Kingdom to adopt new technologies more rapidly: Al-Khorayef

HANNOVER, Germany – Ministers and officials from the public sector gathered to discuss and debate the cooperation required to kickstart manufacturing amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for a globally available vaccine, and balancing the benefits of fourth industrial revolution technologies with potential job losses at the Virtual Edition of the Global Manufacturing and Industrialization Summit (#GMIS2020) on Saturday.

Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources Bandar Bin Ibrahim Al-Khorayef delivered a keynote that addressed the challenges that have been triggered by the pandemic, and how the consequences of the virus are going to encourage manufacturers in the Kingdom to adopt new technologies like artificial intelligence and 3D printing more rapidly.

“We believe, in Saudi Arabia, that one of the most important ways that we can accelerate the industrial sector is to adopt new waves of industrial revolution,” he said.

“We have what it takes in terms of financial resources, in terms of setting the direction, but most importantly, we have the required talent as a result of our demographics. We have a lot of young people who are well-educated and will be able to accommodate these technologies and this is an avenue for them to enter into the industrial sector.”

Policymakers on the panel ‘The Policymakers Challenge: Navigating through a recession’ included Nurul Majid Mahmud Humayun, minister of industry, Bangladesh, Soraya Hakuziyaremye, minister of trade and industry, republic of Rwanda, and Arkady Dvorkovich, chairman, Skolkovo Foundation, Russia.

Hakuziyaremye said Rwanda embarked on an industrialization program, Made in Rwanda Policy in 2015, to develop its local manufacturing capacity and build a resilient economy.

The program has been a success so far, with the country recording 16% growth in its industrial sector in 2019. While the pandemic has hit the region hard, regional cooperation in East Africa is playing an important role in keeping supply chains moving during the crisis.

“Of course, this unprecedented pandemic has come with its challenges,” she said. “Rwanda is a landlocked country, so the supply chain disruption means that our manufacturing industry has seen its transport costs go up, with access to all materials disrupted.

“It was critical for the East African region to harmonize the response to COVID-19 and this has somewhat mitigated the risk that our industries are facing.”

She added that some industries in Rwanda, especially the textile and garment industries, had recently been repurposed to produce Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and some local companies are now developing face shields and ventilators.

Dvorkovich said a vaccine is crucial and that Russa’s recently developed vaccine could provide an answer. “I think the development of the new vaccine against COVID-19 is really critical to stabilise the global economy,” he said.

“We believe that the vaccine that has been developed in Russia recently is safe. It's not going to be an overnight solution for the manufacturing sector, but the development of vaccines gives the hope that a reasonable timeframe for improvement is the end of 2021.”

Dvorkovich added that the disruption to global value chains caused by the pandemic had encouraged more local production in Russia and many other countries. However, he warned against countries going down the path of introducing protectionist measures in response to the pandemic.

“Many governments have been frightened by the risk of not getting the right goods and services in time that could damage their local economies,” he said.

“More and more localization is going on all around the world, including in Russia. But what we are trying to do is to find out what are the critical things to produce in Russia rather than turning the whole economy into an island. We have a future export potential, and if we close our markets for other countries then other countries will do the same towards our products.”

Striking the balance between embracing digital technologies and ensuring ongoing job security is a priority for Bangladesh, said Humayun. “The fourth industrial revolution calls for a highly-skilled tech force,” he said.

“For a country like Bangladesh, where two million people are entering the job market every year, poverty alleviation is the major challenge, and there's a substantial amount of low-income people who are directly engaged in low-skilled manufacturing jobs.

“To realize the dream of a digital Bangladesh, we are preparing to embrace the benefits of all 4IR technologies, keeping a fine balance between modernization and job creation for the masses.”

The summit, a joint initiative by the United Arab Emirates and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), is being held virtually for the first time due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the impact of the virus on businesses, societies and economies was a recurring theme among speakers at the #GMIS2020 Virtual Summit.




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