Saudi Arabia seeks global partners to tap cultural opportunities

Saudi Arabia is seeking partnership with global partners, including leading international museums, after adding culture to the forefront of its investment agenda in the wake of the G20 meeting last year.

The Ministry of Culture, which was established three years ago to promote cultural growth and in support of Vision 2030, estimates that the culture sector could generate USD20 billion in revenues and create 100,000 jobs, while contributing 3% to gross domestic product (GDP).

Rakan Altouq, head of strategy and policy at the Ministry says Saudi will use the Cultural Development Fund, created last year, to bridge the gap between public and private funding. He expects the Fund to create what he calls, “a bridge of capital.”

The Ministry recognises that the country’s cultural targets can’t be achieved without the input of private capital. The Invest Saudi and Shareek programmes are expected to help engage with private sector investment, as part of Vision 2030.

Invest Saudi is a nation-wide investment brand, overseen by the Ministry of Investment. It aims to enable closer collaboration and alignment across public and private sectors. Shareek is a trillion-dollar collaborative private sector plan that aims to strengthen partnerships within the private sector.

The Saudi national culture strategy outlines three main aims – culture as a way of life, culture as a tool for economic growth, and culture as an exchange mechanism.

A new partnership was agreed in May between the culture ministers of Saudi Arabia and Greece. The venture will establish ‘Culture Weeks’ in both Saudi and Greece, including heritage and art exhibitions, and joint archaeological projects have also been discussed. The agreement will include the exchange of cultural goods, services and skills worth nearly $1 billion.

A recent report ‘The State of Culture in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 2020: Digitalisation of Culture’, found that, while the culture sector undoubtedly faced challenges through the pandemic, it had also generated opportunities and the shift towards digitalisation. It highlighted a range of activities in cultural sub-sectors, including heritage, museums, archaeological and cultural landscapes, architecture and design, visual arts and music.

As part of its ambitious Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia is creating a host of new attractions, including ‘giga-projects’ designed to stimulate the economy and become integrated economic ecosystems.

In April, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, chairman of the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU), unveiled an ambitious ‘The Journey through Time’ development of the world’s largest living museum, which includes five unique districts, five heritage sites, 15 cultural assets and ten million square metres of green spaces.

The plan is hoped to create development opportunities and sustainable economic growth alongside preserving the cultural legacy of AlUla, one of the oldest cities in the Arabian Peninsula and home to Hegra, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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