Saudi Aramco kicks off The Talented Program to boost the Kingdom’s SME sector.

by: Arab News RIYADH: Oil giant Saudi Aramco has launched an initiative to support the Kingdom’s small and medium enterprises sector with funding of over SR3 billion ($798 million).

The Talented Program will tackle several common gaps facing SMEs — a sector the Senior Vice President of technical services at Aramco Ahmad Al Sa’adi called a vital economic engine and the foundation of the global economy in his speech at the launch ceremony.

To counter one of the main challenges faced by SMEs — funding, the Talented Program plans to collaborate with several major entities including Al Rajih Holding, Energy Capital and Lamar Holding, and others to raise over SR3 billion. This significant fund is subject to increase, Al Sa’adi said in an exclusive interview with Arab News.

“We are primarily focusing on five sectors: sustainability, digital, manufacturing, industrials, and social innovation which includes health technology, agricultural technology, and financial technology,” Al Sa’adi added during the interview.

Talented will feature 20 initiatives which are categorized into three diverse groups: job-matching upskilled local talent, creating business opportunities for SMEs, and supporting SMEs and enabling the ecosystem, according to a statement from Aramco.

While the program currently caters to 150 SMEs, Aramco aims to team up with up to 15,000 shortly. As part of the Talented Program, these businesses will have access to a range of special programs, funding, training and consulting services.

The program aims to train up to 15,000 SMEs annually, Al Sa’adi revealed in the interview.

During the event, Aramco signed 30 memorandums of understanding with public and private partners, which will aid in enabling the growth of the Kingdom’s SME ecosystem. The sector is eyeing a 35 percent contribution to the national gross domestic product by 2030.

Saudi Arabia’s SME sector has been booming thanks to the government and the private sector’s efforts to grow this prominent part of the economy.

According to the General Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises, or Monsha’at, the Kingdom had 752,560 SMEs by the end of the first quarter of 2022. The number of SMEs in the Kingdom increased by 14.6 per cent from 650,550 in the same period last year.

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