Infrastructure investment programmes for existing and new cities are on a different scale in the Kingdom
Saudi Arabia is a major economy of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and is rich in opportunity and reward for UK firms. Its long term multibillion-dollar infrastructure investment programmes that span numerous existing and proposed new cities present an amazing scale of opportunity. Without doubt, for those with the expertise to make a difference, there is work in the Kingdom.
These vigorous property and construction programmes are focused on meeting the social needs of the Kingdom’s growing population. Roads, airport, hospitals and public transport systems are all planned including the four year, $20bn Riyadh Metro.
Such dynamic investment generates a need for a skilled workforce and while Saudi Arabia recognises the need to attract specialist Western skill and best practice for the immediate future, it is also wisely insisting that this skill be transferred to its local workforce.
The Kingdom is resolute in its determination to learn from the international community and quite rightly intent on incorporating that expertise back into its own workforce
Localisation will enable the Kingdom to develop and sustain its own significant market growth both now and in the future. With 50% of the Kingdom’s inhabitants being under the age of 20 there is a ready pool of labour available to help achieve this goal.
Understanding the Saudi Arabian culture and identifying a need are the best routes to the marketplace. Some non-Arab speaking businesses based in Western Europe decide to first establish themselves in Dubai, whereas others use UKTI trade missions as a vehicle.
Working with the Arab British Chamber is another option as well as following an existing client into the Middle East marketplace to meet its needs. Of course talking to peers already working in the Kingdom as well as embassies and consulates is a given.
Whatever route is identified, we all have to be quick in seizing our opportunity to establish a business and strengthen our affiliations in this relationship driven country. The Kingdom is resolute in its determination to learn from the international community and quite rightly intent on incorporating that expertise back into its own workforce. It is a country that is hungry for knowledge and the pace at which they learn is incredible.
The Saudi New Year has just started. Between now and June 2014 is when real business gets done. Let’s seize the opportunity while we can.
Lance Taylor is chief executive of Rider Levett Bucknall UK and director of the Rider Levett Bucknall global practice. Andy Isherwood, Rider Levett Bucknall partner and country manager Saudi Arabia, contributed to this article