater since the 1950s and is “the leading desalinated water producer in the world.”
He noted that the Kingdom now has reliable access to drinking water, of which 60 percent is desalinated.
“The sustained development of our desalinated industry has provided this part (of the world) a constant technological innovation — from thermal to reverse osmosis, from ongoing enhancement in membrane technology to using renewable energy to run desalination plants.”
Speaking of the government’s efforts in this regard, he said in 2002 the Kingdom created the Independent Water Power Producers and an official framework for private sector participation.
Saudi Arabia has also taken major steps toward improving the desalination sector’s efficiency, reliability and sustainability.
Sharing the history and some of Saudi Arabia’s achievements in this sector, the deputy minister revealed that the Kingdom launched the initiative to desalinate water using solar energy in 2009.
“In 2018, we successfully completed the world’s first large-scale water desalination plant powered by solar energy,” he said, adding that today they are working on other solutions, including the membrane technology.
Saudi Arabia launched Shuaibah Independent Water & Power Project, which is the first IWPP in the Kingdom to utilize the Flue Gas Desulphurization technology along with a low NOx burner and Electrostatic Precipitator. This is in full compliance with the World Bank emission requirement.
During the conference, the Kingdom’s Saline Water Conversion Corp. signed a cooperation agreement with Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research to localize and enhance cooperation in the desalination industry.
Hosted by Saudi Arabia from Sept. 11-13 in Riyadh, the Future of Desalination International Conference aims to discuss opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship in the desalination sector.
Many policymakers, developers, contractors, researchers and innovators will attend to discuss the sector’s future.
RIYADH: Saudi investors’ trades in US stocks soared 78 percent at the end of the second quarter of 2022, according to a report by the Capital Market Authority.
The amount invested stood at SR71 billion ($19 billion) — the highest level in a year.
Saudis injected SR31 billion more when compared to the first quarter of 2022 and SR10.4 billion more than the corresponding period a year ago.
US stock investment by Saudi-based traders in the first quarter and the second quarter of 2021 stood at SR40 billion and SR61 billion, respectively.
The transactions of Saudis through licensed brokerage firms are divided among seven markets – local, Gulf, Arab, Asian, US, European, and other geographical regions.
The trading value across all territories amounted to SR1.07 trillion during the second quarter, against SR1.14 trillion in the year’s first quarter.
Local trades accounted for 93.1 percent of the total amount, representing SR994 billion, followed by the US market with a share of 6.7 percent, while the remaining 0.2 percent was allocated to other markets.
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s main stock exchange witnessed a drop of 312,907 in the number of participating investors at the end of the second quarter of 2022.
A total of 85,343 female traders exited their investments, bringing the number of women participating in the bourse to 1.49 million, according to statistics by the Capital Market Authority.
Similarly, the number of male investors retreated by nearly 227,564 to 4.18 million, against 4.41 million in the first quarter of the year.
Despite the sequential drop, the data revealed that more female traders joined the Kingdom’s stock market in the second quarter when compared to 1.42 million in the same period last year.
The total number of individuals with ownership in the Saudi stock market was 5.67 million at the end of the three-month period, while the number of portfolios held rose to 10.8 million from 10.1 million in the prior quarter.