Sudanese Banks Take First Steps to End Decades of Isolation

Banknotes are displayed on a roadside currency exchange stall along a street in Juba. (Reuters)
Banknotes are displayed on a roadside currency exchange stall along a street in Juba. (Reuters)
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Sudanese Banks Take First Steps to End Decades of Isolation

Banknotes are displayed on a roadside currency exchange stall along a street in Juba. (Reuters)
Banknotes are displayed on a roadside currency exchange stall along a street in Juba. (Reuters)

Sudanese banks have started moves to re-establish relations with foreign banks as the United States prepares to remove Sudan from its state sponsor of terrorism (SSOT) list, although bankers and analysts say the process will likely be slow.

Restoring international banking links could provide a vital boost to an economy still in crisis more than 18 months into a political transition following the overthrow of former president Omar al-Bashir.

Banks have been blocked from correspondence relationships involving US dollars and have had difficulty dealing in other major currencies for nearly two decades, forcing them to rely mainly on the United Arab Emirates dirham for transactions.

Importers have depended on expensive brokers, mainly in Dubai, to source foreign currency, passing on the extra cost to local consumers and helping to exacerbate inflation, now running at 220%.

On Oct. 27, Albaraka Bank Sudan completed Sudan’s first dollar-denominated cash transfer in years, bringing in dollars sourced in New York through its Cairo-based sister bank Albaraka Bank Egypt, its general manager said.

The transfer, for a Sudanese trading company, was the first in almost two decades, Elrasheed Abdel Rahman Ali said. “I think from the early years of the 2000s,” he told Reuters.

Most major foreign banks began gradually pulling out in the 2000s as the United States cracked down on transactions with Khartoum.

Washington formally lifted economic sanctions against Sudan in 2017, but continued to classify the country as a state sponsor of terrorism, in part because of its suppression of a rebellion in Darfur.

Foreign banks have been waiting for the country to be removed from the SSOT list before re-establishing banking relations, wary they may run afoul of secondary sanctions in place against individuals connected with the Darfur war.

“This has been a major impediment to the private sector,” said Ibrahim Elbadawi, who stepped down as Sudan’s finance minister in July. “It has been very costly because they have to deal with intermediary banks in the region, and this entails costs in terms of time and in the service these banks provide.”

Delisting
Sudan’s technocratic government, which serves under a military-civilian ruling council, had been pressing hard for the delisting since last year.

US President Donald Trump on Oct. 20 announced his decision to remove Sudan from the SSOT list as he pushed the country to agree to normalize relations with Israel, and later sent the decision to Congress, which has 45 days to approve or reject it.

Sudan’s acting finance minister, Hiba Mohamed Ali, said on Oct. 27 that banks could begin working the following week to establish relations with US and European banks.

“This is definitely going to be very valuable in terms of reducing costs as well as the time for the transactions,” said Elbadawi.

Yousif El Tinay, chief executive officer of Khartoum-based United Capital Bank, said Sudanese banks’ first step would be to contact former correspondents in Europe and the United States, but cautioned that many banks may not find Sudan’s tiny market attractive just yet for the legal and compliance effort involved.

“If you just look at banks just having to change their website, by removing Sudan from the list of countries,” you can’t deal with, including North Korea, Syria and Iran, he said.

“Time is needed by banks worldwide to change their internal communications on markets, to train people and change their compliance records and systems, to say that transactions from Sudan are okay,” El Tinay said.

Bankers hope that a preliminary deal that Sudan signed with General Electric in October to boost power generation will spur at least some American banks to speed up the process.

In the agreement, General Electric agreed to quickly install mobile turbines and to rehabilitate existing power plants to increase power generation by up to 470 megawatts.

“We’re going to write all of the major ones, We’re talking about JP Morgan, Citibank, Bank of America, and we’ll see and go through the process,” El Tinay said.

Finance minister Ali has said Sudanese citizens would feel an immediate benefit once correspondent relations were in place by being able to directly receive remittances from Sudanese working abroad.



