RIYADH: With the modernization of retail underway, e-commerce is booming in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, with Saudi Arabia emerging as its top performing country.

Speaking at a session titled “The State of MENA Retail” on the opening day of the Retail Leaders Circle MENA Summit 2020 in Riyadh on Monday, Cyrille Fabre, partner at Bain & Company, said: “In MENA, the e-commerce market grew 29 percent from approximately $8.5 billion in 2017 to $14.3 billion in 2019.

“Saudi Arabia is booming in terms of e-commerce and is the number one market in the region in terms of growth and size,” he added.

Saudi Minister of Commerce and Investment Majed bin Abdullah Al-Qasabi said: “E-commerce in the Kingdom has grown significantly; We have more than SR80 billion ($21.3 billion) in services and products and 45,000 shops and e-commerce platforms.”

Welcoming leading business-people to the opening session of the summit being held for the first time in the Kingdom, he added: “As we begin to focus on the Kingdom’s value proposition, we have a unique blend of opportunities that make Saudi Arabia a destination for investment.”

Speaking on e-commerce outlook Ahmed Al-Hakbani, governor of Saudi Customs said: “In the 2020 Doing Business report from the World Bank, Saudi Arabia jumped 72 global positions in one year in the (Trading Across Borders) measure.

“We want to expedite e-commerce. When it comes to e-commerce, we are putting much more emphasis on customer service and ensuring online retailers uphold the standards of the traditional retail sector.”

Arab News’ regional correspondent, Rawan Radwan, moderated a session on “Retail as a Job Creation Engine” where Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) Deputy Gov. Ibrahim Al-Suwail talked about foreign investment, and Faisal Alshaya, general manager of the Alshaya Group, and Faraz Khalid, CEO of Noon, the Middle East’s homegrown online marketplace, talked about providing training to young Saudis.

“The Kingdom has been working across government agencies to re-engineer the licensing processes and reduce requirements and we are seeing positive implications for the ease of doing business,” said Al-Suwail.

Speaking to Arab News, Rayan B. Zahid, CEO of Microsoft Arabia said: “It's a remarkable day where we see the first such event on retail, especially in a market that is so promising. The opportunity is huge in Saudi Arabia under Vision 2030’s plan to diversify income. We look at this at Microsoft as a great opportunity that will help this industry to evolve in the Kingdom."

Abdellah Iftahy, a partner at McKinsey & Company told Arab News: “I think this retail summit happening in Saudi Arabia is a big sign of the importance of retail in the Kingdom.”

Citing a survey by McKinsey on Saudi consumers, he said: “Half of them think that the economy will be positive this year. Last year it was 40 percent, that’s now up 10 percent.”

Organized under the patronage of the minister of Commerce and Investment, in partnership with Invest Saudi, local, regional and international leaders convened in Riyadh for this two-day summit to examine the strengths of the retail industry and economic growth opportunities within the sector.

Retail Leaders Circle is an international platform for expert-led debate between CEOs, industry innovators and influencers with the power to shape the future of retail.

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