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The “Davos of the Desert” opens today in Saudi Arabia

Over the next two days, the best and brightest of the world's decision-makers will gather in the kingdom for the Future Investment Initiative, or FII, the region's most important economic event. Whether they come from the private or public sector, they will speak at the forum, and will discuss the issue: "What is next for Global Business?

“Business, finance, and government all working together… The FII is a free flow of ideas to change the status quo. It is in these words that Yasir al-Rumayyan, Governor of the Saudi Public Investment Fund, in his opening speech, described the Congress, the third edition of which opened this morning. 3 days of meetings and exchanges to create synergies on a global scale to prepare the world of tomorrow.

An unmissable event

In just 3 years, the FII, also known as the “Davos of the Desert”, has succeeded in establishing itself as a key venue for the world’s greatest decision-makers. This year, more than 300 participants from 30 different countries are expected to address some 6,000 visitors. Among them, President Trump’s advisor and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, King Abdullah II of Jordan, or Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, are expected, as are many business and institutional leaders.

 

A particular context

As we know, Saudi Arabia is at a turning point in its history. It goes without saying that after the country’s recent opening to non-religious tourism, it is important to have healthy relations with the whole planet. Thus, as Yasir al-Rumayyan points out, in the space of three editions, the geographical origin of the participants and guests has greatly expanded, with more representation from the African continent, China, India, and Japan, demonstrating this desire to engage in a common reflection on the future of world trade.

Another key contextual point is the IPO of the oil company Saudi Aramco. The operation, which has been delayed many times, represents a giant step forward for the kingdom, the world’s largest exporter of crude oil, and for the company, which is considered the most profitable in the world. That is why, following the recent attacks on Aramco, it is appropriate for the company – let alone the kingdom – to be seen as a reliable trusted third party, and what better showcase for this than the IFI?

 

Be “ready for tomorrow”

As the day progresses and trends take shape, it is clear that representatives such as Stephen Schwarzman, founder and CEO of the American investment fund Blackstone Group, or John Waldron, President and Chief Operating Officer of Goldman Sachs, are all keen to show their good understanding of the challenges of the future (mastering new technologies such as the cloud, blockchain, artificial intelligence, etc. ; business model resilience in the face of disruption; ability to disrupt; management issues in the face of the power of the Internet and social media; etc).

 

It is in this same vein that rapper Will.i.am, invited to express himself as an entrepreneur in the artificial intelligence sector, addressed the public: “Tomorrow is nothing like yesterday. Technology has changed my life. It started with music, I’m not a musician in the classical sense of the word, my instrument is a computer. And that computer changed my life. Now, I would like to bring inspiration to an entire community for the future. However, he recalled that the human being must remain at the center of the debate. “Since the creation of my philanthropic activity, we have raised nearly $11 million for the education of the population, for human intelligence. In the same period of time, we have raised $150 million for artificial intelligence. It is important to redress this imbalance, governments must develop the same enthusiasm for human intelligence as the private sector has for artificial intelligence.