Gold Hovers Near 3-month Peak

Gold prices steadied near a three-month peak. Reuters
Gold prices steadied near a three-month peak. Reuters
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Gold Hovers Near 3-month Peak

Gold prices steadied near a three-month peak. Reuters
Gold prices steadied near a three-month peak. Reuters

Gold prices steadied near a three-month peak on Tuesday, supported by subdued US manufacturing and construction spending, as investors awaited testimony from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell and key jobs data for policy cues.
Spot gold was flat at $2,114.99 per ounce, as of 0740 GMT, hovering around its highest since Dec. 4 of $2119.69 it hit on Monday. US gold futures dipped 0.1% to $2,123.90.
London's gold price benchmark hit a record high of $2,098.05 per troy ounce on Monday.
"This rally in gold was triggered by the softer-than-expected U.S. data and the pullback in real rates... but there has been a general bias to buy dips and a positive underlying investor sentiment towards gold that has also made the market vulnerable to the upside," UBS strategist Joni Teves said.
US manufacturing fell further in February, along with a gradual easing of inflation, while consumer sentiment remained weak.
Fed's Raphael Bostic said on Monday the bank is under no pressure to cut rates urgently, highlighting a "prospering" economy and job market.
Market focus now turns to Powell's two-day congressional testimony on Wednesday and Thursday, in a jobs data-heavy week, as investors seek more clues on the health of the US economy and potential timing of the Fed's rate cuts.
Lower rates boost the appeal of non-yielding bullion.
The world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, SPDR Gold Trust's holdings dropped 10% from the previous year as of March 4.
"Even though gold ETFs have continued to sell, the pace of the selling has been reasonably measured, which suggests these are tweaks to the composition of the investor portfolio rather than investors losing faith in gold necessarily," Teves said.
Spot platinum fell 0.6% to $891.95 per ounce, and palladium dropped 1.3% to $947.80, and silver fell 0.3% to $23.83.


China Vows to ‘Transform’ Economy, Sets Ambitious Growth Target 

China's Premier Li Qiang delivers his work report at the opening session of the National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 5, 2024. (AFP)
China's Premier Li Qiang delivers his work report at the opening session of the National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 5, 2024. (AFP)
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China Vows to ‘Transform’ Economy, Sets Ambitious Growth Target 

China's Premier Li Qiang delivers his work report at the opening session of the National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 5, 2024. (AFP)
China's Premier Li Qiang delivers his work report at the opening session of the National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 5, 2024. (AFP)

Chinese Premier Li Qiang announced an ambitious 2024 economic growth target of around 5% on Tuesday, promising steps to transform the country's development model and defuse risks fueled by bankrupt property developers and indebted cities.

Delivering his maiden work report at the annual meeting of the National People's Congress, China's rubber-stamp parliament, Li also flagged higher defense spending, while hardening the rhetoric on Taiwan.

In setting a growth target similar to last year, which will be harder to reach as a post-COVID recovery is losing steam, Beijing signals it is prioritizing growth over any reforms even as Li pledged bold new policies, analysts said.

"It’s more difficult to achieve 5% this year than last year because the base number has become higher, indicating that the top leaders are committed to supporting economic growth," said Tao Chuan, chief macro analyst at Soochow Securities.

Last year's uneven growth laid bare China's deep structural imbalances, from weak household consumption to increasingly lower returns on investment, prompting calls for a new growth model.

China started the year with a stock market rout and deflation at levels unseen since the global financial crisis of 2008-09. The property crisis and local government debt woes persisted, increasing pressure on China's leaders to come up with new economic policies.

With awe at China's economic miracle fading rapidly, some economists have drawn comparisons with Japan's lost decades since the 1990s, calling for pro-market reforms and measures to boost consumer incomes.

"We should not lose sight of worst-case scenarios," Li said in the Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square.

"We must push ahead with transforming the growth model, making structural adjustments, improving quality, and enhancing performance."

There was no timeline or concrete details for the structural changes China intended to implement, however, with Li also emphasizing stability as "the basis for everything we do".

Li acknowledged reaching the target "will not be easy," adding a "proactive" fiscal stance and "prudent" monetary policy was needed. The target considers "the need to boost employment and incomes and prevent and defuse risks," Li said.

The International Monetary Fund projects China's 2024 growth at 4.6%, declining towards 3.5% in 2028.

