The chairman of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (Sagia) has pledged to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the kingdom as the country tries to diversify its economy and create employment opportunities for nationals.

Speaking at an event hosted in Riyadh by the US’ General Electric (GE), Abdullatif Al-Othman said that a number of initiatives were being put in place to promote entrepreneurial activity by many of the kingdom’s major companies and Sagia is supporting this.

“The subject of SMEs is something that has come to light recently,” said Al-Othman. “There are many initiatives being implemented by both the private sector and the state-owned companies such as Saudi Aramco. Sagia supports all of these initiatives and we are seeing what we can do to complement them.”

Al-Othman also said that Sagia planned to support SMEs in some of the kingdom’s untapped sectors and said that it needed to “find a niche” for itself. He cited ease in starting a business, ease of getting labour and the opportunity to team up with larger investors as vital factors to support entrepreneurs.

The official also called for a change in culture in the kingdom to encourage young people to take risks and embrace enterprise instead of aiming to find work in government positions when they leave university.

“We are observing a change in that culture and the generation of today is more entrepreneurial than maybe the last generation,” he said. “This will be done if we work hard to educate young people and ensure there are mentoring schemes. We expect large investors to help SMEs.”

Sagia is a government body that supports new and existing businesses in Saudi Arabia. It is planning a series of economic cities across the kingdom as part of these plans.