Saudi Arabia to host World Economic Forum meeting in April
Saudi Arabia will host a special World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in April, economy minister Faisal Alibrahim said on Thursday, as it aims to boost the global profile of the kingdom and its capital Riyadh.
The meeting, scheduled to take place from April 28-29, will focus on global collaboration, growth and energy, Alibrahim said in Davos, Switzerland, where the World Economic Forum's main annual event is currently taking place.
"The (World Economic) Forum has recognised that the kingdom is becoming a stronger, more impactful leader on the global stage... and we found it as an opportune time to bring this global Tier 1 event to the kingdom, and start this new chapter together," Alibrahim later told news agency Reuters in an interview.
"This will contribute to Riyadh becoming a more global platform," he said, adding the Saudi government had been in talks with the WEF for some time to host an event.
Borge Brende, WEF president, said that the WEF had held discussions with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and with cabinet ministers to hold a Forum meeting in the kingdom.
"We have not resumed any meetings post-COVID outside winter Davos and summer Davos so we will have our first meeting outside Davos in Riyadh this spring," he said.
Hosting the WEF in Riyadh will not take away from the kingdom's flagship annual event, the Future Investment Initiative (FII), Alibhrahim said.
FII, which regularly draws top finance bosses like JPMorgan's Jamie Dimon and BlackRock's Larry Fink, "will always expand and grow, we will always support it," he said.
.@borgebrende announces that @wef will be hosting a special meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on 28-29th April 2024 on global cooperation, growth and energy for development. #wef24 pic.twitter.com/KzOhqQ1Icp— World Economic Forum (@wef) January 18, 2024
"It's our flagship event and we're very proud of it and it's attracting more people" from the investment community and beyond, he added.
Riyadh dubbed the 2017 inaugural FII event as "Davos in the Desert". FII aims to draw foreign direct investment to the kingdom, though inflows have repeatedly missed targets.
Alibrahim said hosting the WEF event would strengthen FII and other events hosted in Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia has historically been a lucrative source of funding. Last year, its sovereign Public Investment Fund spent a massive $31.5 billion on deals compared with $123.8 billion for all sovereign wealth funds, based on a preliminary annual report from wealth fund tracker Global SWF.
In 2022, Saudi Arabia accounted for almost 40% of investment banking fees from the Middle East and North Africa region, according to LSEG data.