Chinese stocks and the yuan were largely unchanged.

"Policymakers seem happy with the current trajectory," said Ben Bennett, Asia-Pacific investment strategist at Legal And General Investment Management.

"That’s disappointing for those that hoped for a bigger push... There’s rhetorical support for local government debt and the property sector, but the key is how this is applied in practice."

Moderate stimulus

China plans to run a budget deficit of 3% of economic output, down from a revised 3.8% last year. Crucially, it plans to issue 1 trillion yuan ($139 billion) in special ultra-long term treasury bonds, which are not included in the budget.

The special bond issuance quota for local governments was set at 3.9 trillion yuan, versus 3.8 trillion yuan in 2023. China also set the consumer inflation target at 3% and aims to create over 12 million urban jobs this year, keeping the jobless rate at around 5.5%.

"China is unlikely to do bazooka-style stimulus," said Tommy Xie, head of Greater China research at OCBC Bank. "There are still a lot of constraints at the moment in terms of how China can support the economy via fiscal expenditure."

Budgetary plans included an increase in defense spending by 7.2% this year, similar to 2023 - a figure closely watched by the US and China's neighbors, who are wary about its strategic intentions as tensions rise over Taiwan.

China's defense budget has doubled since President Xi Jinping came to power more than a decade ago. This year marks the 30th in a row of increasing defense expenditure, based on research by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Li's report also dropped previous mentions of "peaceful reunification" with Taiwan.

"China is showing that in the coming decade it wants to grow its military to the point where it is prepared to win a war if it has no choice but to fight one," said Li Mingjiang, a defense scholar at the Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

‘New productive forces’

Faced with a demographic crisis that also threatens the switch to a consumer-led growth model, China's state planner vowed to improve policies supporting childbirth, while raising benefits and basic pensions for its growing elderly population.

On the property sector, Li vowed to finance "justified" projects, and provide more social housing as Beijing looks to resolve a glut of unfinished properties that have worried homebuyers.

While Li said China wanted to curb industrial overcapacity, he also flagged more resources for tech innovation and advanced manufacturing, in line with Xi's push for "new productive forces," Li said.

China will also lift all foreign investment restrictions in the manufacturing sector and formulate development plans for quantum computing, big data and artificial intelligence as it strives for technological self-sufficiency.

Some analysts have criticized China's policy focus on manufacturing, saying it exacerbates industrial overcapacity, deepens deflation and heightens trade tensions with the West.

"The pursuit of speed has given way to the change in the model of growth," said Hu Yuexiao, chief economist at Shanghai Securities.


Amazon Web Services to Launch Infrastructure Region in Saudi Arabia 

The new AWS Region will give developers, startups, entrepreneurs, and enterprises, as well as healthcare, education, gaming, and nonprofit organizations, greater choice for running their applications and serving end users from data centers located in the Kingdom. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
The new AWS Region will give developers, startups, entrepreneurs, and enterprises, as well as healthcare, education, gaming, and nonprofit organizations, greater choice for running their applications and serving end users from data centers located in the Kingdom. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
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Amazon Web Services to Launch Infrastructure Region in Saudi Arabia 

The new AWS Region will give developers, startups, entrepreneurs, and enterprises, as well as healthcare, education, gaming, and nonprofit organizations, greater choice for running their applications and serving end users from data centers located in the Kingdom. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
The new AWS Region will give developers, startups, entrepreneurs, and enterprises, as well as healthcare, education, gaming, and nonprofit organizations, greater choice for running their applications and serving end users from data centers located in the Kingdom. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Amazon Web Services (AWS), an Amazon.com company, announced on Monday that it will launch an AWS infrastructure Region in Saudi Arabia in 2026.

The new AWS Region will give developers, startups, entrepreneurs, and enterprises, as well as healthcare, education, gaming, and nonprofit organizations, greater choice for running their applications and serving end users from data centers located in the Kingdom, ensuring that customers who want to keep their content in-country can do so.

As part of its long-term commitment, AWS is planning to invest more than $5.3 billion (approx. 19.88 billion Saudi riyal) in Saudi Arabia, said a statement by Amazon.

