The knowledge

Saudi Arabia's investment authority SAGIA is the driving force behind the country's Economic City plans. Its GM for IT reveals how it approaches the technology environment.

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By  Administrator Published  April 1, 2007

The Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) is playing a pivotal role in allowing the Kingdom to fulfil its economic ambitions by attracting foreign direct investment (FDI), and promoting its newly liberalised investment laws. In particular, SAGIA is involved in plans to establish four economic cities, which should attract nearly US$80 billion from external investors.

To ensure it can provide the information and services clients and potential investors require, SAGIA has invested in cutting-edge IT systems that link together all of the necessary parties involved in inward investment.

And one man in particular has played a pivotal role in developing this infrastructure and process-oriented business model. Dr Khaled S Al-Bulaihed, general manager of the IT department at SAGIA, has spent the last 18 months driving the investment agency's systems, to create a business friendly IT environment that appeals to global investors.

"We are driving our IT initiative from the business strategy that has been set," says Al-Bulaihed. "SAGIA has a strategy that aims to create an investment environment that will position the Kingdom among the globe's top ten countries in terms of competitiveness by 2010. By then, KSA will be one of the biggest and most important financial centres in the area," he adds.

From the first moment that an external investor expresses interest in one of the economic city projects underway in Saudi Arabia, to the point where that investment potential becomes a reality, SAGIA plays its part, acting as the intermediary driving the process forwards.

"We started working on this one year ago and developed the concept of bringing extremely innovative business solutions to how SAGIA would interact with investors starting from the prospecting cycle, whether they are inside or outside Saudi Arabia. This is our main focus and we needed to develop an IT solution that would actually enable SAGIA to give investors a powerful experience to find and execute their investment opportunities," explains Al-Bulaihed.

"This project, titled Asaleeb, the Arabic word for methods, is actually a business solution that composes of processes and IT. This is the main mission that I have been working on for the last year and a half," he adds.

SAGIA is working in two main areas. First with the investor prospects to capture the business opportunities that they are interested in, developing meeting schedules, arranging visas and the like - all of this forms the prospecting area. The second part - once the prospect is ready to invest in Saudi Arabia - involves obtaining licences, visas and relevant labour documents. In that area SAGIA has already established three dedicated centres for this process.

"We are the front desk like a bank: we receive your request and then we pass it on to the correct government representative," says Al-Bulaihed.

"The three centres are inside Saudi Arabia but we have international presence and representatives outside Saudi Arabia in ten countries including China, the USA and the UK and we are extending this to other countries by 2007. Those international representatives are highly skilled individuals in their respective countries. With Asaleeb web-enabled environment it will let them - in front of the actual investor sitting at the same table - bring everything that we do into the room at that location be it in China or wherever."

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