The US Company Amazon is adding numerous jobs in the Saudi capital Riyadh, in-line with the pronouncements of the company’s chief executive after a closely watched meeting with the Saudi Crown Prince.
Bloomberg reported that Amazon’s chief executive officer, Jeff Bezos recently met with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman who had planned to discuss a potential project with the Saudi Ministry of Energy for Amazon to construct a data hub in the country. Such a data hub would be the Middle East’s first for the largest cloud provider in the world.
Amazon recently began advertising at least five new full-time positions for e-commerce and grocery operations in the capital, while the data center proposal’s status is unclear.
Souq.com that is owned by Amazon also added 3 others in Dubai recently. Amazon’s head of Middle East and Africa, Raf Fatani promoted the jobs on his Twitter account, which includes a key role for a government relations representative. The company didn’t immediately respond to request for comment.
The cloud providing company is looking for a win in the Middle East, after leaving China to Alibaba Group Holding. Amazon is locked in expensive competition with homegrown online shopping sites in Brazil, India and elsewhere. Worldwide expansion has been costly with international operations losing $3 billion last year.
Last year the company purchased Souq.com, a Dubai based retailer to take out its main rivals in the region. The Middle Eastern region has trailed behind the rest of the world in the area of e-commerce. Mobile and online shopping is however picking up in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and the other more developed countries where smart phone penetration is higher.
According to EMarketer, a research firm, Middle Eastern and African online sales by 2021 are expected to reach $49 billion, rising from $29 billion this year.
The previous head of government relations for Gulf countries at Google, who is currently CEO of the MENA Catalysts, a consulting firm for tech companies growing to the Middle East, Sam Blatteis said that the United States is the largest investor in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the Crown Prince’s 3 week tour is designed to cultivate more deals.
The Crown Prince’s visit has mostly been free from controversy, in spite of the international criticism of recent Saudi moves such as the temporary jailing of top businessmen at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh and the Saudi-led bombing in Yemen.
Blatteis said that the kingdom needs to increase foreign investment coming into the country to help finance its ambitious development agenda and reform.