RIYADH: Leap23 opened a four-day run in Riyadh on Monday by announcing more than $9 billion in investments to support future technologies, digital entrepreneurship, tech startups, and enhance the Saudi Arabia's position as the largest digital market in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

The investments were revealed by Eng Abdullah bin Amer Alswaha, the Minister of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT), during a keynote address at the event which runs at Riyadh Front Exhibition & Conference Centre until Thursday, February 9.

LEAP23 Investments

Alswaha confirmed the investments included Microsoft's $2.1 billion in a global super-scaler cloud in the kingdom, Oracle investing $1.5 billion to expand its MENA business by launching new cloud areas in the kingdom, Huawei's $400 million in cloud infrastructure for its services in the kingdom, and the launch of a Zoom cloud area in the kingdom in partnership with Aramco.

An additional $4.5 billion has been invested in global and local assets across multiple sectors, added Alswaha. Alswaha emphasized that the huge investment packages come with the full support of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud. The investments are part of the Crown Prince's empowerment of the technology sector, which is one of Saudi's most promising sectors amid unprecedented growth in the kingdom's digital economy, internet of things, biological and health tech, quantitative science, space, satellites, fintech and open sources.

Other major announcements on the first day included Meta launching the opening of the first Metaverse Academy in MENA, WEO Technology and Camel Lab launching Hektar, a multi-content social media app; and MENA Communication and STC launching Beem - a new application for instant messaging, high-quality voice and video calls, and business features.

Taking place alongside Leap and starting Tuesday February 7, the inaugural DeepFest - in partnership with the Saudi Data & AI Authority (SDAIA) - will gather drivers of the global artificial intelligence eco-system to unveil life-changing, multi-sector initiatives in a thought-leadership conference and sector-specific tracks, trainings, live-demos, startup pitches and an exhibition featuring companies transforming the world we live and work in. - Gulf Business