“Today’s announcement supports Saudi Arabia’s digital transformation with the highest levels of security and resilience available on AWS cloud infrastructure, helping serve fast-growing demand for cloud services across the Middle East,” said Prasad Kalyanaraman, vice president of Infrastructure Services at AWS.

“The new AWS Region will enable organizations to unlock the full potential of the cloud and build with AWS technologies like compute, storage, databases, analytics, and artificial intelligence, transforming the way businesses and institutions serve their customers,” he added.

“We look forward to helping Saudi Arabian institutions, startups, and enterprises deliver cloud-powered applications to accelerate growth, productivity, and innovation and spur job creation, skills training, and educational opportunities.”

Saudi Minister of Communications and Information Technology Engineer Abdullah Alswaha said: “The partnership with AWS and their announcement of an AWS Region, backed by a $5.3 billion investment, ignites a new era of technological excellence and innovation for the Kingdom.”

“This cloud Region demonstrates a firm commitment to research, innovation, and empowering entrepreneurs to achieve prosperity for our region and the world,” he stressed.

To support the growth in cloud adoption across Saudi Arabia, AWS will continue to scale its training programs and help accelerate the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 goal of empowering women to increase participation in the workforce.

To help support this goal, AWS is launching a new upskilling program, “AWS Saudi Arabia Women’s Skills Initiative,” in partnership with Skillsoft Global Knowledge.

AWS will train up to 4,000 women on AWS Cloud Practitioner Essentials, at no charge, through classroom trainings with AWS-certified professionals. This initiative is designed to help women jumpstart a career in cloud computing.

In addition, AWS will continue to invest in upskilling students, local developers and technical professionals, nontechnical professionals, and the next generation of IT leaders in Saudi Arabia through offerings such as AWS Academy, AWS Educate, AWS re/Start, and AWS Skill Builder.


Saudi Foreign Ministry Launches ‘Dawli’ Platform to Boost Int’l Representation 

Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs for Executive Affairs Abdulhadi Al-Mansouri made the announcement at LEAP 2024 in Riyadh on Monday. (Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs for Executive Affairs Abdulhadi Al-Mansouri made the announcement at LEAP 2024 in Riyadh on Monday. (Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
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Saudi Foreign Ministry Launches ‘Dawli’ Platform to Boost Int’l Representation 

Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs for Executive Affairs Abdulhadi Al-Mansouri made the announcement at LEAP 2024 in Riyadh on Monday. (Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs for Executive Affairs Abdulhadi Al-Mansouri made the announcement at LEAP 2024 in Riyadh on Monday. (Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs launched on Monday “Dawli”, a platform dedicated to recruitment opportunities at international organizations.

The announcement was made during the LEAP 2024 exhibition underway in Riyadh.

Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs for Executive Affairs Abdulhadi Al-Mansouri said Dawli aims to bolster Saudi representation at international organizations.

The platform also aims to enrich the international experiences of competent Saudi individuals, he said.

Dawli serves as a platform that brings together Saudi talents and available job opportunities at international organizations, he explained.

Moreover, he stressed that the platform is a testament to the support provided by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud and Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, Crown Prince and Prime Minister, to the development of the Kingdom’s diplomatic community on various levels.

He further underscored the commitment of Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah to all initiatives launched by the ministry in line with the ambitious goals of Saudi Vision 2030.


Suez Canal Head Says Egypt Studying Further Expansion of Waterway

The Suez Canal connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea is pictured from the window of a commercial plane flying over Egypt, December 18, 2019. (Reuters)
The Suez Canal connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea is pictured from the window of a commercial plane flying over Egypt, December 18, 2019. (Reuters)
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Suez Canal Head Says Egypt Studying Further Expansion of Waterway

The Suez Canal connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea is pictured from the window of a commercial plane flying over Egypt, December 18, 2019. (Reuters)
The Suez Canal connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea is pictured from the window of a commercial plane flying over Egypt, December 18, 2019. (Reuters)

Egypt is studying further expansions of the Suez Canal to extend and complete a second channel of the waterway, the canal's head said on Monday, a move that could allow for higher volumes of shipping and prevent blockages from halting traffic.

