Bid To Boost Women’s Role In Business

RIYADH, 28 May 2003 — The Kingdom has stepped up efforts to ensure greater participation of Saudi women in the commercial sector and to promote female entrepreneurship. The move is a joint effort between public and private sector organizations.

“More than 100 Saudi businesswomen are likely to apply for new licenses for investment projects in the Kingdom following the opening of the first service center for women by the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA),” said Afaf Al-Hamdan, SAGIA’s director for women investors’ services.

Forty percent of private wealth in the country is held by women, and women have substantial investment in more than 15,000 businesses, according to a report. But women are not allowed publicly to administer their business operations or be part of any business dealings.

Al-Hamdan said that the SAGIA center for women would devise strategies to improve the domestic investment climate by involving women and ensuring cooperation from government agencies.

Idle savings held by Saudi women in the Kingdom’s banks are estimated to exceed SR62 billion.

“This huge amount of money parked in the banks is not being utilized by the Kingdom, and this negatively affects the Saudi economy,” she said.

The SAGIA women’s center also aims at acquainting Saudi and foreign businesswomen with the requirements for investment licenses.

Saudi women represent nearly half of the university graduates in the Kingdom.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs said it was studying the possibility of opening of all-women recruitment offices under its supervison. The ministry was also studying the viability of exclusive women’s offices affiliated to labor offices to issue recruitment visas, business licenses and settle labor disputes, said the ministry.

The Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI) has also finalized a plan to open an all-women branch. Hussein Al-Athel, RCCI’s secretary-general said that a branch exclusively for businesswomen at the chamber was being prepared. He said the branch would be located at the building currently occupied by the Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry (CSCCI), which will move to a new location in the northern part of Riyadh shortly.

He said that the RCCI women’s branch, which is to liaise between the public and private sectors, would play a leading role in helping women entrepreneurs to run their own businesses.

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