Dr Tawfig F. AlRabiah (Arabic: توفيق بن فوزان الربيعة) (born 26 October 1965) is the current Minister of Hajj and Umrah for Saudi Arabia.
He served as Minister of Health from May 2016 to October 2021. He also notably served as the Minister for Commerce & Industry from December 2011 to May 2016. While in his first ministerial role, he focused on transforming the way businesses interact with the Government of Saudi Arabia.
This led to fairer and tighter regulations for businesses, while also making it easier for businesses to register and interact with the government. This often focused on streamlined digital processes, which in some cases completely transformed entire government departments.
In 2016, AlRabiah became the Minister of Health. As part of the Saudi Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia wanted to completely reform their national healthcare offering once AlRabiah took office. Since he started in the position, he has revolutionized the way the Saudi people interact with the medical system. Numerous steps have been made to add and/or improve services, so they are more accessible and more efficient. Examples include national health insurance, nationwide medical computer systems, and additional medical offerings. More informal healthcare is now offered in Saudi Arabia, which has seen dramatic increases in the health of the Saudi people.
Aside from additional services, AlRabiah has implemented healthcare standards more in line with high GDP countries. This has meant more recordings of performance and comparisons of how hospitals and other services performed.
AlRabiah has now been relieved as Health Minister and instead appointed as Minister of Hajj and Umrah by Royal Decree issued by King Salman
Early life and education
AlRabiah was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on 26 October 1965. He studied in Saudi Arabia during the 1980s. In 1986, AlRabiah graduated from the College of Business at the King Saud University, which is often abbreviated to KSU. While at KSU, AlRabiah majored in the field of Quantitative Methods. After completing his bachelor’s degree, he worked for a short period as a teaching assistant between 1986 and 1987.
AlRabiah then moved to the United States in the late 1980s to study further. While in the US, he studied at the University of Pittsburgh, where he attained his first master’s degree in Information Science in 1990. He continued to study in the United States into the late 1990s, remaining at the University of Pittsburgh during this period. AlRabiah received his second master’s degree in computer science in 1995. After attaining two master’s degrees, he was a teaching fellow for a year while studying a Ph.D. in Computer Science. He graduated in 1999.
Following a decade of education in the United States, AlRabiah returned to Saudi Arabia. After nearly 12 years away from King Saud University, he returned to KSU and worked as an assistant professor between 1999 and 2002.
Over a period of two decades, AlRabiah published 16 papers in peer reviewed journals.
Early career and Director General (2002-2011)
In 2002, AlRabiah began his first major role as part of the government of Saudi Arabia. His first position was with the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority as its director-general. SAGIA was only formed in 2000, meaning AlRabiah implemented many of the projects in use today. As director-general, he was responsible for the Information and Communications Technology Sector for SAGIA. As part of the role, he introduced various multinational corporations to the Saudi Arabian market. As part of a wider SAGIA initiative, he was involved in the 10 x 10 program, introduced by the governor. The aim of the program was to transform the Kingdom into one of the top 10 countries in a variety of areas. During this period, the World Bank changed Saudi Arabia’s investment attractiveness rating from 67 in 2005 to 16 in 2009 across all countries.
After spending five years in the role with SAGIA, AlRabiah moved to become director-general for Saudi Authority for Industrial Cities and Technology Zones (MODON). The aim was to dramatically improve cities in the Kingdom, in a similar way to how AlRabiah had introduced new businesses to the Saudi Arabian market.
MODON is an industrial city initiative run by the Saudi Arabia government. The term means “cities” in arabic, demonstrating its focus on city planning. From 2007 onwards, AlRabiah led the arm of government to improve a number of services across cities, while also improving working environments. This included the growth of particular markets such as SMEs, but also focusing on developing city-wide initiatives.
By the end of AlRabiah’s tenure, growth in various sectors was at very high rates. It was reported that industrial growth in the manufacturing sector had grown by 50% in 2011. Overall, the expansion of MODON’s strategy surpassed what had been achieved in the previous forty years, with a six-fold expansion.
Other city initiatives include the creation of MODON Lake Park, which is located near the city of Dammam. The area had been known for large industrial sites and was not seen as an area of natural beauty. The creation of the lake was part of a wider strategy to improve the industrial city of Dammam. The area was drained of sewage and waste, to create a green space and recreational park. AlRabiah’s work with MODON made it the best government organization to work at four years running during his tenure. This level of the organization led to his promotion to Minister in 2012.
