Tech Giants Including Apple to Open Saudi Academies

Global tech giants including Apple and Microsoft will open training academies in Saudi Arabia, as the oil-rich kingdom looks to position itself as a Middle East hub for technology and innovation.

Other multinational corporations including Google, Amazon, Oracle, IBM, and Cisco said they will help provide training in software development and coding, Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdullah Alswaha said in a statement. That will further bring the kingdom into competition with the United Arab Emirates, where Abu Dhabi and Dubai have also been trying to do the same and have a headstart.

“We have an amazing relationship with the UAE and all of our neighbors, but rightfully we should focus on our competitive advantages and our own ambitions,” Alswaha said in a separate interview. 

In August, the kingdom launched a series of technology initiatives worth over $1.2 billion aimed at improving the digital skills of Saudi schoolchildren. The aim is to train one programmer among every 100 Saudis by 2030.

In its effort to get a leg up, Saudi Arabia has been increasing its pressure on international firms to shift their Middle East hubs to the kingdom. From the start of 2024, the Saudi government and state-backed institutions will stop signing contracts with foreign companies that base their Middle East headquarters in any other country in the region, a Saudi official said in February.

“Companies that will move their headquarters to the region will be given preference towards government contracts and quasi-government companies,” Alswaha said, adding there is “active discussion” with Microsoft, Cisco and other tech heavyweights on that matter. “We’re pretty confident that soon you will hear announcements in that field.” 

American-Japanese cybersecurity software firm Trend Micro and China-based gaming firm OneMT said they will launch their headquarters in the kingdom. Google and Alibaba have committed to build a regional cloud business.

The kingdom also unveiled on Wednesday the manufacture of the first Saudi-made smart chip to be used in military, civil and commercial applications. 

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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