CAIRO – A key investment conference began in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday with high-level officials from other nations in attendance as the kingdom tries to recover from a global backlash following the killing of Saudi Journalist Jamal Khashoggi a year ago.
US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin and US presidential adviser Jared Kushner, who boycotted the same event last year, were among those in attendance and were leading a US delegation of CEOs and investors.
Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro was also taking part in the Riyadh-hosted Future Investment Initiative (FII), dubbed “Davos in the desert” – an event designed to attract business to Saudi Arabia.
“More than 6,000 executives and participants are attending this year. The growth has been incredible,” said the head of Saudi’s sovereign wealth fund Yasir al-Rumayyan in his opening remarks at the third edition of the FII.
“Over the next three days, we will have some of the world greatest minds, entrepreneurs and business executives asking what is next.
“Like all great things FII began with a simple idea: to bring diverse leaders together to change the status quo.”
Al-Rumayyan pointed out the conference would focus on a sustainable future, explore new innovations and investment models, technology to guide future growth and advance society to inspire humanity in the age of machines.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari were taking part in the meeting that kicked off at 9 am.
“Landed in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, marking the start of an important visit aimed at strengthening ties with a valued friend. Will be taking part in a wide range of programs during this visit,” Modi tweeted.
Buhari tweeted that Nigerian officials will “take advantage of the summit to accelerate discussions on the planned interest of the Saudi oil company, Aramco, to revamp Nigeria’s refineries and new investments in the oil and gas sector.”
World Bank President David Malpass, Jordan’s King Abdullah and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta are among the list of speakers on the summit’s site.
Other attendees from Europe include CEOs of HSBC, Century Tech, Softbank Investment Advisers and Partners Group.
The FII’s website said that speakers are “coming from North America (39%), Europe (20%), Asia (19%) and the Middle East (15%).”
Last year, many big names in government, industry and other sectors boycotted the forum when Khashoggi failed to reemerge after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul weeks earlier.
Saudi Arabia initially denied any knowledge of the journalist’s disappearance but later said he died after a brawl broke out inside the consulate.
The Saudi prosecutor charged 11 people with his murder in January.
In June, the United Nations issued an investigation report that said “Khashoggi’s killing constituted an extrajudicial killing for which the State of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is responsible” and that “there is credible evidence, warranting further investigation of high-level Saudi Officials’ individual liability, including the Crown Prince’s.”