The final day of the third edition of the Future Investment Initiative in Saudi Arabia was concluded with a panel consisting of former G20 leaders, who emphasized the rising need to address global inequality and economic issues.
Saudi Arabia, which is set to host its first ever G20 meeting in November, listed empowering women and youth, reforestation and combating desertification as some of its top priorities.
"We want to push positive aspects such as reforestation and combating desertification," said Saudi Arabia's former Minister of Foreign Affairs and current Minister of State Dr. Ibrahim Assaf, during the session, which also consisted of former UK Prime Minister David Cameron and former Italian PM Matteo Renzi.
G20 could be an opportunity for Saudi Arabia to send a message that it is a “superpower” not just economically, but in culture and sustainability and other fields, said former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
Earlier in the day, several important Saudi ministers, along with businessmen and leaders from all around the world, took the stage to discuss challenges and opportunities facing emerging economies.
Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Communication and Information Technology Abdullah Alswaha spoke about the Kingdom's progress in the area of 5G. Legal and economic reforms made under Vision 2030 helped make Saudi Arabia a "pioneer" in the 5G space, he said.
“We are the third largest in 5G deployment today,” he said.
Jay Walder, the CEO of Virgin Hyperloop One, spoke about the furture of hyperspeeding and some of the company's ongoing projects in the Gulf and elsewhere.
A panel consisting of Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Finance Mohammed al-Jadaan and his Bahraini and Kuwaiti counterparts discussed the global economic slowdown.
Saudi Arabia's al-Jadaan said a string of economic reforms implemented by the Kingdom had made it resilient to the current international trends.
“That reform is designed to respond to challenges we face in our economy, not only the challenges we face locally but internationally,” said al-Jadaan.
The minister added that incoming foreign direct investments are a result of the ongoing reforms, particularly in Saudi Arabia.
The day began with a panel consisting of entrepreneurs heading some of the most promising regional and Indian unicorn firms - startups with a valuation of over $1 billion.
Some of the speakers were Gaurav Gupta, Founder and chief operations officer, Zomato Media, India; Sriharsha Majety, Co-Founder and chief executive officer of Indian delivery service Swiggy, and Mudassir Sheikha, Co-Founder and CEO of ride-hailing app Careem.
During the session, Sheikha indicated that the company seeks to take advantage of the “youth bulge” in the Middle East and North Africa region.
“A large number of the youth are unemployed and if sustainability is a by-product of that focus, then fantastic,” he said.
During the following panel that discussed e-commerce, Faraz Khalid, the head of UAE-based online marketplace Noon.com, pointed to the potential of the growing internet penetration in the region.
“We have a young population that is extremely well connected, they are consuming digital media at a rate that is higher than the rest of the world,” Khalid said.
At the start of the three-day event, which drew three hundred speakers from 30 different countries, Saudi Arabia signed 23 deals worth over $15 billion. The Kingdom also agreed to invest in Brazil, while signing multiple agreements with India in areas ranging from energy to infrastructure.
Highlights of the conference included US Energy Secretary Rick Perry going ‘off-script’, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari declaring Africa ‘open for business,’ the announcement of the rollout of cinemas across Saudi Arabia, and the head of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) Yassir al-Rumayyan discussing Saudi Aramco’s initial public offering (IPO).
Al Arabiya also learned the schedule for the Aramco IPO - to be listed on the Tadawul on December 11 - from sources at the event.