We recently wrote a blog post about the state of investments in the Middle East. In it, we touched on the measures that Saudi Arabia’s government has put in place to support the development of a diversified economy. But now we want to look in more detail at the nation’s focus on market growth for business and technology.
Why? Because if you’re coming to LEAP 2024, you’re coming to Saudi Arabia. That means you’re stepping into a growing market, in a country that’s primed for tech and business development.
It’d be a waste if you didn’t explore the opportunities that might be available to you – and your business – here in KSA.
At a glance: Driving growth and welcoming new business
Saudi Arabia is rapidly revealing itself as an increasingly robust ecosystem for digital entrepreneurship – and its startup landscape is maturing at pace.
At LEAP 2023, nine new funds were announced which add a total of USD $2.4 billion to drive startup growth. And VC funding in Saudi startups increased by 72% in 2021-22, reaching $987 million across 144 deals.
The tech sector is a particular area of focus for development in Saudi Arabia. Technology features heavily in the Vision 2030, which aims to transition the economy away from oil dependence and create a thriving ecosystem of jobs, talent, and growth within more sustainable and future-focused markets.
As a population, young Saudi people are positive about tech and have a strong appetite for new ideas and digital services – making it attractive to investors, but also attractive to startup founders and larger tech companies that are seeking savvy, enthusiastic talent. A 2022 survey by Vice Media, The State of Arab Youth, found that as many as 84% of young people in KSA are always looking for ways they can use technology to enhance their lives.
And a report by the Harvard Business Review found that Saudi’s fastest growing sectors include e-commerce, tech, and fintech.
What’s the government doing to support business and tech in Saudi Arabia?
KSA’s Public Investment Fund Program (PIF) is directly mandated to bring the Vision 2030 to life. The program will increase investments both locally and internationally – with a core focus on establishing strong economic partnerships that extend beyond national borders.
Right now, PIF Program is working towards these objectives by 2025:
- USD $1.07 trillion assets under management
- 21% share of assets in new and growth sectors
- 1.8 million new direct and indirect jobs created
And developing the Kingdom’s innovation capabilities is an important element: by localising the tech sector and developing telecoms and media. This will make KSA a globally competitive hub for technology, media and telecoms – and forward-thinking businesses are tapping into the country’s emerging markets now.
In 2023 Saudi Arabia announced the launch of four new Special Economic Zones (SEZs), with the aim of raising KSA’s global competitiveness by providing:
- A regulatory environment that’s investor-friendly, with sector-specific incentives and enablers
- Highly efficient integrated government services
- An inspiring living experience within Saudi Arabia, that offers global quality of life standards
SEZs are geographical areas that are designated to support specific activities – like investment, trade, and employment. They do this by offering competitive advantages, and legislative frameworks that are different from the wider region’s base economy.
The four new SEZs are for key growth sectors that will drive the success of the Vision 2030: advanced manufacturing, maritime activities, metal conversion/logistics, and cloud computing.
These are just the latest in a broad range of economic reforms that are successfully enabling new business opportunities, leveraging Saudi Arabia’s unique strategic location and local assets, and realising an ambitious vision. The government is backing business here.