Haifa Al Dosari

Haifa Al Dosari


Samar Saleh’s diplomat appointment marks breakthrough for Saudi power women

Saudi Arabia's Minister of Commerce and Investment, Majid Al-Qasabi, has issued a decree appointing Saudi Samar Bint Mazen Saleh, as the country’s trade attaché in Tokyo, marking a first-time and milestone move in the ministry's history.

Trade relations and business between Riyadh and Tokyo size up to over 100 billion Saudi Riyals, according to official statistics released in 2016; figures reflecting both the magnitude and closeness of Saudi-Japanese trade and economic ties. In this context, Samar Saleh’s high-level appointment as the trade liaison between both economic powers speaks volumes on the Kingdom’s faith and confidence in Saudi women. It also reiterates the Saudi leadership’s commitment to a level playing field between Saudi’s female power players and their male counterparts, particularly as the KSA and Japan enter a transitional stage in their trade relations, with a core focus on reinforcing economic collaboration to unprecedented levels.

International exposure

Samar Saleh had previously served as a director for the Saudi Commercial Attaché in Italy, where she was tasked with the development of commercial trade between both countries, with a focus on non-hydrocarbon diversification, goods and services. This wealth of experience catapulted her to the top, where she climbed up the ranks to her current role and appointment.

During her stint in Italy, Saleh honed a multi-faceted skillset and work experience, coordinating with a number of governmental Saudi and Italian authorities to push the Kingdom’s non-hydrocarbon economic diversification efforts. The latter fall under an umbrella executive plan by the Foreign Trade Agency of Attachés. Moreover, Saleh’s remit extended to top-level, strategic relationship-building with leading businesspeople in Italy, and to significant contributions into opening up the Italian market to the “Made in Saudi Arabia” initiative – aimed at promoting the import of homegrown Saudi products.

Managing finances

Prior to her diplomatic trade career, Saleh obtained her master’s degree in journalism and international media from London’s City University. She later graduated from Harvard University’s Program for Executive Leadership.

Earlier in her academic journey, Saleh pursued her baccalaureate degree in journalism and media, with an emphasis on international and governmental relations from the American University of Sharjah, in addition to a number of training modules.

Her early career days were in the finance field, where she took on small roles and responsibilities that grew in scope and in weight, all the way to Saleh’s crossover to diplomatic and trade roles in a number of governmental entities. Saleh’s dual mastery of English and Italian languages would catapult her career growth.

A league of diplomatic leaders

With this appointment and trajectory, Saleh joins a league of Saudi power women who have taken on international roles, be they on the official Saudi diplomat side, or on that of global organizations themselves. Putting an end to historically male-dominated setups and structures – not only in the Kingdom, but also, in foreign markets – Saudi’s leading women visibly broke through the diplomacy circles and glass ceiling in recent months.

In September 2017, Fatimah Baeshen would make the first female rep for a Saudi governmental entity as the Saudi embassy’s spokesperson in Washington. 

Dr. Thoraya Ebeid, today a member of the Shura Council, has made equally great strides for Saudi women in the global humanitarian field.

Having previously served as the executive director of the United Nations Population Fund, and as the assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ebeid was the first Saudi woman to head a UN agency.

Dr. Afnan Al-Shuaibi, the secretary-general and executive president of the British Arab Chamber of Commerce, is another forerunner success for Saudi women.

Elected twice for her current role, first in 2007 and then in 2013, Al-Shuaibi was the first Saudi woman to receive the Diplomat of the Year award from the British Diplomatic Magazine. The accolade was in recognition of her efforts into the overhaul and rise of the Arabic organization as an active leader in Arab and British diplomatic fields.

Saudi businesswoman Nashwa Al-Taher, who was appointed as an honorary consul to the Netherlands, is another prominent Saudi figure in the global and local economic and diplomatic arenas.

In the global sports organization arena, media figure Samira Aziz was elected as the director of the United Nations International Sports Federation.

Royal ties

On the heels of King Salman bin Abdulaziz diplomatic visit to Japan in March of 2017 – under his Asian tour that included Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, China, the Maldives and Jordan –  economic and trade collaboration between the KSA and Japan grew by leaps and bounds.

The visit entailed and resulted in the signing of a number of strategic agreements and bilateral partnerships, most notable of which was a MoU (memorandum of understanding) between the Saudi and Japanese government for a joint 2030 vision. The latter stipulates unprecedented levels of economic collaboration, extending outside of hydrocarbon trade and automotive imports, and toward a fully-fledged strategic partnership.

Trade relations between Tokyo and Riyadh date back to decades ago, when the first Japanese economic delegation arrived to the Kingdom in 1953, before the establishment of official diplomatic ties between both countries in 1955.

Women in this article

Saudi leader in diplomacy, and the first Saudi woman to serve as the Trade Attaché in the Saudi Ministry of Commerce and Investment

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