What's New in the Gulf.
By Piercamillo Falasca & Daniela Palumbo
This, the 21st edition of our StratEGIC Monthly, looks at some of the key issues defining the Euro-Gulf space in October 2023 and focuses on some of the main political, economic and social issues that define their trajectory and underline the possible future of the global geopolitical balance.
OpenAI and Abu Dhabi’s G42 Forge a Strategic Partnership to Propel Generative AI Advancements in the Middle East
By Piercamillo Falasca
OpenAI, the pioneering creator of the ChatGPT AI platform, has entered into a strategic partnership with G42, an Abu Dhabi-based cloud and AI company. This collaboration is part of OpenAI’s expansion efforts in the United Arab Emirates and the wider Middle East. The partnership, announced at the Gitex Global technology conference in Dubai, aims to leverage OpenAI’s generative AI models across various sectors, including finance, energy, healthcare, and public services.
G42, led by the influential National Security Adviser Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan, will collaborate with OpenAI to deliver tailored solutions that align with the unique needs of the region. The partnership is characterised as a “convergence of value and vision” by G42 CEO Peng Xiao, emphasising the shared commitment to harnessing AI’s transformative power. Sam Altman, co-founder and CEO of OpenAI, expressed enthusiasm about the collaboration, stating, “Our partnership with G42 is a significant commitment to further harnessing AI’s transformative power.” Altman highlighted the intention to empower businesses and communities with effective AI solutions that resonate with the nuances of the Middle East.
The rise of generative AI investments among the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, including the UAE and Saudi Arabia, suggests significant economic growth potential. According to a PwC report, the GCC countries could benefit from about $23.5 billion in economic growth by 2030 through investments in generative AI. The UAE and Saudi Arabia have been instrumental in driving generative AI adoption, with major investments and dedicated policies garnering international attention.
Initiatives in the UAE and Saudi Arabia:
The Technology Innovation Institute (TII), supported by Abu Dhabi’s government, has been actively contributing to the development of generative AI capabilities in the region. TII recently unveiled its Falcon flagship Large Language Model program, along with an advanced version, demonstrating the commitment to advancing generative AI capabilities. In Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved the establishment of the International Center for Artificial Intelligence Research and Ethics in Riyadh. This initiative aims to accelerate the growth of advanced technologies, including AI, reflecting the country’s commitment to staying at the forefront of technological innovation. The OpenAI-G42 partnership represents a significant step towards harnessing the transformative power of generative AI in the Middle East. As the region continues to invest in advanced technologies, collaboration like this are poised to shape a future where AI benefits all of humanity. With a focus on tailored solutions and industry expertise, the partnership aims to drive innovation and progress in sectors crucial to the region’s development.
Oman’s New Governance: “Together We Progress” Forum
By Daniela Palumbo
The inauguration of the national online forum “Together We Progress” marks a key step towards enhancing communication channels between the government and citizens. The initiative aims to create a solid platform for active dialogue, promoting inclusiveness and harmony in Oman’s multicultural society. Governments around the world increasingly recognise the necessity to engage in inclusive dialogues with their citizens and Oman’s initiative is a response to this need. Located at an important nexus between the Arab world, Iran and the wider Indian Ocean littoral, Oman has, historically, adopted a unique approach to governance and has long prioritised stability and social harmony. The accession of Sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al Said (2020) comes as the Sultanate unpacks an assortment of socio-economic reforms. The Forum encourages citizens to suggest ideas and participate in discussions on policies and initiatives that directly impact their lives. And, the possibility of having direct, and instant, feedback from the people can definitely lead to more personalised and effective policies that will be able to respond to the different needs and ambitions of the citizens.
Some challenges may be identified here that may impact the success of the body. For instance, the digital gap within the population may impinge on access to space: between various ages, social classes and regions. Furthermore, the mechanisms to guarantee data privacy and security and that insights and feedback gathered through the Forum are adequately considered remains crucial. Overall, the “Together We Progress” Forum embodies a progressive and collaborative approach that recognises the importance of citizen engagement in shaping the future of the country.
NEOM Comes to Europe
By Daniela Palumbo
Saudi Arabia’s cutting-edge city, NEOM, announced the establishment of an office in London (UK) as a hub for enhancing business dynamics with Europe. The NEOM office aim’s to promote trade, investment and technological collaboration and to communicate with European markets. This could stimulate economic ties by facilitating both the exchange of skills, capital and innovation. European companies could help develop certain parts of NEOM’s infrastructure and advanced technologies, potentially fostering growth in various sectors, such as renewable energy, biotechnology and artificial intelligence. The NEOM office is set to also act as a gateway for European companies seeking opportunities in Saudi Arabia more generally because NEOM is a reflection of Riyadh’s intention to economically diversify and reduce its dependence on oil revenues. Saudi Arabia is quickly emerging as a hub in international trade and commerce and the whole of Europe is looking east to solve many of its challenges—based on the Saudi model that intersects innovation and skills with visions for the future.
The Evolution of Women's Role in Saudi Arabia
By Daniela Palumbo
The International Conference on Women in Islam, held in Jeddah (06 November), organised by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), was a watershed moment in political-legal reforms to improve justice. Saudi Arabia’s recent past have seen a series of ambitious reforms that further empowers women, promotes gender equality constructs a more integrated social and economic context—nationwide.
The Conference provided an important opportunity to discuss the rights, role and empowerment of women from an Islamic context. The event touched some crucial topics, starting from legislative issues to women’s participation in diplomacy and business. Several authoritative voices stressed the importance of revising laws to ensure equality without compromising cultural and religious values. Education has emerged as a key pillar of empowerment, providing women with the tools to actively participate not only in a social way, but also, and crucially, in the world of employment.
Challenges remain; combating gender stereotypes that have been deployed in public discourses and in harmonising local traditions with Islamic principles, for instance. Nevertheless, the conference demonstrated a willingness to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women in the Islamic world, paving the way for further conferences and actions to ensure a more inclusive future for Muslim women around the world.