The comments come as the canal is seeing a sharp fall in revenue due to shipping companies diverting away from the waterway, the shortest route between Europe and Asia, because of attacks by Houthi militias in Yemen against ships in the Red Sea.

Any new extension would come on top of current work to extend the second channel by 10 kilometers, and to deepen and widen a section of the canal.

That work was expedited after the Ever Given, a giant container ship, ran aground in a single lane section of the canal in March 2021, stopping traffic for six days.

The canal is a key source of scarce foreign currency for indebted Egypt, which spent an estimated $8.2 billion on an expansion of the canal that opened in 2015 and included the creation of a 35-km (22-mile) parallel waterway.

Canal revenues have increased gradually but by less than officials had forecast, reaching a record $9.4 billion in the financial year ending in June 2023, before dipping by at least 40% at the beginning of this year due to the Houthi attacks.

Initial studies on an additional expansion would take about 16 months, and would include feasibility, environmental and engineering studies, as well as soil and dredging research, Suez Canal Authority (SCA) Chairman Osama Rabie said in a statement.

The project would need governmental approvals and would be funded through the SCA's investment budget, to avoid "placing any additional burdens on the state's general budget", the statement added.

Rabie said it could raise the competitiveness of the canal and allow it to take more and bigger ships.

The 2015 canal expansion is one of a number of mega-projects pursued under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.


LEAP 24 Investments in New Technologies, Cloud Computing, Data Centers Reach Record $11.9Bln

Saudi Minister of Communications and Information Technology Eng. Abdullah Alswaha speaks at the launch of LEAP 2024 in Riyadh. (SPA)
Saudi Minister of Communications and Information Technology Eng. Abdullah Alswaha speaks at the launch of LEAP 2024 in Riyadh. (SPA)
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LEAP 24 Investments in New Technologies, Cloud Computing, Data Centers Reach Record $11.9Bln

Saudi Minister of Communications and Information Technology Eng. Abdullah Alswaha speaks at the launch of LEAP 2024 in Riyadh. (SPA)
Saudi Minister of Communications and Information Technology Eng. Abdullah Alswaha speaks at the launch of LEAP 2024 in Riyadh. (SPA)

Saudi Minister of Communications and Information Technology Eng. Abdullah Alswaha announced on Monday investments worth $11.9 billion to support deep and emerging technologies, innovation, and cloud computing in Saudi Arabia and the world.

He made the announcement at the launch of the LEAP 24 exhibition in Riyadh. The event runs until March 7.

Alswaha highlighted "the unwavering support" that Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, Crown Prince and Prime Minister, has shown Saudi and global tech sectors to help the digital economy grow and prosper as part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, read a statement from the exhibition organizers.

The investments will help consolidate the Kingdom’s position "as the largest market and digital economy in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)" for leading technology companies such as Amazon Web Services, IBM, Datavolt and ServiceNow.

The investments will go toward developing Saudi digital skills and supporting tech start-ups.

On the first day of LEAP 24, Amazon Web Services announced a $5.3 billion investment in a new cloud zone in Saudi Arabia. Datavolt also announced a $5 billion investment in Saudi data centers with a capacity of more than 300 megawatts.

IBM plans to invest $250 million in a global software development center in the Kingdom. ServiceNow will invest $500 million to localize its regional services in Saudi Arabia, with training and development programs to upskill and train Saudi talent.

Dell will open a manufacturing and fulfilment center in Saudi Arabia, the first of its kind in the MENAT region.

Aramco announced the establishment of the Saudi Accelerator Innovation Lab (SAIL). Aramco and MCIT co-founded SAIL to strengthen Saudi Arabia's digital capabilities and to launch the "Metbrain" GenAI model; it also announced "Aramco LLM", the world’s first industrial grade GenAI.

Datadog will establish the first cloud application security solutions academy in the Kingdom, and Uipath announced the establishment of its first-in-the-region automation academy to train, upskill, and foster Saudi talent.


