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Saudi requires direct investment

A number of vendors have been reiterating their commitment to the Saudi market, with promises of ‘business as usual’ despite the current security issues.

A number of vendors have been reiterating their commitment to the Saudi market at Gitex this week, with promises of ‘business as usual’ despite the current security issues being reported in the Western media.

Many firms have even gone as far as committing additional resources to the Kingdom, with Computer Associates (CA) taking the lead by announcing it will have three offices in Saudi by the end of the year.

“Where other international firms have recently been withdrawing staff we are opening three offices there [in the Kingdom]. This shows commitment to the region and Saudi Arabia,” says Gilbert Lacroix, CA’s vice president & general manager for the Middle East.

The US software firm’s Riyadh office is already functioning out of the Kingdom Tower, and two more will open in Jeddah and Dhahran respectively. CA’s locations are staffed, primarily, by Arabs, including a number of Saudi nationals. However, Lacroix is keen to point out that this is not entirely due to security concerns.

“The people we have been recruiting have been mainly Arabs, as well as some people from the sub-continent. This has just happened, rather than being part of a plan not to send Western expatriates to Saudi,” he explains.

One international vendor that did have Westerners in its Saudi office but relocated them to Bahrain earlier this year is Dell. However, the vendor is now stepping up its presence in the Kingdom.

“We are really seeing a lot of growth in the area, especially in Saudi Arabia. We moved our staff out of their because of the security situation, but we hope to be rebuilding the team there soon. It is a hugely growing market,” says John Moore, vice president for Dell EMEA’s regional business.

Despite the seemingly positive moves being made by the likes of CA and Dell, some are still unconvinced that vendors are committing enough resources to Saudi. Among those who would like to see yet more investment is Essam Albakr, vice president of Digicom Systems.

“Vendors are being lazy — they want to be based in Dubai but they also want to get rich in Saudi. What they have to do is get their hands dirty and work in Saudi,” he says. “It’s not as if there is a civil war in Saudi, as there was in Lebanon,” he adds.

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