By Layan Damanhouri
JEDDAH – A German business delegation headed by State Secretary of Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy Matthias Machnig, met with the Saudi business community at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Sunday to bolster trade and explore investment opportunities in various sectors, namely energy, machinery, logistics, electronics, pharmaceuticals, hospital management and tourism.
“German companies seek to engage more in the Kingdom as well as draw more Saudi employees,” said Eric Schweitzer, president of the Association of German Chamber of Commerce and Industry, referring to Germany’s record of having the lowest unemployment rate in Europe.
Small and medium enterprises have an interest to invest more in Saudi Arabia and would like to find easier ways to enter the Saudi market, he added.
The meeting to increase investment and discuss ways to start local manufacturing and companies came during the German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit in Jeddah.
Bilateral trade between the two countries amounts to SR50 billion. Machnig referred to the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 as “an ambitious and bold plan to diversify the economy” that will offer opportunities in other sectors.
“Infrastructure is essential in different sectors,” said Machnig, adding that competitiveness now depends on digitization of industries, including industrial production.
Some 200 German companies currently operate in the Kingdom with $4 billion investments in sectors, including petroleum and petrochemical and industrial projects. “That number is looking to double in the next three years,” Oliver Oehms, a delegate in the German-Saudi Arabian Liaison Office for Economic Affairs, told Saudi Gazette. “There is a strong interest from the Saudi side so we hope to see more marriages between the two SME communities.”
Asked about the challenges for investing in the Kingdom, Oehms said: “It’s still relatively expensive to operate business in Saudi Arabia, especially with licensing requirements by SAGIA and increasing cost of employing foreigners. This is making things complicated for small- and medium-size companies.”
CEOs and chairpersons of Saudi companies discussed ways for cooperation in vocational training for Saudi manpower as well as opportunities in investment as the Saudi government aims to increase the private sector’s contribution to GDP from approximately 40% to 65% by 2030.
Secretary General of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry Hassan Dahlan said “the meeting is important as we discussed ways to improve the investment environment and attract investors. They also offered the investment opportunities in Germany.”
He added “any new project will create job opportunities and training for Saudis. German companies are known for their know-how and expertise.”