Well, as we bid farewell to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, we can reflect on an extraordinary week for AEI!
As I’m sure you all know, Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been visiting the UK this week and he has certainly been grabbing the headlines, with those in favour and those against making their feelings very clear.
The billboards and advertising campaign, wholeheartedly promoted by AEI, have generated a huge amount of interest about Saudi Arabia, the Crown Prince and his Vision 2030 reform programme.
Many people are asking whether the UK should have a relationship with Saudi.
The answer is of course ‘yes’, it should. It was not that long ago that a senior Saudi prince was hosted by a female British Prime Minister and, when his trip was over, UK Plc had secured the country’s largest export order for anything, ever.
Of course, a lot has changed since the mid-80s but the prosperity agenda, fuelled by jobs for people and profits for businesses, has been the focus of successive Governments and rightly so; without high employment and booming business, the British Government cannot fund public spending.
Exports enable businesses to deliver healthy margins which generate revenue to fund investment, to make returns to shareholders and, above all, to create jobs. This is why the Saudi relationship matters; it is about trade.
Yes, Saudi Arabia is a country of contrasts and controversies, but it cannot be denied that the political, economic and cultural changes that the Kingdom has been implementing in the last few years are exactly what Western governments have been striving for.
Without trade our voice would not be heard.
And yet some voices in the UK often appear to fetishize a bloody revolution as if that is the only way to effect change in a country. Surely if the experience of the Arab Spring movements have shown us anything it is that rapid, violent change is in no-one’s interest.
One could even consider the reform programme being implemented in Saudi Arabia under the banner of ‘Vision 2030’ as something of a blueprint to deliver peaceful and progressive change resulting from proactive Government policy.
Vision 2030 is not going to create a Western European liberal democracy but it will certainly implement changes and reforms that will bring greater alignment between Saudi Arabia and the West, and that will be of great mutual benefit.
In fact, Vision 2030 is already happening and one can judge its main architect, the young Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, not just by his words but also by his actions. He has made the rolling back of the State and the opening up of the Kingdom a key priority, and he is supported by his youthful population in this endeavour.
Of course, there is much to do in Saudi Arabia and some ‘quick wins’ do not mean that Vision 2030 will be easy. The Kingdom needs the support of the UK; our knowledge and experience, our companies, our people, our products and services.
The Crown Prince knows already that the UK is a friend and trusted ally; when he leaves here he must be convinced that Saudi Arabia actually has no greater friend on the world stage than the UK.
As the UK stood by his grandfather to create the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932, so it must stand by him to transform the Kingdom now and beyond 2030.
Of course, I have an interest as it is the role of AEI to enable foreign companies to take advantage of the opportunities that the Saudi market place now presents, and we have helped over 700 companies do exactly that.
Notwithstanding our declared interest, we do employ nearly 90 people now in the Kingdom, expats and Saudi Nationals, and we are here in Saudi Arabia and see Vision 2030 in action every day. This is why we are so supportive of the UK to KSA relationship; because it matters.
If you would like to be a part of the continuing trade relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia then please get in touch to be added to our newsletter mailing list; that way we can keep you in the loop about the latest news and business opportunities in the Kingdom.
Co-Founder and CEO of AEI Saudi