Minister of Commerce and Industry (2011-2016)
AlRabiah became a member of the Council of Ministers in Saudi Arabia when he was appointed Minister of Commerce and Industry in 2011. Over the next five years, AlRabiah’s major achievement was the planning and execution of the National Industrial Strategy in the country. As part of this initiative, he reformed a number of regulations that reduced grey areas and made it easier for companies to operate within the Kingdom. This was also part of a wider move commercially away from the Saudi Arabia’s dependency on oil.
The regulation was a major factor to increase fair and competitive standards. More competition regulations were added and also IP rights were increased. On the consumer side, a number of new consumer protection laws were added for Saudi people, which increased faith in products and services in the Kingdom.
Minister of Health (2016-2021)
After five years in the role, AlRabiah became the Saudi Arabian Minister of Health in 2016. Since 2011, AlRabiah has played a major part in the formation and strategic planning for Saudi Arabia’s futuristic project, Saudi Vision 2030. As a member of the Council of Ministers, he assisted in the panel of decision-makers, initially focusing on commerce between 2011 and 2016. Once he moved into the role of Health Minister, he became more focused on reforming healthcare in the Kingdom. As part of Saudi Vision 2030, the Crown Prince and other major members of the royal family supported suggestions of transforming the current healthcare offering. AlRabiah’s role as Health Minister meant he oversaw the strategy for the restructuring of the entire healthcare system in Saudi Arabia. This included the decentralization of hospitals and other health services into twenty separate districts across the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The individual clusters or districts evenly provide medical assistance to around one million Saudi citizens.
In 2019, Tawfig AlRabiah received a global award from the World Health Organization at the 72nd session of the World Health Assembly for his strong efforts in combating tobacco through various initiatives. This came after the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia becoming one of the first nations to ratify the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2005, it plans to reduce tobacco use from 12.7% in 2017, to 5% in 2030.
Tawfig AlRabiah received the “Best Personal Influencer on Social Networks for Public Interest” Award during the Sharjah Government Communication Award ceremony held in the United Arab Emirates in March 2019.
Focus on improved technology
As part of the restructuring, AlRabiah and other members of the Department of Health announced the creation of a national health insurance agency. The move was welcomed in the Kingdom as Saudi Arabia would be one of the first countries in the Middle East to offer national health insurance for its people. The government made the official announcement in late 2018, with the Saudi financial newspaper Argaam suggesting that the healthcare sector would be regulated by a central body, while medical services would be independently provided. The article by Argaam suggested that the development of its healthcare will have a focus on digital innovations, according to a quote from AlRabiah at a healthcare conference in Riyadh.
The Kingdom’s new focus on innovative digital services led to the creation of Saudi eHealth Analytics, abbreviated to Seha. A new platform is a digital tool that allows Saudi citizens to connect to a physician digitally. The main method of connection is through a smartphone, where face-to-face discussions can take place remotely between patient and physician. Following discussions or medical consultations, electronic prescriptions can also be raised, if required. As part of the same strategic developments, the 937 healthcare number was expanded, which allowed healthcare professionals to speak with citizens with health issues over the phone. The development of the 937 number was a huge success and in 2017 reached a million annual medical calls for the first time. The satisfaction rating grew by nearly 25% of all the calls processed. By late 2018, the call center was processing 80,000 calls a week.
The call center can also process and book appointments with a medical professional should it be required, which can be now done digitally since the introduction of a centralized booking system, known as Mawid. The system can also be used for referrals for the first time, so physicians can refer patients to a hospital for a specific reason using the system. The most notable thing about this isn’t the technology, but that it is provided free of charge to Saudi Arabian citizens. When compared to US services, many similar offerings are privatized and operated by for-profit companies, such as WebMD.
As Minister of Health, AlRabiah wanted to create competition between the various medical services and hospitals. This vision resulted in the creation of a Kingdom-wide project known as “Ada’a”. The new national system focused more heavily on key performance indicators for individual services and hospitals, which in turn identified problems while creating friendly competition between the various services. This is not too dissimilar to NHS league tables in the United Kingdom. According to the regional press, once the new system was implemented, waiting times and other indicators improved dramatically over a short period of time.
AlRabiah has also spoken about his focus on AI technology and how it could transform the Kingdom’s healthcare system in the medium to long-term. Trials and developments have indicated it could be one of the pioneering countries in medical AI, with the involvement of companies such as Siemens. This also included the signing of a contract with Babylon Health in the United Kingdom.
