45 Years GESALO - bringing leading economies together
The German-Saudi Arabian Liaison Office for Economic Affairs was founded 1978 when the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was accessing new sources of income to supplement the crude oil industry. As part of the new strategy, the Kingdom invested into the national infrastructure as its energy sector had opened to the global market just 45 years prior. To this day, the country remains the biggest exporter of petroleum. The discovery of oil enabled Saudi Arabia to initiate its transformation into a diversified and modern economy.
The foundation of the Gulf Cooperation Council (officially called General Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf) in 1981 was a first step towards positioning Saudi Arabia in the global market. The organization has grown to be Europe’s most important trade partner in the Arabian world.
Consequently, the founding times of the German-Saudi Arabian Liaison Office for Economic Affairs were times of change on the Arabian Peninsula, with people eager to turn their country into a modern industrial nation. It was accompanied by another novelty: Legal limitations in the Kingdom lead to the idea of a Liaison Office rather than a bilateral Chamber of Commerce being put into practice for the first time in Saudi Arabia.
Located in Jeddah until then, the German Embassy transferred to Riyadh in 1985, and GESALO moved in with the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce. The first Delegates of German Industry and Trade, Dr. Gerhard Fischer, and his successor Marc Landau, paved the way for establishing the foreign trade office in Saudi Arabia.
The last few years have seen exciting new developments for GESALO and are a continuation of the preceding productive decades. The Saudi Vision 2030, announced by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in 2016, promises further opportunities. As a government program with the aim of making the country less reliant on crude oil by diversifying the economy, and of developing the public service sectors such as recreation, tourism, and infrastructure, it holds the premises to bolster the German-Saudi business relations also in the future.
In 2019, Dr. Dalia Samra-Rohte takes over the management of the GESALO office. "I feel it is the right time to be here, seeing the changes and opportunities the country is offering.", she said.
One key focus of the Saudi Vision 2030 is “Sustainability”, including its goal to produce 50% electricity out of renewables by 2050. Solar energy is offering huge potential in Saudi Arabia and many German companies are already active in this field and well-positioned to offer best-in-class-expertise and support. The loosened visa regulations increased the interest in Saudi Arabia of German companies as it eased the access for “first-timer” exploring this interesting and attractive market further.
Now in 2023, we experience a busy year, facilitating delegations both in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Germany, organizing events and succeeding in our core business – building sustainable business relations. The key focus on energy diversification has a high importance - both in the German Energiewende and the Kingdom’s goals to establish a circular economy and to reach climate neutrality in 2060.
In order to enrich the energy mix, both countries turn towards hydrogen and renewables. In this context, GESALO facilitated trips with the Ministry of Energy, the Ministry of Investment and the National Industrial Development and Logistics Program (NIDLP) to Germany. A delegation from Bavaria visited Saudi Arabia and Bahrain with companies from the MedTech and Energy sector that fostered fruitful exchanges and promising follow-ups. Furthermore, GESALO supported a delegation on Power Generation from Solar & Wind Energy incl. CSP to Riyadh as well as a Smart City Delegation. The Energy Day in May 2023 highlighted the benefit for stakeholders from business and politics to join forces in tackling energy diversification.