Top oil producer Saudi Aramco has launched a new programme to accelerate the growth of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Saudi Arabia and help boost their contribution to the country’s economic development.
The programme, called Taleed, targets sustainable SME growth across multiple sectors through a portfolio of 20 initiatives, providing a “wide range” of support from capability building and strategy development to training, market access, advisory services and business planning, Aramco said in a statement on Thursday.
It also aims to deliver funding and financial solutions to businesses through five funds, with a combined capital exceeding 3 billion Saudi riyals ($800 million).
Venture capital funding for start-ups in the Middle East and North Africa rose 20 per cent annually to more than $2.3 billion in the first three quarters of 2022, putting it on track to potentially surpass the total investments attracted last year, according to data platform Magnitt.
Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia retained the top three positions in funding value and number of deals, capturing more than 75 per cent of overall Mena investments.
Aramco said it signed 30 preliminary agreements with leading public and private partners to enable the development of the SME ecosystem.
“Through Taleed, we are working with the public sector, as well as private companies and institutions, to further develop the SME ecosystem and promote entrepreneurship,” said Amin Nasser, chief executive of Saudi Aramco.
“Aramco has long been committed to supporting the expansion of the kingdom’s SME ecosystem, which has a critical role to play in Saudi Arabia’s economic development."
Saudi Arabia, the Arab world’s largest economy, is diversifying its economy away from oil as part of its Vision 2030 programme. The kingdom is developing projects across sectors including property, infrastructure, petrochemicals, transport and hospitality to attract investment and boost employment.
Last month, business activity in the non-oil private sector economy of Saudi Arabia continued to improve as output and new orders rose sharply on robust demand, despite inflation concerns and global macroeconomic headwinds, according to the S&P Global purchasing managers’ index.
The index reading stood at 56.6 in September, down from 57.7 in August, but signalling an improvement in the health of the country's non-oil private sector economy for the 25th successive month.
A reading above the neutral level of 50 indicates growth while one below it points to a contraction.
Saudi Arabia’s economy is expected to grow at the quickest pace in a decade and could be one of the world’s fastest-growing economies this year, according to the International Monetary Fund.
Saudi Arabia’s GDP is forecast to expand 7.6 per cent this year after 3.2 per cent growth in 2021, according to the IMF, while Saudi investment bank Jadwa Investment estimates output this year at 8.7 per cent and the OECD projects growth of 9.9 per cent.
The country is forecast to be a vital driver of global trade growth, with its exports projected to expand at an average annual rate of more than 7 per cent to $354 billion by 2030, Standard Chartered said this year.
The Taleed programme will create more jobs and further enhance the commercial operating environment, said Ahmad Al-Sa’adi, Aramco's senior vice president of technical services.