By Sohila El Saadany
We sat with British Consul General, Mohammad Shokat to learn more about his experience in Jeddah and all the recent news in store for the two Kingdoms.
How long have you been in Saudi Arabia?
Over three and a half years and I love it. Being in Jeddah and being the Consul General is an honor, because the relationship between both Kingdoms is so strong. Being a Muslim and being so close to Makkah and Madinah is definitely a plus.
What do you enjoy most about Jeddah?
Getting to pass by the Corniche every day is a blessing. The sea is what makes Jeddah what it is. Whether you are visiting restaurants, shopping malls or just out by the Corniche, Jeddah is alive. That adds character to the city.
Saudi is one of UK’s largest trading partners. What are some recent trading and business collaborations between both nations?
Something that will change the face of Jeddah over the next few years is the Public Transportation Project or the Jeddah Metro Project as it is called. There will be buses and a metro and a whole lot of other things. It is a real honor for the British company, Fosters, that has been chosen to do the architectural design of it all. It will have a huge role in how the city will look like in a few years.
The UK is one of the most targeted destinations for Saudi students to pursue their education. How do you evaluate this joint educational effort?
We have over 15,000 students studying in the UK. Every year there is an international exhibition for the universities of the UK and they are always keen to be part of it. University College London, for example, has signed a partnership with Umm Al Qura University in Makkah to work on medical studies.
It’s also about vocational training; KSA is investing a lot of money in ensuring that people come to the market with the right labor skills.
In the south of Jeddah, there’s a NESCOT that’s running a center of excellence to provide Saudi women with vocational training so that they can be ready to venture into the employment market with the right skills. There’s also another center called TQ Pearson providing the same training to Saudi men.
The healthcare sector is the largest and most costly in KSA. It is also paramount in the UK considering that the National Health Sector employs more than 1.7 million people. Are there any plans for collective projects between both Kingdoms in regards to this sector?
We have a joint ministerial committee on health care and it’s a way for us to look at how we can work together to progress the efforts of Saudi, who is spending a lot into improving and developing its health sector.
Our public and private sectors in the health care fields are all working together, whether it is about education or transfer of information and technology. We are trying to provide our expertise to help Saudis develop their plans.