November 2019 Chairman’s Message

Dear ABGR Members,

I hope this report finds you well and enjoying the cooler climate that ushers in the holiday season in KSA. Momentous changes are happening in our adopted home as I’m sure I don’t need to tell you. My adult daughters will be joining us for a couple of weeks in December, something made possible by the new Saudi tourist visa. In case you also have friends and family who want to visit, I can confirm that the online visa application works as advertised. Their visas came through in one case within 24 hours, the other in a few days. And perhaps if you’ve traveled recently by air or passed through London Heathrow airport you’ve seen the advertisements for Saudi tourism. 

And in addition to the exotic natural beauty of the Kingdom, we have Riyadh Season to enjoy. With all of the entertainment events in the city now, it’s impossible to take advantage of them all. While I was away on business, my wife went to the concert by the Korean pop band BTS and had an awesome experience listening to the music and watching a mixed audience of young Saudis dancing to the beat. Let me caution you about events at Riyadh Boulevard on the way to the airport. Allow extra time to get to your flight if traveling on the weekend. You’re likely to run into a traffic jam as event-goers search for parking.

Likewise, we’ve had our own vibrant program of events in October and November. That will continue up to mid-December and then we’ll take a holiday break as many of you will be departing to your end-of-year vacations. 

In October, we had great turnouts for these presentations:

  • 7th – ExxonMobil analysts Chris Birdsall and Irene Chang shared their work on the future of the global energy economy through 2040. 
  • 15th– We were introduced to the new US Foreign Commercial Services deputy attaché Gary Rand and learned more about the important mission they have to promote American business interests in KSA. We maintain a great relationship with the FCS in Riyadh they advise our Board of Directors at every meeting.
  • 21st– Our highlight of the fall programs was the “Meet the Ambassador” event with The Honorable John Abizaid, our own top diplomat and direct representative of the President to the Kingdom. Ambassador Abizaid has made a huge impact to the American business community with his strong commitment to fostering US commerce here. I was honored to introduce this devoted public servant.
  • 28th – The ACME Committee held another well-attended meeting that featured a presentation by Thomas Davis, the CEO of King Abdullah Financial District.

We followed up that great set of member meetings with an equally informative slate of events in November:

  • 13th – Our regular sessions of social and business networking evenings continued at Ishbilia Compound, and we thank Ishbilia’s management for their graciously hosting the event.
  • 19th – Former Advisor to the President for National Security Stephen Hadley and entrepreneur Dheeraj Pandey of tech company Nutanix held a fascinating discussion with us on the security and business outlook for Saudi Arabia and the region. I know I came away thinking about the big ideas they shared, and I hope you did too. Clearly, we are living on the front edge of history here in the Kingdom and we should remember that forest when we get focused on the trees of our daily concerns.
  • 22nd – I was honored to attend the Tom Merkel Ryder Cup dinner and to receive a special trophy on behalf of Tom’s wife Barb. Your ABGR vice-chairman Tarik Solomon gave a moving eulogy to recognize the naming of this tournament that Tom so loved. We are so grateful to the British Golf Society for ensuring that the memory of our friend Tom Merkel, gone too soon, will live on. 
  • 28th – As we close out the month, the Defense and Security Committee is meeting with the SAGIA leadership focused on promoting investment in the defense sector. SAGIA has made great strides in reforming the regulation of foreign businesses and is truly now creating a fertile ground for international companies. 

Looking forward to December, we anticipate presentations by PriceWaterhouseCooper and a general membership engagement with SAGIA. Please register early for the SAGIA event as the number of participants will be limited.

As we close out the fall program season, thank you for your continued support of ABGR. The Board will roll out some changes next year intended to improve our services to you and better reflect our role as the American Chamber in Saudi Arabia. Have a great, productive end of 2019 and I’ll update you again in December before we begin an even more successful new year.

As we close out the fall program season, thank you for your continued support of ABGR. The Board will roll out some changes next year intended to improve our services to you and better reflect our role as the American Chamber in Saudi Arabia. Have a great, productive end of 2019 and I’ll update you again in December before we begin an even more successful new year.

Best Regards, Happy Thanksgiving, and Happy Holidays,

Kevin Darnell
Chairman

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Kevin Darnell

Kevin Darnell is director of Business Development and Operations for Raytheon Saudi Arabia (RTN SA) and is based in Riyadh. chairman@abgrksa.com +966-11-478-2554