The Business Year

HE Sheikh Saleh Abdullah Kamel

SAUDI ARABIA - Economy

Gateway City

Chairman, Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Bio

HE Sheikh Saleh Abdullah Kamel is Chairman of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Islamic Chamber of Commerce, and Founder and Chairman of the Dallah Al Barakah Group. He is widely regarded as one the region’s most accomplished businessmen.

TBY talks to HE Sheikh Saleh Abdullah Kamel, Chairman of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Islamic Chamber of Commerce, Founder and Chairman of the Dallah Al Baraka Group, on foreign investment, hiring women, and the increasing role of manufacturing in the regional economy.

Within Jeddah, what are the major opportunities for the private sector and foreign investors in the coming years?

Jeddah is known as the gateway to Mecca. Every year we receive around 10 million visitors to the Holy Site in Mecca. This is an excellent opportunity. In addition, Jeddah is the major port on the Red Sea. The Jeddah Islamic Port is strategically located in the middle of an east-west international shipping route, and with 58 berths it is able to host and service the newest generation of large container vessels. Jeddah is also the center of business of the northwest of Saudi Arabia, with a major airport and a robust building sector. Around 80% of international agencies are located in Jeddah. Therefore, Jeddah is the business city of Saudi Arabia. All this is painting a very bright future. There are over SAR50 billion in government projects going on currently, which are creating further opportunities for the private sector and foreign investments.

How is the JCCI working to promote and develop employment opportunities for Saudi women?

Jeddah took the initiative of accepting women at the head of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce through the Sayidah Khadija Center. The Center is named for the Prophet’s wife, who was a businesswoman. It has worked to develop many new rules and initiatives, which have helped women get empowered by the government. Jeddah has the highest hiring rate for women in Saudi Arabia, and we now see them in every sector, in companies and stores all over. The Jeddah Chamber of Commerce was behind a law that obligates all business people to start to hiring women. In addition to that, the Chamber has a department in which it is responsible for finding jobs and opportunities for unemployed women. Women apply to this department and they will help them find jobs anywhere. The Jeddah Chamber of Commerce has consistently been a main player in initiatives to empower women in Saudi Arabia.

How do you assess the health of Jeddah’s export base?

Due to the fact that Jeddah is a gateway to Mecca and that we have a population of 3 million people, there is a large business community here. When people come to Jeddah, they come and buy clothes. They buy different products and take them back to their own countries. For example, Sudan, Egypt, Djibouti, and previously Yemen used to just import around SAR20 million of garments from Jeddah. These were mainly small business, but behind that number, some became larger and got involved in a variety of projects in the Saudi market. Therefore, in Jeddah we have around 1,000 factories and around 30% of their products are being exported to the regional countries.

How does the organization of festivals support economic growth in Jeddah?

Jeddah is the business city of Saudi Arabia. Jeddah has 80% of the dealers and agents of the international companies. In Jeddah, we organize about three or four festivals, one in summer, one in Ramadan, and one in Eid. These attract many Saudis. Over 1 million Saudis come to Jeddah to be part of these festivals. A large project, of course, generates business for companies because they have jobs to do. They create new jobs, new opportunities, and new investments. It creates a wealth of business opportunities both inside and outside of Jeddah.

Which sectors in Jeddah represent the most potential for prospective investors?

The real estate sector is highly dynamic. This is true of both commercial and residential real estate; however, the majority of the opportunities are in residential. Approximately 60% of the Saudis living in Jeddah live in apartments. The prices of plots and land in Jeddah have increased to extremely high level. In the future, we will have more projects in this sector, especially now with the Saudi government getting Yeminis to work in Saudi Arabia. Yeminis are being admitted now to be residents, and they will help that sector grow. Real estate also has a knock-on effect, creating opportunities in construction, retail, infrastructure development, and other areas.

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