New medical centres and centralised systems
AlRabiah has achieved a number of major milestones during his tenure. In 2017, he established the Saudi Patient Safety Center (SPSC) with the purpose of enhancing healthcare in the Kingdom, given that it is the primary reference for all matters related to patient safety and prevention of medical errors. He oversaw the development and establishment of the Saudi Center for Disease Prevention and Control, often abbreviated to CDC. The Council of Ministers made the announcement in 2013, following internal discussions, and became the first centralized disease facility of its kind in Saudi Arabia. The aim of the facility would be to conduct research and practical experiments to aid the overall health of the Kingdom, but also boost the country’s health sector. The World Health Organization announced that two Saudi Arabian cities had received the classification of a Healthy city, as part of the WHO Healthy Cities Program. The cities were Diriyah and Jalajil. The MOH was awarded Healthy City certificates for the cities of Unayzah and Riyadh Al Khabra as 4th. and 5th. Healthy Cities in Saudi Arabia. The cities were qualified after successful evaluation by the World Health Organization (WHO) and external experts in March 2019.
Following a number of reports on obesity in the Kingdom, the Minister began to introduce a number of new methods to limit the impact of obesity. The strategy by AlRabiah was named Diet and Physical Activity Strategy or DPAS for short. The problem was also tackled at the source by the Minister, who suggested a number of tax increases on unhealthy food and drink products. The aim would not only stop poorer citizens from buying unhealthy food but also the additional tax could be used to contribute to any healthcare costs associated with obesity in the Kingdom. Other initiatives included adding calorie labels to a number of food and drink products. The Kingdom also implemented ingredient lists for some food types, which made it easier for people with health issues to shop and eat with more care. As part of a move toward healthier citizens of the Kingdom, the Minister announced that there would be an expansion in the number of clinics to treat tobacco addiction. In order to reduce the number of people taking up smoking, the Kingdom also created a number of initiatives to take a stricter view on smoking as a whole. This included a tax increase on the sale of cigarettes.
AlRabiah played a major part in the opening of women-only gyms in the Kingdom. It had been suggested that many women in the Kingdom struggled to exercise enough, which was causing issues with obesity. The move allowed women to get involved in bodybuilding, running, and swimming to maintain higher standards of health. This was also included in the wider Saudi Vision 2030 initiative.
A major health issue that occurred each year in Saudi Arabia was the health of pilgrims traveling to the country. International Health Regulations were applied to pilgrims, in line with the World Health Organization. These new guidelines and checks would be applied to 1.6 million people annually. As part of the same strategy, a new contingency and emergency planning were introduced by the Minister, with the creation of the Saudi Disaster Medical Assistance Team (S-DMAT). The newly formed relief team would be used during pilgrimage season, but could also be deployed to neighboring countries in times of crisis.
A new commission was formed in 2016 to aid the treatment of Hepatitis C in the country. The aims of the commission are to eradicate the disease from the domestic population in the Kingdom. This also coincided with the creation of a new Saudi-made medicine that would be used to treat the virus. Wider initiatives on the treatment of disease were also implemented, with flu vaccinations becoming a focus. Between 2016 and 2018, vaccinations in the country quadrupled.
The vaccinations were made possible with the launch of rural medical care in the country. Mobile primary care became a new initiative under the Minister’s guidance, which meant rural citizens in the Kingdom could access health-related services more easily. The care industry in Saudi Arabia recognized that more people required home visits as part of a wider initiative to help the elderly and those less mobile. The Minister increased the number of services that could be implemented during home visits. It was estimated that 250,000 home visits were conducted by the end of 2018.
Until AlRabiah became the Minister of Health for Saudi Arabia, healthcare in schools fell under the stewardship of the Ministry of Education. It was decided by the Council of Ministers that the health of children in schools throughout the Kingdom should be managed by the Ministry of Health. In 2018, this was transferred across to the Health Ministry. Following this move, a thorough check was carried out into the processes at schools for children’s health. It was decided that reform on health checks was required and subsequently implemented that all pupils in chosen grade intervals would have health checks.
As a wider move to improve health infrastructure in the Kingdom, the Minister opened a number of new Cardiac centers, both for operations and research. The new facilities totalled six by the end of 2018, with performance indicators suggesting heart operation success was up to 96%.
In June 2021, Tawfig AlRabiah received the Makkah Award for Administrative Excellence from His Royal Highness Prince Khalid Al-Faisal, the Advisor to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and Emir of Makkah Region, for the pioneering role and professional work done by the Ministry of Health in successfully managing the coronavirus pandemic crisis at the Kingdom’s level in general and the Makkah region in particular, and for undertaking a number of initiatives and launching a number of smart electronic applications to deal with the crisis and maintain health security.
In May 2021, Tawfig AlRabiah was awarded the King Abdulaziz Scarf – second class, by King Salman in recognition for his services in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2019, Tawfig AlRabiah received a global award from the World Health Organization at the 72nd session of the World Health Assembly for his efforts in combating tobacco addiction through various initiatives. This came after the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia became one of the first nations to ratify the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2005.
