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Dr. Ahmad Al-Yamani

SAUDI ARABIA - Health & Education

Workers Unite

CEO, Takamol

Bio

Ahmad Al-Yamani is the CEO of TakaMoL. Prior to this, he was COO at TAQNIA and held the roles of the Vice Secretary for General for Sustainable Development, Authority Affairs, and Operations at the Economic Cities Authority. In his years as the Chief Technology Officer of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) he was responsible for supervising the ICT infrastructure, the infostructure and the services of the Economic Cities within the Kingdom. He also worked at the advanced development labs of LSI, where he led a major IC test cost saving operation based on technologies that he patented. He holds a PhD in Electrical Engineering and an MSc in Management Science and Engineering from Stanford University. He also holds an MS degree and a BS degree in Computer Engineering from KFUPM.

“We know that 70% of unemployed Saudi nationals are female.“

What is Takamol?

Set up in 2013, with a specific aim to drive positive impact on the Saudi Arabia labor market, Takamol’s priorities are directly linked to those of government, particularly the Ministry of Labor and Social Development. We take a problem, we manage the lifecycle of the solution, and we create sustainable value for the Saudi economy.

How does Takamol address the fundamental changes that are taking place in the Saudi economy today?

Takamol is not only focused on the today. Our drive is to generate sustainable socio-economic solutions, and employment is fundamental to this. People will naturally flow to the easier ground—following the path of least resistance. If it is easier to get a government job, people will take these jobs. If most of the opportunities are in the private sector and there are less opportunities for government jobs, then people will naturally drift towards the private sector. A key objective of ours is to make potential employees more attractive to employers whilst stimulating employers to create more job opportunities. Firstly, in the last year alone, we delivered online training for more than 200,000 Saudi nationals to prepare potential employees to fully meet the demands of employers across the Kingdom. We also developed a program that will generate jobs for 13,000 Saudi nationals in some of our most remote locations by securing private sector investment in five targeted regions. By 2020, we aim to support an additional 100,000 Saudi nationals to work remotely through this specific program.

Part of Vision 2030 is to have government agencies meet KPIs. What is Takamol doing to meet the aspirations of Vision 2030?

Takamol is driven by two key strategies: Vision 2030 and the National Transformation Programme. These national priorities set the baseline from which we have set our strategies and our KPIs. Our focus is on social value creation, enabling public private sector partnerships, increasing government efficiencies, and designing and delivering sustainable labor market solutions. The ultimate aim of everything we do is to reduce unemployment and increase employment, particularly for Saudi nationals. We are paid by results. If we do not achieve, we do not get paid. We are essentially contractors for the government. For example, we manage an on-the-job training program for unemployed graduates. We place them with employers for up to six months and the government pays a salary subsidy. Takamol is only fully paid if that individual ends up getting hired. We get paid a lower amount if the individual does not get hired. We get paid nothing at all if we do not support enough unemployed graduates. Not only are we driven by our internal KPIs, we also strengthen the decision-making capacity of other core labor-sector focused government agencies. For example, we analyze complex economic and labor market data, providing insights to key stakeholders, enabling them to make evidenced-based decisions on programs, policies, and initiatives. Therefore, all Takamol activities are directly linked to the Vision 2030.

What impact does low levels of female employment have on the Saudi labor market?

We know that 70% of unemployed Saudi nationals are female, and that the age most negatively impacted is the 20-29 year old age group. We really need to do more for the Saudi females, particularly as they are highly educated and motivated, so we need to get more females into work. We know that there are multiple barriers for women wanting to enter employment. These include transport and childcare. Therefore Takamol has developed multiple programs and initiatives to support females to enter sustainable employment. Today, the cost of transport is a challenge for female workers, transportation can cost between SAR1,500 and SAR2,000 per month. We have developed a female transportation solution based on positive engagement with multiple transport providers who provide safe, accessible, and affordable transport for female employees, particularly for unemployed women moving into employment. A lack of accessible and affordable childcare is also a challenge for females who wish to enter and stay in work. We therefore provide subsidized childcare for working women, enabling more females to enter employment. We realize that there are not enough high-quality childcare facilities, so we assess and accredit childcare centers based on a set of parameters, qualifications, and inspection visits to ensure they meet robust quality criteria. We also empower women to set up more childcare facilities across the Kingdom. We do this in two ways. Firstly we train women to fully meet the quality criteria and achieve the accreditation required to create additional childcare facilities. Secondly we provide access to investment funding and loans. These programs are in their early stages, but we are confident that the measures we have taken will continue to provide support for women to enter and sustain employment.

What efforts has Takamol made, to support SMEs and to aid them in their journey?

Based on our analysis of the economy, we realize that our SMEs contribute only 20% of our total GDP, while other high-income countries average a contribution of over 50%. SMEs also contribute to about 34% of employment in the Kingdom, compared to 60-70% in OECD economies. Having explored this further, we recognize that the greatest challenges for our SMEs include lack of access to finance. They do not have funding because the financing market in Saudi makes it extremely difficult for SMEs to secure financing opportunities. At the same time, entrepreneurs may have great ideas and may need some support to translate these ideas into on-going sustainable businesses and also support with access to appropriate markets. To support these entrepreneurs, we have created a SME support team called “Nine-Tenths.” The first challenge this team took on was to eliminate funding barriers. We designed a program where we match venture capital equity investment with the financial requirements of each business startup. We do not match the investment through a direct financial contribution, instead we act as a guarantor for a loan that is provided by a Commercial Bank. The total amount that we have guaranteed to date is SAR922 million. To help SMEs and new businesses access opportunities, we have set up a portal called ‘Access to Bids.’ We have already signed up 30 government organizations and large private sector companies to commission their direct purchases via this portal. These include the Ministry of Labor and Social Development, of course Takamol, STC, and many others. Our third solution is ‘Access to Markets.’ We know that not every entrepreneur can simply create an online business and immediately generate high demand for their products and services, so in August Takamol launched this e-commerce platform. Its effectiveness lies in its simplicity. Entrepreneurs simply need to upload visuals, prices, and descriptions of their products and services. The portal then provides instant access to new potential markets. Hundreds of home-based businesses have already subscribed. Takamol designed the portal, we enable the logistics, we manage the payment gateway that collects from the buyer and pays the seller. These examples are only three from the ten additional initiatives that we are currently developing.

What are your expectations for 2017?

We have just experienced two challenging years. We have absorbed the shock, and have gone through the worst in 2015 and 2016. The economy continues to change and it is likely that 2017 will be a plateau year. Of course, 2018 will be the year that things will improve substantially. For us 2017 is the year to develop additional sustainable solutions to help long-term economic recovery. Takamol will continue to monitor the changing economic and labor market trends, develop targeted programs and initiatives to reflect the needs of both jobseekers and employers in the public and the private sectors. We will accelerate our activities around our key customer groups, particularly youth, females and SMEs. Overall, our challenge is to continue to support more Saudi nationals into more sustainable employment through 2017.

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