The following is a press release from the Royal Commission for AlUla.
As delegates from around the world gather for the Global Entrepreneurship Congress 2022 in Riyadh, the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) is highlighting its unique approach to SME growth which places an emphasis on integrated sustainability.
RCU is active in this week's congress as the event's official knowledge and programming partner. Further the RCU CEO, Amr AlMadani, led a fireside chat at the congress this afternoon on 'Tourism at a tipping point'.
Next, RCU will localise insights from the congress with an event in AlUla on Thursday, March 31 to discuss challenges and opportunities for the region's SMEs on the path to sustainable and inclusive growth.
RCU is organising the AlUla event in conjunction with Monsha'at, the Small and Medium Enterprises General Authority for KSA. The event will include panel discussions on creating a sustainable, inclusive and entrepreneurship-powered local economy; and on establishing future-proofed start-up ecosystems for ambitious growth. The event will also feature case studies, and presentations from AlUla entrepreneurs.
Mr. AlMadani noted: "SME development is central to Vision 2030. RCU is committed to regenerating AlUla around the success of SMEs and MSMEs to create a destination completely rooted in the local culture and community. We believe our formula for integrating natural, economic and social sustainability in our activities will create powerful and lasting growth for AlUla's SMEs. We are nourishing the soil where the seeds of entrepreneurs' ideas can thrive. As this garden grows it will create value for our community and visitors."
A strong example of the work being done in AlUla is Vibes AlUla, an entrepreneurship platform created in partnership with the Royal Commission for AlUla. The goal of the space is to activate and enable AlUla's entrepreneurial ecosystem through the provision of shared mentorship, programmes, services and office spaces. The SME hub has been used to train around 80 budding entrepreneurs in a range of first-step business principles and a further 60 micro and small businesses.
Of these 60, 15 have undergone deep-dive support as they evolve into newly strengthened businesses. In the past three months these businesses have created 15 new jobs, started receiving investment and developed more than 15 partnership agreements from event management services to honey production. Throughout the coming 18 months the throughput of "initiation" individuals will be around 700 people. A further 45 business will also be uplifted in terms of business skills. The Hub represents a unique launch pad for new businesses into an economy that will be both transformative and responsive to the demands of other businesses directly supporting the tourist industry and locals alike.
The pillars of RCU's plan for the SME sector are:
1. Promote indigenous growth
- SMEs and MSMEs in AlUla harness local talent, natural resources and the cultural landscape. Opportunities span moringa oil production; date and citrus farming; handicrafts, arts and culture; culinary, hospitality and tourism services; and history and heritage.
- RCU is developing grassroots businesses to create broad economic change. By leveraging natural assets and strengths, we create a self-sustaining economic ecosystem.
2. Build capacity and capabilities
- RCU initiatives enable SMEs to upskill talent, broaden reach and diversify offerings:
- Vibes AlUla is a one-stop shop for SMEs to train, set up and develop.
- Vibes kicked off the first cohort of the AlUla SME Enablement Programme -- as of March 2022 it enabled creation of 14 SMEs.
- The AlUla Languages Centre offers the opportunity to learn new languages and reach new markets.
- Scholarship and Hammayah programmes offer avenues for growth.
3. Open a gateway to opportunity
- By enriching the SME ecosystem, RCU encourages young people with energy and ambition to set down roots in AlUla by launching SMEs and contributing to the national agenda.
- Economic sustainability echoes RCU's goals of natural and social sustainability. As sustainability requires monitoring, RCU will track SME health as part of a new Destination Performance Index.
- Reflecting RCU's worldly outlook, this strategy is informed by SME success in Jordan and India and ideas of economists such as Michael Porter on the value chain.
Already the first shoots of SME growth at AlUla are emerging as a result of RCU-led efforts. This rising community of new SMEs includes a tour-guide service for stargazing, a family-owned farm planting trees and harvesting fruits, a honey harvester, a marketplace for beauty products, a natural-soap retailer, an events manager, a short-term apartment rental service and a home bakery selling online.
Mr. AlMadani observed: "Integrated sustainability means not only integrating the economy with nature and society but also integrating the past with the present, the present with the future, and technology with culture. Our ancestors were entrepreneurial. To survive in a harsh environment they made clever use of the materials at hand. They wove and embroidered with silk and metal thread, farmed dates and gathered hay, worked as metal smiths, and ran coffee houses. Think of how much we can achieve today if we apply this heritage of initiative and perseverance in a modern AlUla fully connected to the wider world and all its possibilities."
Mr. AlMadani has a strong background in entrepreneurship, having been an entrepreneur himself as co-founder of National TalentS Company. From 2007 to 2017 he helped guide the company as it nurtured grassroots social and economic development by establishing STEM and giftedness projects and programmes, including the first International Science & Engineering Fair-affiliated local science fair programme in Saudi Arabia.
About the Royal Commission for AlUla
The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) was established by royal decree in July 2017 to preserve and develop AlUla, a region of outstanding natural and cultural significance in north-west Saudi Arabia. RCU's long-term plan outlines a responsible, sustainable, and sensitive approach to urban and economic development that preserves the area's natural and historic heritage while establishing AlUla as a desirable location to live, work, and visit. This encompasses a broad range of initiatives across archaeology, tourism, culture, education, and the arts, reflecting a commitment to meeting the economic diversification, local community empowerment, and heritage preservation priorities of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 programme.