Davos in the desert: FII summit to begin as policymakers, executives flock to Riyadh

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The Future Investment Initiative (FII) hosted by Saudi Arabia will push ahead this week amid the recent violence in Gaza and Israel, bringing together thousands of the world’s top executives and companies in the capital city of Riyadh.

The main areas the conference aims to target include artificial intelligence and robotics, education, healthcare and sustainability.

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Launched in 2017 to bring together investors, policymakers, government officials and international private sector executives, the summit has seen the participation of Jordan King Abdullah, former senior advisor to then-US President Donald Trump, Jared Kushner, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, India’s Reliance Industry’s Chairman Mukesh Ambani, and many more.

Governor of Saudi Arabia's PIF Yasir Al-Rumayyan, Ray Dalio, Laurence Fink, Dr Thomas Gottstein and David Solomon discussing how to build a more sustainable future. (Twitter)
Governor of Saudi Arabia's PIF Yasir Al-Rumayyan, Ray Dalio, Laurence Fink, Dr Thomas Gottstein and David Solomon discussing how to build a more sustainable future. (Twitter)

Numerous policymakers, CEOs, and heads of multilateral institutions are among those who will attend this year. Over 5,000 attendees are expected, with 500 speakers, according to information furnished by the organizers, discussing various 21st-century developments and concerns.

Despite the evolving situation in Gaza and the resulting corporate travel policy and insurance coverage changes internationally, FII CEO Richard Attias said that only 10 to 20 cancellations were recorded.

For the seventh edition of what is also dubbed ‘Davos in the desert’ - after the annual World Economic Forum (WEF) summit in Switzerland - scheduled speakers are IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, World Bank President Ajay Singh, FIFA chief Gianni Infantino, and Manchester United Chairman Avram Glazer.

The event is an extension of the Kingdom’s plans to diversify its oil-dependent economy by hosting changemakers and discussing partnerships and policy for and in a rapidly evolving landscape. The current edition is themed “The New Compass.”

“The theme of FII7… serves as guidance for capturing the essence of a new global world that is rediscovering its bearings in the realm of investment. We will also talk about citizens’ priorities, which should guide our strategies,” Attias said in an earlier statement to the media.

In 2018, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman presented a voracious keynote at the second edition of the world forum, highlighting the untapped potential of the Kingdom and its position in the modern world.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaks during the Future Investment Initiative Forum in Riyadh. (Reuters)
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaks during the Future Investment Initiative Forum in Riyadh. (Reuters)

In its latest edition held at the Ritz-Carlton, from a Saudi perspective, several sessions will be held over three days to highlight and discuss ongoing projects, such as the plans for developments along the Red Sea coast and the ongoing global energy transition.

Saudi Arabia’s ministers of Energy, Investment, Economy & Planning, Finance, Sports, Tourism, and Communications & Information Technology will all attend and speak at the conference.

Saudi Ambassador to the US Princess Reem bint Bandar will also speak about gender equality and the need to invest in ecological issues such as declining biodiversity, fish stocks and lost habitats.

A chat with Red Sea Global (RSG) Group Chief Administrative Officer Ahmad Darwish and the Director General of the Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF), Turki Aljawini, will touch on Saudi Arabia’s holistic approach through Vision 2030 and whether it is a viable global model.

“As we convene this gathering of world leaders at this critical time in history, the planet, the global economy and society face a convergence of challenges. These include global economic stability and growth, the environment, and the acceleration of technological breakthroughs, including generative AI, education and health. The discussions on the agenda will help shape the future of humanity,” Saudi wealth fund PIF governor and FII Chairman Yasir al-Rumayyan said in an earlier statement to the media.

In the last three years, $109 billion worth of agreements have been signed, according to information shared by the FII.

Future Investment Initative background seen in Riyadh in 2019. (File photo)
Future Investment Initative background seen in Riyadh in 2019. (File photo)

JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon and Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon will be among the high-profile executives in attendance.

US Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Investment Security Paul Rosen and UK Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden are also scheduled to speak.

Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and former Senior White House Advisor Jared Kushner are slated to attend. Kushner is currently the founder of Affinity Partners, a private investment firm. Pompeo is a partner at Impact Investments, and Mnuchin is a managing partner at Liberty Strategic Capital.

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