Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)
On Sept. 4, a very major event took place in the American capital — the US-Saudi Investment Forum 2015. The event highlighted the many opportunities that are open for Saudi and American business ventures. The forum’s importance was elevated because it was held in conjunction with Custodian of The Two Holy Mosques King Salman’s historical visit to the United States. Following the forum, the Saudi General Investment Authority (SAGIA) hosted a dinner, which was attended by participants of the forum and many other notables. The highlight of the dinner was King Salman’s speech in which he stressed the importance of increasing strategic and economic relations between Saudi Arabia and the United States. Now, let us go back to the investment forum. Despite the fact that the forum was held during the Labor Day weekend, the banquet hall where it was held was packed with hundreds of guests. Former Saudi Aramco CEO Abdullah Jum’ah opened the event followed by the speeches of Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf, Commerce and Industry Minister Tawfiq Al-Rabiah, Health Minister Khalid Al-Falih and SAGIA Governor and Chairman of the Board Abdulateef Al-Othman. Later many other speakers spoke about the many venues of investments available in the Kingdom and the best way to make use of the new procedures that have been implemented in the Kingdom. Speakers and the audience discussed many topics related to health care sector, banking, education, energy and other matters that are essential to improve the general infrastructure in the Kingdom. I have to admit that the forum was a success. Meetings like this are very helpful for the business community particularly for young Saudi entrepreneurs — men and women. Did I say young Saudi entrepreneurs and did I also say, Saudi businesswomen? Well, I guess I did. During the forum, I spoke to many in the audience. But what caught my attention was a discussion about education. I was pleased to know that half of the Saudi student population is female and there are many Saudi women achievers in education, medicine and business fields. It is true that there were many Saudi women present at the forum but no Saudi women were seen at the podium speaking to the hundreds of people at the forum. There were many young Saudi entrepreneurs. It is very important and very educational to listen to high profile ministers or businessmen but the more we listen from the smaller people the more ideas we can discover. Companies like Saudi Aramco, SABIC, ExxonMobil and other companies are big companies. And people around the world know about them but it is important to highlight and introduce smaller companies and businesses. At this stage, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Commerce should make more efforts in the science of the Intellectual Property (IP) to protect young Saudis’ business ideas. In other words, we should invest more in the young Saudis and expose them more to the world of business. And it is also very important to listen to more Saudi businesswomen because many of them are more refined and ready to face challenges. Saudi Arabia is taking the current municipal elections to a new level for women. Not that they can elect but they can also get elected. As a matter of fact, at the end of the forum I was honored that I met and spoke with Dr. Lama Al-Sulaiman, who is the vice chairman of the Board of Directors at Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) who is not only seeking business venues but also one of the first woman to be elected for a municipal position. Written by Abdulateef Al-Mulhim. The US-Saudi Investment Forum reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al-Mulhim.