Saudi banks' mortgages jump to $170bn in Q2: Housing Minister – Arab News
RIYADH: Mortgage loans provided to retail and corporate clients by Saudi Arabia’s commercial banks jumped in the second quarter to SR638 billion ($170 billion) from SR211 billion in 2017, said Majid Al-Hogail, the Kingdom’s housing minister. 
Speaking at the Euromoney Saudi Arabia Conference in Riyadh on Sept. 7, he said that his ministry is trying to push the Kingdom to the top of the world in terms of mortgage contribution to the gross domestic product. 
“I am happy that the mortgage quantitative numbers jumped from SR211 billion in 2017 to SR638 billion now. We are trying to bring Saudi top of the world in terms of the mortgage contribution to GDP,” he said. 
He added: “Mortgage housing makes governments less involved, but we continue smartly by providing for the needs of Saudi beneficiaries.” 
The minister noted that the Saudi Real Estate Refinance Co. will play a crucial role in ensuring liquidity and transparency in the Kingdom’s real estate sector. 
“SRC was established in 2017, and we had to build its credibility. We wanted to make sure to get rated big by rating agencies like Moody’s. We are now going international. We expect it in the first half of 2023 to become global, and we are currently working closely with the Finance Ministry,” he further said. 
Earlier in September, SRC’s assets hit SR20 billion after it completed a deal with Alinma Bank to acquire one of its real estate financing portfolios. 
The minister added that the COVID-19 pandemic negatively affected the real estate sector in Saudi Arabia due to supply chain challenges. He, however, made it clear that the Kingdom tackled the supply chain issues effectively. 
“COVID-19 supply chain challenges impacted Saudi Arabia and the globe. But, the government ensured that Saudi Arabia received materials faster than any other country as there are lots of agreements locally and internationally,” said Al-Hogail. 
He added: “We do not have a significant delay in projects, but that is a challenge we continue working on.”
The Vision 2030 housing program witnessed a significant increase over the past four years from 47 percent to 60 percent, according to the Ministry of Housing. 
RIYADH: The UAE’s real gross domestic product is expected to grow at 6 percent to 7 percent in 2022, supporting rated UAE real estate companies’ credit quality, predicted Moody’s Investors Service.
The credit quality of UAE’s real estate companies continues to be supported by a strong economic recovery, driven by higher oil prices and a rebounding services sector, though threats are on the rise, the rating agency said.
“We forecast UAE real GDP growth of 6 percent-7 percent in 2022 and the credit quality of UAE real estate companies we rate to remain broadly stable in the next 12-18 months,” said VP-Senior Analyst at Moody’s, Lahlou Meksaoui.
He added: “However, more dangerous waves of COVID-19, higher inflation, rising interest rates, and fears of a recession in the US and Europe pose risks to the economic recovery.” 
Despite these risks, efforts to manage the pandemic and introduce new residency visas have already led to a rebound in the labor market, a key driver of housing demand.
The Dubai population has grown over the last few years, which is a credit positive as it will balance residential supply and demand, it said.
Foreign investment is drawn to economic growth, and economic confidence is boosted as a result. In February 2022, Apollo Global Management, one of the largest alternative investment managers in the world, signed a $1.4 billion investment with Aldar Properties to support Aldar’s growth.
RIYADH: King Abdullah University of Science and Technology will begin the second round of its Destination Deep Tech program in the coming months, said a senior official.
The university has started accepting applications for the second round.
The Destination Deep Tech is a three-month program that provides deep-tech startups with the ecosystem to explore opportunities and expand in Saudi Arabia.
“Destination Deep Tech is an unprecedented Saudi program intended to foster innovation in the country,” Kevin Cullen, KAUST’s vice president of innovation, told Arab News.
The first round, which concluded in May, selected five international startups: Pasqal from France, Insignes-Labs from Poland, Proteinea from Egypt, Hopu from Spain and CeEntek from Singapore.
These deep-tech startups showed significant growth during the program’s three-month period, during which they established meaningful collaborative partnerships.
“We expected one or two would stay, but all five stayed,” said Cullen at the program’s conclusion.
The program provided the selected startups with the tools to expand their projects, including access to world-class research and development facilities at KAUST.
“What we were able to offer them is access to the biggest and the most dynamic market in the entire region,” he said.
The program was launched at KAUST in partnership with The Next Web, an international media organization that supports and connects the global technology environment through media, conferences and innovation services.
“We’ve got a technology seed fund so they can apply for funding, but it’s not part of the prize,” said Cullen.
He added that KAUST does not target any specific industry sector.
“We’ve got energy, materials and quantum computing startups so far. So, we are not specifically targeting any particular industry sector. What we are targeting are high potential technology startups,” Cullen said.
Besides the startup program, he said KAUST is also training prospective entrepreneurs to join the community. Called Entrepreneurship Adventures, the innovative program targets Arabic-speaking youth in Saudi Arabia and beyond.
According to Cullen, the program plans to create a startup culture and equip Arab youth with the necessary tools to contribute to their economies.
“Eighty percent of the content is in Arabic because we are keen as KAUST to be reaching out to the Kingdom,” he said.
The project was launched in 2021 by Saudi Arabian Oil Co. President and CEO Amin Nasser, Olayan Financing Co. CEO Lubna Olayan and Andrew Liveris, former CEO and chairman of the Michigan operations of Dow Chemical Co., Cullen added.
“We had an initial target of 10,000 young Arabs signing up for this. Within one month, we had 71,000 signed up for this and it’s now over 100,000,” he said.