Saudi Minister of Commerce Chairs 18th Session of Saudi-Egyptian Joint Committee

The meeting was chaired by Saudi Minister of Commerce and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the General Authority for Foreign Trade, Dr. Majid bin Abdullah Al-Qasabi, and Egyptian Minister of Industry and Trade Ahmed Samir. (SPA)
The meeting was chaired by Saudi Minister of Commerce and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the General Authority for Foreign Trade, Dr. Majid bin Abdullah Al-Qasabi, and Egyptian Minister of Industry and Trade Ahmed Samir. (SPA)
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Saudi Minister of Commerce Chairs 18th Session of Saudi-Egyptian Joint Committee

The meeting was chaired by Saudi Minister of Commerce and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the General Authority for Foreign Trade, Dr. Majid bin Abdullah Al-Qasabi, and Egyptian Minister of Industry and Trade Ahmed Samir. (SPA)
The meeting was chaired by Saudi Minister of Commerce and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the General Authority for Foreign Trade, Dr. Majid bin Abdullah Al-Qasabi, and Egyptian Minister of Industry and Trade Ahmed Samir. (SPA)

The 18th session of the Saudi-Egyptian Joint Committee concluded in Riyadh on Monday.

The meeting was chaired by Saudi Minister of Commerce and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the General Authority for Foreign Trade, Dr. Majid bin Abdullah Al-Qasabi, and Egyptian Minister of Industry and Trade Ahmed Samir.

Al-Qasabi stressed Saudi Arabia's keenness to strengthen trade relations with Egypt through the exchange of visits between the private sectors, holding trade exhibitions to promote opportunities and increase the Kingdom's exports to Egypt.

Trade volume between Riyadh and Cairo reached around $11.8 billion until November 2023, with metal products, plastics, and their derivatives being the most prominent commodities exported to Egypt. Metal products and fruits were recorded as the most notable imported commodities.

The 18th session of the Saudi-Egyptian Joint Committee aligns with the strategic approaches of the two countries that aim to address challenges through periodic meetings with concerned parties. These meetings follow up on the implementation of recommendations and oversee the committee's work.


Saudi Arabia Launches Program to Attract Local, Int’l Investments, Boost Role as Global Tourism Hub

The initiative aims to attract investments in the hospitality sector, with a value of approximately SAR 42 billion, projecting estimated revenues of about SAR 16 billion to the Kingdom's GDP by 2030. (SPA)
The initiative aims to attract investments in the hospitality sector, with a value of approximately SAR 42 billion, projecting estimated revenues of about SAR 16 billion to the Kingdom's GDP by 2030. (SPA)
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Saudi Arabia Launches Program to Attract Local, Int’l Investments, Boost Role as Global Tourism Hub

The initiative aims to attract investments in the hospitality sector, with a value of approximately SAR 42 billion, projecting estimated revenues of about SAR 16 billion to the Kingdom's GDP by 2030. (SPA)
The initiative aims to attract investments in the hospitality sector, with a value of approximately SAR 42 billion, projecting estimated revenues of about SAR 16 billion to the Kingdom's GDP by 2030. (SPA)

Saudi Minister of Tourism Ahmed bin Aqeel Al-Khateeb unveiled on Monday the Tourism Investment Enablers Program, designed to facilitate business practices and enhance investment attractiveness for both local and international investors.

As part of its ambitious program, the Ministry of Tourism, in collaboration with the Ministry of Investment, announced the Hospitality Sector Investment Enablers Initiative. This initiative aims to increase and diversify tourism offerings, bolstering the capacity of hospitality facilities in targeted tourist destinations across the Kingdom.

The initiative aims to attract investments in the hospitality sector, with a value of approximately SAR 42 billion, projecting estimated revenues of about SAR 16 billion to the Kingdom's GDP by 2030.

Al-Khateeb stated: "The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia boasts rich and diverse tourism wealth, making its tourism industry globally attractive. Saudi Vision 2030 outlines our roadmap to becoming a sought-after global destination, recognizing the tourism sector as a key driver of the national economy."

"We witnessed a 390% increase in demand for tourism activity licenses last year, marking the beginning of the Kingdom's significant investment in the tourism sector over the next decade, providing opportunities and a conducive investment environment for both local and international investors," he added.

