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Roxana Mohammadian-Molina: Signposts on Saudi’s road to 2030

For UK companies doing business in Saudi Arabia and the ones that want to join them, the next year is all about Vision 2030

Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman unveils The Line development to be constructed at Neom. British companies are already working on the project Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via Reuters
Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman unveils The Line development to be constructed at Neom. British companies are already working on the project

Saudi Arabia is on track to be the fastest-growing economy in the G20 in 2022, after recording 8.8 percent year-on-year growth in the third quarter. 

While the kingdom remains the ultimate decision-maker in the supply and price of oil, economic diversification is playing an increasingly central role in its plans under Vision 2030.

For the UK, this means strengthening its relationship with Saudi Arabia. 

Both kingdoms find themselves at important junctures in their economic, political and social trajectories and are seeking partners that can help deliver common goals.

They share deep historic and commercial ties: the UK was among the first to recognise Saudi Arabia and remains its closest European ally.

The Saudi British Joint Business Council has worked to further that relationship this year. In May, we hosted an e-commerce event in London in partnership with the Saudi E-Commerce Council and welcomed a senior delegation headed by Majid Al Qasabi, Riyadh’s minister of commerce. 

In June, we hosted a renewable energy forum at Mansion House in London where participants discussed investment and partnership opportunities in clean energy. 

In November, with the Saudi UK Tech Hub, we led the first in-person British fintech mission to Riyadh, where delegates engaged with some of the kingdom’s leading players to discuss strengthening collaboration.  

For the next 12 months – and beyond – the aims of Vision 2030 will shape the outlook for Saudi-UK partnerships. Tourism is a key area and projects such as Red Sea Global will begin to come online, with an airport and some hotels set to open by the end of 2023.

Work is also continuing on Neom, where many British companies are already engaged in smart infrastructure planning and construction. Given the staffing needs of these projects, there will be significant opportunities in hospitality training and development.  

Saudi Arabia will continue to focus on leveraging technology to support growth and developing strategic partnerships around finance, technology and the net zero target. This will be buoyed by developments such as open banking, which we expect in 2023.

This should present opportunities for international financial services companies while elevating fintech in the kingdom

Such tech-enabled sectors are at the forefront of the country’s transformation, and we should expect the ascendance of Saudi entrepreneurship to continue.

The first half of 2022 once again saw records broken in venture capital and we were delighted to see the London-based Hambro Perks Oryx Fund hold position as one of the most active venture investors locally. 

On net zero, significant joint steps have already been taken: the sovereign wealth fund PIF is launching its $3 billion green bond on the London Stock Exchange and the likes of Al Fanar Group and SABIC are investing in clean energy development in Northeast England. 

Saudi Arabia has committed to a domestic energy mix of 50 percent renewables by 2030 and projects such as Neom aim to be powered by 100 percent clean energy. As a result, we expect British business to pursue opportunities in sectors such as green finance, hydrogen and solar.  

The next year and beyond holds growing opportunities for UK-Saudi collaboration, in both traditional and emerging areas, as Saudi Arabia continues its Vision 2030 journey. 

Roxana Mohammadian-Molina is a board member at the Saudi British Joint Business Council and chief strategy officer of UK fintech company Blend