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Saudi Arabia to invest billions in metaverse, blockchain technology

The kingdom, which is seeking to reduce its dependence on oil, made the announcement at the futuristic LEAP technology forum in Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia tech

Saudi Arabia announced billions of dollars of investment in advanced technologies today. 

The kingdom will invest more than $6.4 billion in total. This includes a $1 billion investment in the NEOM Tech & Digital Company, which is named after the eponymous futuristic city in Saudi Arabia. The company plans to launch its own metaverse, referring to the 3D digital world where users can interact with one another, the official Saudi Press Agency reported. 

Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil company Aramco will also invest $1 billion in its venture capital fund Prosperity7 Ventures. The firm will invest in companies with a focus on futuristic technology, including those working on blockchains, according to the agency. This is a type of technology that encrypts information that is stored digitally. 

Saudi Information Technology Minister Abdullah Alswaha said the investments demonstrate the kingdom’s "push toward the growth of the digital economy.” He added that the endeavor will be “for the greater good” of Saudis and people across the Middle East and North Africa, according to the Saudi Press Agency. 

The Gulf state made the announcement at the LEAP technology forum that is currently being held in the capital Riyadh. The event includes lectures on a range of technologies, including artificial intelligence, 5G internet and more. 

Saudi Arabia is working to reduce its dependence on oil. Though oil prices are high at the moment, demand for fossil fuels is declining around the world as people and governments look to cleaner forms of renewable energy. Saudi Arabia has long depended on oil sales for revenue. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is particularly interested in diversifying the economy towards new technologies via his Vision 2030 initiative. 

The country has had some success in its diversification efforts. Saudi Arabia reported an increase in non-oil exports at the end of 2021 and has also increased its mineral production capacity. In terms of investment, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has invested billions in startups in Silicon Valley, although it has been criticized for its lack of transparency. 

At the same time, Saudi leadership has failed to attract significant foreign investment to the country, and its cash reserves have been declined significantly, Karen Young wrote in Foreign Affairs this week.