RIYADH: The Ministry of Culture is taking the lead in making Saudi Arabia an exporter of architectural and design services as part of the Kingdom’s diversification strategy to grow creative industries, said a senior ministry official.
According to Sumayah Al-Solaiman, CEO of the Architecture and Design Commission at the Ministry of Culture, the commission is working toward uplifting the architectural and design services sector across the entire value chain.
“Rather than importing architecture and design services, we can actually get to a point where we export some of the services based on our strong record,” Al-Solaiman told Arab News in an exclusive interview.
As part of its national strategy to preserve and maintain rich Saudi architectural heritage, the commission is empowering new and acclaimed architects and designers through educational opportunities and apprenticeship channels.
“In recent years, Saudi architecture graduates have left the sector and entered adjoining fields. We want to bring them back and utilize their talent and training,” said Al-Solaiman.
In a bid to promote the distinct Saudi architectural flavor, the commission launched King Salman Charter for Architecture and Urbanism.
Founded in December 2021, the charter draws its inspiration from an ambitious creative experience and seeks to capture the essence of Salmani Architecture, an architectural style that is modern and futuristic, yet embodies the authentic local architectural heritage.
The charter focuses on capturing the lessons learned from King Salman’s reign as the governor of Riyadh and ensuring that it is reflected in the identity of the capital city.
It aims to create memorable buildings and spaces, bringing them to life through a set of guidelines that encourage the integration of cultural and national identity into contemporary designs while meeting the needs of local communities.
“It’s very human-centric and driven by communities. It’s very forward-looking in innovation and quite sustainable because it ensures that we do not just use fewer resources, but enhance existing ones,” Al-Solaiman explained.
Al-Solaiman said 22 of the 33 initiatives the commission set will be completed by the beginning of 2023.
The Architecture and Design Commission was established in February 2020 as one of 11 commissions under the Ministry of Culture to regulate the sector, including encouraging practitioners, organizing seminars and stimulating creative thinking in the sector.
“This relates to the development of talent. It relates to regulations and making sure that we have the best regulatory environment for architecture and design to thrive,” she said.
Al-Solaiman is also keen on localizing a lot of jobs in the architecture and design sector. She wants to make the sector more attractive for Saudis so that their participation could improve employability and keep the wheels of the economy turning.
“This means looking into minimum wages and many things related to work policies,” Al-Solaiman said.
In fact, the commission’s initiatives have begun paying dividends. Firms working with the Saudi giga-projects are seeking local talent that possesses the cultural and local knowledge required for these projects to succeed.
There is also an avid interest in sustainable development, which also happens to be one of the commission’s strategic objectives. It is currently in the process of launching the Architecture and Design Sustainability Task Force and Summit, which will bring together people to discuss and implement some of the initiatives.
“When we talk about sustainability, it doesn’t become like an add-on or a nice to have, but something that we understand as essential and drive a lot of decision making in the sector itself,” she concluded.
As part of its efforts, the commission ensures that only architects and designers are qualified to practice their profession.
RIYADH: The Saudi Company for Artificial Intelligence has announced an investment of $776 million in a joint venture with China’s Sense Time to develop the artificial intelligence ecosystem in the nation.
The announcement was made by Ayman Al-Rashed, CEO of SCAI, during the Global AI Summit in Riyadh on Sept.13.
SCAI — wholly owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund — works in line with the Kingdom’s goals outlined in Vision 2030, and it aims to position Saudi Arabia as a global AI leader by supporting local firms as they get to grips with the technology.
In January, SCAI launched operations in the Kingdom to grow and develop artificial intelligence and emerging technologies industries.
At the time, Al-Rashed said that AI is swiftly altering the way of living and the Kingdom should invest in the sector’s foundation to unveil long-term sustainable value for shareholders.
The launch of SCAI is a part of the Kingdom’s plan to diversify its economy by 2030, and also aligns with PIF’s strategy aimed at prioritizing 13 major sectors, one of which is technology.
RIYADH: Saudi Aramco has launched a new strategic project aimed at building and commercializing the artificial intelligence ecosystem in the Kingdom.
The project is named ‘Aramco Global AI Corridor’ and was revealed by Amin Nasser, president and CEO of Aramco during the Global AI Summit in Riyadh on Sept.13.
“The Corridor is designed to develop and commercialize complex AI solutions, to train Saudi talent, support Saudi start-ups and, together with global partners, build a local AI ecosystem. This will include an AI Delivery Factory, AI Academy, AI Venturing Studio, and unique R&D AI labs,” said Nasser during his keynote speech at the event.
During the speech, he noted that small and medium enterprises in the Kingdom should be ready to adopt artificial intelligence technologies to move ahead in the future.
“We are already an energy leader, We can be an AI leader too,” he said.
He added: “The purpose of AI is to complement human judgment, and not to replace it. It is the optimum mix of human and machine capabilities.”
Nasser further said Saudi Arabia is the fastest growing economy among the Group of 20 countries, and the Kingdom should use AI to move forward.
He also pointed out the use of AI technologies is helping Aramco to face cybersecurity threats effectively.
According to Nasser, Aramco is using artificial intelligence in the geology sector effectively, where deep learning technology helps achieve results in minutes, which used to take several months in the past.
The Global AI Summit which runs from Sept.13 to Sept.15 will explore the impact of AI on topics as crucial as economic mobility, health care, human capability development, and smart cities.  


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