Back in September of 2017, Saudi Arabia announced an end to the kingdom’s ban on female drivers and that that women across the country would be eligible to apply for a Saudi driver’s license. In June, we saw this announcement go into full effect, transforming the country’s future economic landscape in the process.
For many years restrictions on women driving in Saudi Arabia has created a sub-optimal economy dependent on male chaperones for virtually all female travel. Family’s would need to plan for time off work or invest in expensive full-time drivers to give their women mobility. Now with millions of women expected to apply for their licence in the years after the ban is lifted, there’s little doubt that the economy will see benefits from the change.
The change in policy is yet another step in Riyadh’s ongoing efforts to reimagine the Saudi Arabian economy in a post-oil future. In February 2018 the Kingdom announced its plan to invest $64 billion in its entertainment sector by creating new venues and opening the country up to more western entertainment.
This week we’ll be exploring some of the economic impacts of female drivers for the country and dive into how this cultural shift can impact the Saudi ecommerce landscape.
A lot has been said about the social significance of letting women behind the wheel but the economic impact for the country may be just as profound. There will of course be an impact on specific automobile-related sectors such as insurance, finance, driving schools, and auto manufacturer companies, but empowering women to drive will also have a macroeconomic impact.
Lifting off the driving ban removes a key obstacle for women hoping to join the labor market, and there will be a positive impact on entrepreneurship amongst Saudi women on the back of this new freedom. In fact, Saudi Arabia also recently introduced a recent reform that allows women to start their own business without the permission of a male guardian.
Ecommerce + Entrepreneurship
Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 aims to provide a more progressive and modernized Kingdom for women. In addition to women being allowed to drive, opportunities to travel and start businesses can now be pursued without the need of a male chaperone.
For women entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia, this increased opportunity has the potential to create massive growth in the private sector in the coming years as well as a shift in the cultural landscape of the Kingdom.
One of the top industries expected to benefit from the influx of female entrepreneurs is the ecommerce sector. The ecommerce market is expected to grow from $95 billion in 2013 to $200 billion by 2020 in the MENA region alone. Combine this growth with today’s relatively low barriers to entry and ecommerce, and it’s the perfect place for business savvy Saudi’s to test their ideas.
“One of the directives of Vision 2030 is to activate the role of Saudi women in society and to give them their full rights and the rights guaranteed by Shariah” said Nojood Al-Qassim, Head of the Department of Personal Status, Family Legacies and Women’s and Children’s Rights.
With aspiring Arab woman entrepreneurs from all regions of Saudi Arabia and the broader MENA region, we expect we will soon be seeing a renewed growth in the Kingdom’s economy onwards into the coming years.
Are you a female entrepreneur in the MENA region? We’d love to hear from you! Be sure to share you tips for getting traction in the region for our readers in the comments below. And if you are looking for more great articles check out our last post 10 Email Marketing Essentials in 2018.