On 28 March 2021, the Saudi Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources and chairman of the Board of Directors of the Saudi Export Development Authority, Bandar Alkhorayef, launched the "Made in Saudi" program. This program aims to strengthen product development and contribute to establishing a brand identity for local industry. In November 2020, Alkhorayef previously led a bootcamp in Riyadh for designing the brand identity for the program, with the slogan "Design your country’s industrial brand," in which nine men and women designers from the Kingdom participated.
This coincided with the launch of the National Industrial Development and Logistics Program, as well as a number of other initiatives aiming to enhance local content in national products, under the supervision of the Local Content and Government Procurement Authority, which released a catalogue of preferred local content and mandatory lists for national products. The aim is to increase government demand for national products in various fields – thus demonstrating the Saudi government’s marked interest in the program.
It seems that there are many factors that may explain why this program was launched at this particular moment, as well as increasing societal acceptance of the program. These include the following:
1- Championing National Products: This program aims to support national products and to strengthen their role given that Saudi products are high-quality and are competitive at the regional level, as well as ensuring increased awareness of and trust in national products, or what is called the "national brand," i.e. what distinguishes the product from other products produced in other countries, as well as increasing the country’s export capacity and improving the balance of payments.
2- A Culture of Loyalty to National Production: During a virtual event in the Kingdom on 28 March 2021, Minister Bandar AlKhorayef said that "Made in Saudi aims to strengthen the culture of loyalty to national products. This has been designed through studying the experience of several countries that have achieved certain levels of success in developing their industrial capacity, through motivating their citizenry and cultivating a sense of loyalty to national products. This contributes to the localization of industry and to achieving self-sufficiency on various levels." This demonstrates a clear governmental intent to support Saudi products.
3- Identifying with Vision 2030: This program aligns with Saudi Vision 2030, which is a project launched by the Saudi Crown Prince to strengthen the foundations of his rule. Since its launch in 2016, it has focused on diversifying sources of income in the Kingdom and reducing reliance on oil, which has been the main source of income for the Kingdom. The "Made in Saudi" program is the largest program within Saudi Vision 2030, and operates within the "Bring It In" program, which deals with four important sectors: industry, energy, mineral resources, and logistics.
4- Creating job opportunities: This program will provide many job opportunities, especially for youth, who make up more than two-thirds of Saudi society. It may achieve its goal of providing more than a million jobs to Saudi Arabian men and women in small- and medium-sized enterprises by the beginning of 2030. The program literature suggests that it will not limit itself to providing jobs, but will also contribute to attracting talented Saudi youth from different parts of the country, and making particular achievements in various fields. All of this will, of course, strengthen the Saudi economy.
5- Attracting foreign companies: The program will not only aim to attract and develop local investment, but will also try to bring in foreign investment. There are high-level Saudi efforts addressing the need to eliminate all barriers for foreign companies by offering various incentives for these companies, so that a concerted effort can be made to support the national economy in the upcoming period.
6- Enhance the Kingdom’s image: The Kingdom is trying to reframe itself to the world during this moment in time. As evidence of this, Alkhorayef said: "The Crown Prince has great expectations regarding this important program, which he considers to be a program for all Saudis, and which is of particular importance in changing stereotypes about Saudi Arabia, and transforming its image from a country that relies mainly on exporting oil to a major national market with a wide array of products and diverse brand identities. This will contribute to expanding local industry and increasing the export ratio.
In conclusion, the Saudi government’s proposed "Made in Saudi" program represents a step on the long path towards developing Saudi national products, and marketing them both at home and abroad. This will require testing whether the national institutions entrusted with these roles can reach their objectives, as well as testing the Kingdom’s capacity to attract foreign companies and provide the appropriate environment for the upcoming period, given the tight regional competition within the Middle East.