Daily Insider: Saudi Arabia takes to the skies and the cloud
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Daily Insider: Saudi Arabia takes to the skies and the ‘cloud’

Daily Insider: Saudi Arabia takes to the skies and the ‘cloud’

Not only is Saudi Arabia making waves with Riyadh Air, but it’s also attracting the world’s biggest tech players as Google unveils its new cloud region in the kingdom.

Gareth van Zyl

Oil-rich Saudi Arabia’s goal to diversify its economy is starting to materialise in ways that could seriously spark a major shake-up in the region and beyond.

Earlier this year, the kingdom announced plans to launch Riyadh Air, a brand-new national airline that is targeting serving more than 100 destinations by 2030. Owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) and headed up by former Etihad boss, Tony Douglas, the airline looks set to make its mark on the regional aviation landscape.

The airline only plans to launch to the skies in 2025, but at the Dubai Air Show this week, there’s been a buzz around it. At first, there was speculation that Riyadh Air could make a major announcement around a new order for several new narrow-body planes. That announcement hasn’t yet materialised, but the airline did place an order for 39 Boeing 787 wide-body planes earlier this year.

But it’s not just in the skies that Saudi Arabia is taking off.

Just yesterday, search giant Google announced the launch of its newest cloud region in the kingdom. The new Google infrastructure in the country will serve as backbone for digital cloud services and storage for potentially thousands of companies.

Keynote speakers at the launch of Google’s Saudi Arabia cloud region included the CEO of Aramco, Amin H Nasser, and top execs from enterprise software provider SAP.

Research commissioned by Google claims the impact of the cloud economy will be $109bn in Saudi Arabia and that the sector has the potential to add 148,600 jobs by 2030. Meanwhile, officials in Saudi Arabia have said that Riyadh Air is expected to add $20bn to the country’s non-oil GDP and generate more than 200,000 jobs directly and indirectly.

With almost 350,000 jobs in the pipeline from these two sectors alone, it’s no wonder that unemployment levels are starting to significantly fall there. Recent statistics have indicated that joblessness has decreased to 8.3 per cent in the second quarter of 2023, from 9.7 per cent a year earlier.

Long may it last.

Gareth van Zyl is the Group Editor of Gulf Business. Gareth has more than 15 years of experience covering the technology and business sectors in the UAE and South Africa.

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