The Spanish Chamber of Commerce hosted on Thursday 20 October the Spanish-Saudi Business Forum - held on the occasion of the official visit of Faisal Alibrahim, Minister of Economy and Planning of the Arab Kingdom - where the large institutional and business delegation accompanying the Saudi minister met with Spanish investors and entrepreneurs seeking to deepen trade and investment relations with Riyadh.
Thus, the forum allowed dozens of representatives of Spanish companies to learn about the economic and business situation of the Wahhabi country through various presentations and panels, and through B2B (business-to-business) meetings. Sectors such as energy, transport, industry, petrochemicals, recycling and legal consultancy are just some examples of the range of investment opportunities that were presented to those attending the forum.
In line with the "strategic partnership" extolled by the Spanish Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism, Reyes Maroto, and the improvement of "mutual relations based on a partnership in various sectors", as stated by the Saudi Minister of Economy, Faisal Alibrahim, Spain and Saudi Arabia have taken new steps towards greater economic, commercial and financial rapprochement at the private level. This was evidenced by the specialised panels for information on investment in water and infrastructures, firstly, and in tourism and related sectors, secondly.
On the one hand, the panel on cooperation in the water and infrastructure sector was attended by representatives of several companies operating in the Spanish-Saudi area. Alejandro Jiménez, Director of Strategy and Business Development at ACCIONA Agua; Javier Díaz, Manager in Saudi Arabia for FCC - Aqualia; Mohamed Almudares, CEO of SISCO, and Tarek Nada, Vice-President of Water and Technical Services at AqwaPower, shared the aims and opportunities offered by their respective companies under the mediation of Alicia Varela, Director General of International Trade and Investment at the Spanish Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism.
"There are lots and lots of projects, we have a lot to do," said Javier Díaz during his speech, in which he took the opportunity to explain FCC-Aqualia's plans for the new, futuristic ecological megacity, NEOM, which Riyadh hopes to develop soon as part of its Saudi Vision 2030 initiative, as well as in collaboration with the Saudi Aramco oil company. As if the opportunities for economic and investment cooperation in the field of infrastructure were not enough, increasing droughts in one of the world's driest regions - the Middle East - have made the water sector and the sustainability of water use a priority issue for countries such as Saudi Arabia in recent months.
"Local partners are key to setting up a company [in a new country]," said Díaz, who was later backed up by the representative of Saudi Arabia's AqwaPower when he said that "this event is very important for all the companies and all the attendees here". "As in a family, we have different opinions, but we must make an effort to come closer and cooperate. [We are very proud of the progress and achievements we have made so far," he concluded, while urging for further deepening collaboration in the private sector.
The second and last of the sectoral panels on the tourism sector and other related sectors was moderated by the Deputy Director General for Mediterranean Countries, Africa and the Middle East of the Secretary of State for Trade, Ana de Vicente, and included the participation of Juan Jesús García, Vice President of Industry Affairs EMEA, Amadeus; Jordi Sanchís, Director of European Development of the Meliá Group; Majed Alghanem, Director General of the Tourism Sector of MISA, and Khaldoun Hayajneh, CEO FAS Spain of the Fawaz Alhokai Group.
This space was used by the speakers to highlight Riyadh's goal of reaching one billion tourists by 2030, another of the points included in the Saudi Vision 2030 plan, for which the role of Spanish investors and businessmen seems to play a fundamental role. An issue that, according to the two ministers, Reyes Maroto and Alibrahim, was addressed positively during the joint commission held between them.
The speakers on the latter panel highlighted the importance of developing the tourism sector in a way that deepens Spanish-Saudi relations, while respecting issues such as ecology. This was stated, for example, by Jordi Sanchís, who, in addition to familiarity, digitalisation and customer loyalty, added sustainability as another of the fundamental axes on which the Meliá Group is working.
In this way, the Spain-Saudi Arabia Business Forum 2022 has given a good account of the growing number of Spanish projects in Wahhabi territory since a decade ago, as well as the mutual interest in continuing to develop shared economic investment relations, mainly in key sectors for the two Kingdoms, such as tourism.