Haifa Al Dosari

Haifa Al Dosari

Journalist

Saudi businesswomen invest $3.5 billion in Bahrain

The Bahraini Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) reveals the number of Saudi women investing in the Kingdom of Bahrain has reached 280, compared to more than 1,580 Saudi men.

CEO of the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dr. Khalid Al-Ruwaihi, says Saudi businesswomen have many projects in Bahrain, noting that Saudi investment involves more than 300 companies in a variety of sectors, with a total investment amount of nearly $3.5 billion.

Investments by billions

Saudi businesswomen were able to achieve a significant spread in many countries through huge investments that exceeded billions of dollars. This trend is expected to increase over time in part because of the legal services granted to Saudi businesswomen. Legal services are designed to assist these women in expanding their businesses.

In 2008, media reports indicated the volume of investments by Saudi women outside the Kingdom exceeded $26 billion, $16 billion of which were invested in Dubai. These women preferred to invest abroad due to the obstacles they faced in Saudi Arabia at that time.

However, once Saudi businesswomen asked for help in overcoming obstacles and for support generally, women’s roles in development flourished. Among the obstacles are difficulties in obtaining permits to establish investment projects, the failure to loan money to women without the presence of a “sponsor,” and the lack of providing licenses to women in certain fields historically limited to men.

The absence of a clear plan of action on the part of government agencies, especially as the agencies relate to women, as well as the lack of sufficient autonomy within some bodies that allocate special sections for women have played significant roles in limiting the prevalence of Saudi women investors. Recent policy changes have removed many obstacles. New policies are being considered to further reduce the prohibitions and difficulties women face.

Internal trade

In 2013, the head of the National Committee for Women at the Council of Saudi Chambers, Hoda Al-Jeraisy, stated the number of investment and economic entities owned by Saudi women surpassed 100,000 projects valued at $80 billion.

According to data issued in 2012, the number of Saudi businesswomen commercial ly registered at the Council of Saudi Chambers was more than 72,000, compared to more than 38,000 affiliates to the Chambers of Commerce.

Iman Abdel-Qader Falata, vice-president of the Businesswomen's Committee at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Medina, pointed out in 2014 that the number of commercially registered Saudi businesswomen increased by a staggering 253 percent over the previous year.

In 2016, major efforts to empower Saudi women in the labor market produced increased the number of Saudi women entering the workforce.  Basma Al-Omair, representative of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce, revealed that the employment rates of women in Saudi Arabia have increased by 48% since 2010.

Earlier reports confirmed that during the past six years, Saudi women’s participation in the Kingdom’s labor force has increased substantially. Saudi women in the workforce increased from 9% to 16%.

Promising future

During the past few years, Saudi women have struggled against the "legal agent" system, demanding the abolition of “sponsor” requirements. In February 2018, Saudi authorities announced that women were allowed to work in business without a guardian’s consent.

Banning women from driving was another obstacle that limited women’s ability to fully participate in business and society. A few months after King Salman bin Abdel-Aziz decided to allow women to drive, Saudi Arabia saw the inauguration of its first gas station managed entirely by the Saudi businesswoman Mervat Bukhari.

Saudi women are venturing beyond the role of housewife to become businesswomen who are engaged in vocational work such as Maha Al-Ajman who works as a carpenter and plumber. In addition to these new rules, women in Saudi Arabia were also appointed to leading posts in government, such as Dr. Tamadar Bint Yousef Al-Ramah, appointed as deputy to the minister of labor and social development. The future is bright for Saudi women in business, government, and educational opportunities.

Women in this article

Businesswoman, poet and media personality Mervat Bukhari is the first Saudi woman to run and work at a petrol station in Saudi Arabia.

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