The initiative encompasses strategically prepared enablers to improve the cost and ease of doing business. These include facilitating access to government lands under favorable conditions, streamlining project development processes, finding solutions to investor challenges, and developing laws to reduce operational costs, fostering tourism industry growth.

The initiative is anticipated to yield numerous social and economic benefits, including an increase in the number of hotel rooms by approximately 42,000, creating around 120,000 job opportunities in targeted destinations by 2030. This will positively impact talent development and support nationalization efforts in the local job market.


Saudi Arabia: ROSHN Group Launches Sales of 4th Phase of Flagship Development 'SEDRA'

The new area will cover over 1.9 million square meters. SPA
The new area will cover over 1.9 million square meters. SPA
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Saudi Arabia: ROSHN Group Launches Sales of 4th Phase of Flagship Development 'SEDRA'

The new area will cover over 1.9 million square meters. SPA
The new area will cover over 1.9 million square meters. SPA

Saudi Arabia’s ROSHN Group announced on Monday the expansion of its popular "SEDRA" project in Riyadh with a new phase that adds 4,860 residential units.

The new area will cover over 1.9 million square meters and will be released in stages, with 1,254 units available for purchase in the first sale tranche, ROSHN Group said in a statement.

"The launch of sales for SEDRA 4 builds on the success of SEDRA’s first three phases and reflects the progress ROSHN has made in such a short period,” said ROSHN Group CEO David Grover.

“Meeting the unprecedented demand for ROSHN’s new way of living, SEDRA 4 blends modern, innovative, and sustainable design with unparalleled amenities, such as schools, a primary care hospital, and a district mall within a five-minute walk, to cultivate a vibrant community atmosphere."

According to the statement, SEDRA 4 has 4,860 new homes in its latest phase, featuring 30% of the phase’s footprint dedicated to public spaces. The latest expansion boasts the "Kingdom's largest Sports Dome" and includes amenities like green spaces, mosques and neighborhood retail centers.

Located north of SEDRA 3 and accessible via Airport Road, SEDRA 4 connects residents to ROSHN Front shopping, education, healthcare, and entertainment options, making it part of the vibrant North Riyadh area, near universities, the airport, and a train station, added the statement.


Bitcoin Bounces Beyond $64,000 as Records Beckon

FILE PHOTO: Physical representations of the bitcoin cryptocurrency are seen in this illustration taken October 24, 2023. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Physical representations of the bitcoin cryptocurrency are seen in this illustration taken October 24, 2023. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo
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Bitcoin Bounces Beyond $64,000 as Records Beckon

FILE PHOTO: Physical representations of the bitcoin cryptocurrency are seen in this illustration taken October 24, 2023. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Physical representations of the bitcoin cryptocurrency are seen in this illustration taken October 24, 2023. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

Bitcoin scaled a two-year high on Monday, breaking $64,000 as a wave of money carried it within striking distance of record levels.
It touched $64,285 early in the Asian day, its highest since late 2021, and was last 2% firmer for the session at $63,850. Bitcoin's record high is $68,999.99 set in November 2021, Reuters reported.
The largest cryptocurrency by market value has gained 50% this year and most of the rise came in the last few weeks where trading volume has surged for US-listed bitcoin funds.
Spot bitcoin exchange-traded funds were approved in the United States earlier this year. Their launch opened the way for new large investors and has re-ignited enthusiasm and momentum reminiscent of the run up to record levels in 2021.
"The flows are not drying up as investors feel more confident the higher price appears to go," said Markus Thielen, head of research at crypto analytics house 10x Research in Singapore.
Smaller rival ether has hitched a ride on speculation that it too may soon have exchange-traded funds driving inflows. It's up 50% year-to-date though at $3,490 on Monday stayed just shy of two-year highs made last week.
The rally has come in tandem with records tumbling on stock indexes from Japan's Nikkei to the S&P 500 and tech-heavy Nasdaq and with volatility gauges in equities and foreign exchange turning lower.
"In a world where Nasdaq is making new all-time highs, crypto is going to perform well as bitcoin remains a high-volatility tech proxy and liquidity thermometer," said Brent Donnelly, trader and president at analysis firm Spectra Markets.
"We are back to a 2021-style market where everything goes up and everyone is having fun."