A record number of Arab business leaders, politicians and philanthropists took part this year in the World Economic Forum in Davos with 222 attendees from the Middle East in 2018.
4 delegates, 2 from Saudi and 2 from the UAE made more headlines, than the other combined, at least from a business perspective.
Oil cuts legacy
Saudi Energy Minister Khalid AL-Falih appeared on a panel titled “The New Energy Equation” and ruled out the possibility of exiting oil production cuts upon OPEC’s meeting next June.
He said they could be adjusted instead.
Al Falih expressed his optimism about oil demand in the future.
“I don’t see signs of significant oil demand slowdown,” he said. “The US oil boom is not a threat, as Mexico and Venezuelan output is declining.”
Media reports quoted Al Falih as saying that global oil demand is likely to hit 120 million barrels per day within the next 25 years.
Media quoted him as saying that “OPEC and non-OPEC deals will expire one day and producers will have to go back to direct competition with one another.”
Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak reiterated Al Falih’s comments by saying that “strong global oil demand will help offset a steep rise in US oil production and prevent oil prices from collapsing again.”
Saudi connecting people
Saudi Arabia’s minister for communications and information technology Abdullah Alswaha gave an overview about the Kingdom’s digital vision at Davos.
Arab News quoted Alswaha as saying that the Kingdom is spending more than $3 billion to connect 2 million homes, schools and hospitals with high speed fiber as it prepares to roll out a 5G network.
“We have gone a long way in delivering on Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030. Today, we are both the largest economy and the largest technology market in the region,” he said.
According to Asharq Al Awsat daily, SoftBank Group plans to invest as much as $25 billion in Saudi Arabia, $15bn out of which will be invested in NEOM which aims to become a hub for innovation and technology transfer.
The Arab publication added that SoftBank also launched SoftBank Vision Fund with up to $100 billion in funds targeting technology start-ups.
UAE shaping the future
Two young ministers in the UAE government discussed the country’s experience in shaping the future, emphasizing the Emirate’s plan to adopt services technologies and lead the world in artificial intelligence (AI).
Hessa Essa Buhumaid, Minister of Community Development, said that technology is a key foundation of a healthy and happy community, which the UAE is seeking to achieve in a sustainable manner.
Meanwhile, Sarah bin Yousef Al Amiri, Minister of State, explained that the UAE’s experience in space exploration, as the first Arab country to accomplish this achievement, is being led by a team of young Emirati talents.
The UAE announced in April 2017 its space ambitions, aiming for the Mission to Mars plan in 2021 and building the first settlement on the Red planet 100 years later in 2117. The country’s investments in space technologies have already exceeded AED20 billion ($5.4bn).