Saudi Arabia easing business norms for foreign entrepreneurs


When Bader Alsaad planned a startup in creative marketing two years ago, he hardly had an idea about the time it would take for him to do all the paperwork before he could put things together to set the venture on a roll.

The approval process was lengthy and tedious, so one had to be patient. Such a situation might have dissuaded many from venturing into the world of business altogether. In today’s Saudi Arabia, however, all these seem to be a thing of the past. Thanks to the various initiatives by the government, doing business in the kingdom has never been easier.

One of those initiatives is Meras, launched last year by the Executive Committee for Improving the Performance of Business in the Private Sector (Tayseer), an arm of the Ministry of Trade and Investment. The objective of the project is to facilitate trade and investment activities in Saudi Arabia, improve the business environment and make it attractive and competitive for domestic and foreign capital.

Ahmed Al Obaishi, Advisor to the Vice Minister at Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Commerce and Investment and Manager of the Meras project. /Photo via Saudi Ministry of Culture and Information’s Center for International Communication

Meras seeks to do this by providing necessary support and services needed in an integrated and easy way for investors. “To do this, we have been integrating the services of all relevant government entities so that we can serve as a one-stop shop – a unified digital platform – for entrepreneurs and investors,” Ahmed Al Obaishi, Advisor to the Vice Minister at the Ministry of Commerce and Investment, who is also the manager of the Meras project, told CGTN Digital.

“Meras offers services for local and foreign investors, male and female entrepreneurs, as well as middle, small and large enterprises,” he added.

Ahmed Al Hamoud, 29, a Riyadh entrepreneur, said he could feel the difference these efforts are making in the lives of aspiring traders and investors. “Only those who have gone through the hassle of setting up a business here will know how much distance we have traveled in a short time,” he said. “Compared to those days, it’s a cakewalk today. I am sure this system will make life easier and encourage more people to invest in our country. The best part is that you can save on time and energy.”

The main components of the initiative include Meras comprehensive service centers, Meras e-platform, consolidated access to business services, the interactive business startup guide, providing basic services from the private sector including opening a bank account for the enterprise. “Basically, you get every support at the click of a mouse,” Al Obaishi said.

Also read: New Saudi initiative seeks Chinese investors to set up businesses in the Gulf kingdom

He added that Meras is looking to extend help to foreign investors, including those from China, to set up their business in Saudi Arabia.

A view of the Kingdom Centre in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. /VCG Photo

China has been Saudi Arabia’s largest trading partner since 2015 and bilateral ties between both the nations have warmed over the years. China’s plans in the Middle East under the Belt and Road Initiative are entirely in sync with the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s “Vision 2030” initiatives, a Saudi government official told CGTN Digital last month.

“It is natural that the kingdom wants Chinese entrepreneurs and investors to make use of the Meras initiative in setting up businesses in Saudi Arabia,” said Al Obaishi,

The Minister of Commerce and Investment, Dr Majid Al Qassabi, called the Meras initiative “a qualitative leap” in the process of reorganizing government procedures through an integrated system.

“This is just the kind of initiative our country needs,” said Mohammed Abdulhameed, a university graduate who plans to venture into the food business. “The ease of doing business is a crucial component for developing the economy.”

“Since launching the initiative, on August 8, more than 91,000 commercial records have been processed through Meras,” Al Obaishi said.

In the near future, Meras aims to expand its services by incorporating a unified licensing facility for every kind of business, as well as other general and specialized services. “Each move is only going to make people happy,” Al Hamoud said.

[Cover Photo: Meras offers services for local and foreign investors, male and female entrepreneurs, as well as the middle, small and large enterprises. /VCG Photo]