Vision 2030 in a Post-Pandemic World

Saudi Vision 2030 through the eyes of our people and CEOs: Pre-pandemic progress towards a digital, sustainable future has helped the Kingdom remain resilient and attractive to investors, through a year of social and economic upheaval

The road ahead is fraught with uncertainty for all economies, with the dual shocks of the pandemic and lower oil prices that presented considerable challenges to Saudi Arabia’s economy and society in 2020 - in common with its GCC neighbours and nations around the world. 

The success of the Saudi Vision over the past few years and its investment in infrastructure as well as the digital economy were major factors in how the Kingdom was able to successfully address the challenges of the pandemic.  

The pace of digitalisation in the Kingdom has accelerated before 2020. Since 2017, the government and private sector investment of around $15bn in information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure1, allowed Saudi Arabia to further leverage its digital infrastructure with a solid base.

This investment was a vital first step towards realising the Digital Saudi 2030 vision, and it has proved critical as working remotely and social distancing have become the new reality for public and private services over the last year. The country’s digital backbone has enabled essential services including learning, shopping and even medical consultations to carry on, and protected the economy from the challenges of the pandemic. For example, local online retailer BinDawood Holding reported a 200% increase in average sales over a ten-day period in late March 2020; while its average order value rose by 50% and app installations by 400%. Noting that  the company has two e-commerce platforms – BinDawood and Danube – which are connected to its respective supermarket and hypermarket chains, enabling customers to purchase groceries and other goods online.

As a result of the changes underway, the Kingdom has maintained its appeal to investors, as our latest Middle East CEO Survey shows2: Saudi Arabia was identified as a vitally important growth destination by respondents, ahead of China, India and the US.

Digital transformation accelerates

The overarching aim of Vision 2030 is to diversify away from oil and build a digitally-led, knowledge-based economy, and the good news is that the country’s young, connected population is overwhelmingly optimistic about the opportunities greater digitisation will bring for them. In our latest Hopes and Fears survey of employees3 stated 79% of respondents in Saudi Arabia believe advances in technology will improve their future job prospects, and close to 90% are confident that they will be able to adapt to using the new technologies coming into their workplaces. 

This is a strong endorsement of the success of the digital transformation initiatives already underway. According to our latest Middle East CEO survey 59% of  Middle East CEO respondents, compared with 49% globally, aim to increase their investments in digital transformation by 10% or more over the next three years, as a direct response to the impact of COVID-19.

It comes as no surprise that Millennials are a tech savvy population and heavy consumers of digital content. Saudi youth dominate the kingdom's population, this majority has been the game changers which has thrust Saudi Arabia to the top position. They are the key enabler of the Kingdom's Vision 2030, and as a matter of urgency, young people need digital skills to embrace this digital world and workforce.

Thus, the digital transformation of the education sector is another important part of Vision 2030’s success, to ensure young people in the Kingdom have the right skills for the future world of work. Our latest Hopes and Fears survey indicates that 57% of our respondents in Saudi Arabia are either excited or confident about the future of their children and that technology will offer a world full of possibility for their kids. Progress in this area has also been accelerated by COVID-19, with students learning remotely over the course of the last year, and the Kingdom has drawn praise4 for its efforts to support home learning using digital tools.  

The last year has shown us the vital importance of building resilience in line with the Vision 2030 priorities, as the earliest changes brought about under the programme - in particular the investment in digital infrastructure – played a key role in the Kingdom’s pandemic response. With digital tools now playing a greater part in the daily life of most citizens and residents of the Kingdom, now is the time for governments and private companies to press on with the technology-led transformation of society and the economy.

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Riyadh Al Najjar

Riyadh Al Najjar

PwC Middle East Chairman of the Board & Saudi Country Senior Partner, PwC Middle East

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