Local Manufacturing (AFED) will revolutionize the Saudi military industry, said Maj. Gen. Attiya Al-Maliki of the Ministry of Defense in an interview with Arab News.

AFED, which will be held from Feb. 25 to March 3 at the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Center, will be attended by the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Al-Maliki stressed the exhibition’s importance and the doors of opportunity that it will open to local companies.

Al-Maliki, spokesman of the exhibition, said the event is unique because it presents requirements for the beneficiaries, whether military or otherwise.

Workshops and seminars will be held at during AEFD to present obstacles and how to overcome the challenges with proposals for the industries.

Al-Maliki stressed that local factories have capabilities and that their aim is to globalize the Saudi industry, working from the inside first. “We strive to have international companies using our local products outside the Kingdom,” he said.

During the last exhibition in 2016 only 10 international companies participated, he said. “This year over 50 international companies and factories are participating, and more want to participate as well, but all the seats have been taken and are full. They are astonished.”

Al-Maliki revealed: “In the past, international companies believed that Saudi did not have competency and skills, but after attending our previous exhibition they said: ‘I’m surprised that Saudi purchases from abroad and not locally’.”

Al-Maliki pointed out that the exhibition was launched in 2010 for the purpose of developing the industry. He said: “Military products were imported from abroad. Saudi did not take a look at the local products and depended on global companies to supply us.

“We need to know the capabilities of the Kingdom, and to give them a chance.”

In 2016, it was a major turning point: Local companies proved to be competent and provided the much-needed products. This year, he claimed, will be the biggest exhibition yet.

Al-Maliki pointed out that when hearing of AFED, many people “believe the companies are exclusive in showcasing only military needs, but that is not correct. In truth, we use products that are used both for military and civilian needs. The Ministry of Health is also a participant and its needs will be met through this exhibition as well. Most of the manufacturing needs will be met in this exhibition.”

Is there a possibility that Saudi Arabia will be able to localize its manufacturing industry, and be self-sufficient? Al-Maliki said: “I am very optimistic about all the progress. With Vision 2030 many local factories are enthusiastic about producing high-quality items.

“I believe that in 18 years we will be able to produce 50 percent of our needs, Inshallah, due to the enthusiasm of the manufacturers and the awareness of the consumer.”

Registration is still open to companies wishing to participate. Visitors may attend from Feb. 26 to March 3