Tawfig AlRabiah received the “Best Personal Influencer on Social Networks for Public Interest” Award during the Sharjah Government Communication Award ceremony held in the United Arab Emirates in March 2019.
AlRabiah won the prize for “Arab Social Networking Pioneers” in its first edition. The award was presented by the UAE Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, at the Dubai World Trade Center.
In November 2019, Tawfig AlRabiah received the “ABLF Statesperson” Award at the Asian Business Leaders Forum, in recognition of his pioneering and inspiring role and contributions to innovation and social and economic development in the Kingdom. The award was presented by His Highness Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Tolerance of the United Arab Emirates.
Previous position: Minister of Health, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (From May 7th, 2016 to Present)
From December, 2011 to May 7th, 2016:
- Minister of Commerce and Industry
- Chairman of the Board, Saudi Authority for Industrial Cities and Technology Zones (MODON).
- Chairman of Saudi Organization for Standardization and Metrology Management (Jawdah).
- From April, 2010 to December, 2011:
- In-charge of Industry Affairs, Ministry of Commerce and Industry
- Supervisor of the National Industrial Clusters Program.
- From April, 2007 to December, 2011:
- General Director of Saudi Authority for Industrial Cities and Technology Zones (MODON).
- General Director of Information and Communication Technology Sector, Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA).
- B.S. in Quantitative Methods from King Saud University, KSA
- M.S. in Computer Science from University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, USA
- M.S. in Information Science from University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, USA
- Ph.D. in Computer Science from University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, USA
- Council of Ministers
- Board of Economic Affairs and Development
- Hajj Supreme Committee
- Commission on Narcotic Drugs Committee
- Civil Defense
Memberships with Participation:
- General Committee
- Economic Council
- Supreme Petroleum Council
- Civil Service Board
- Board Member, Public Investment Fund
- Board Member, Military Industries Foundation
- Board Member, Civil Defense Department
- Ministerial Committee of Supply
- Cabinet Member, Committee of the WTO
- Monitoring Committee Member, Council of Saudi Qatari Coordination
- Ministerial Committee Member, Follow-up Prices
- King Abdulaziz Foundation for the Gifted
- Steering Committee Member, Tourism Authority
- Ministerial Council Member, Arab Ministers of Industry
- Faulty Member, King Saud University
- Board Member, Saudi Computer Society
- Faculty Member, University of Pittsburgh
National Committees and Councils:
- President of the Saudi Health Council
- Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Saudi Red Crescent Authority
- Chairman of the Board of Directors of the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center
- Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Food and Drug Authority
- Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties
- Chairman of the Council of the Cooperative Health Insurance
- Chairman, Consumer Protection
- Chairman, Medical Cities and Specialized Hospitals Council
- Council of Industrial Property Authority management
- Commission for Real Property Contributions
Councils and Administrative Responsibilities:
- Council of Competition Protection Administration
- Board of Directors of the Standards and metrology and Quality Management
- Board of Export Development Authority
- Board of Management Accountants
- Ministerial Committee, King Abdullah Initiative for Agricultural Investment Abroad
- National Program, Industrial Clusters
- National Program, Industrial Strategy
- Saudi Negotiating Team, WTO
- Standing Committee of Anti-dumping
- King Abdulaziz Quality Committee
- Number of Joint Committees
- Follow-up Committee of the Board of the Saudi – Yemeni Coordination
- Saudi Delegation at the United National Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)
- Saudi delegation to the meetings of UNIDO
- Saudi – French Joint Committee
- Saudi – South African Joint Committee
- Saudi – Iraqi Joint Committee
- Saudi – Egyptian Joint Committee
- Saudi – Algerian Joint Committee
- Saudi – Libyan Joint Committee
- Saudi – Iranian Joint Committee
- Saudi – Indian Joint Committee
- Saudi – Pakistani – Joint Committee
- Has written many papers, more than 16 of which have been published in international journals.
- Has co-authored a book on high speed networks.
- Has Participated in drafting the Saudi National Information Technology Vision Plan, which formed the basis for development of the Saudi National IT Plan.
- Has written many articles in different local newspapers related to e-government, e-commerce and telecom.
Achievement’s and Activities:
- Participated in many international conferences.
- Worked as a consultant to a number of government and private institutions.
MODON achievements during the period Dr. Rabiah has taken over:
- Started the development of new industrial cities and expanded some of the cities.
- Reformatted some cities. In addition to the reported achievements, it has been the privatization of water and cooling services and the development of communications and data services in the industrial cities.
- Embraced the idea of building smart cities within the industrial cities by providing high-speed communication networks as well as improving public services and commercial and government services in the industrial cities.
- During Dr. Rabiah’s tenure, MODON has achieved a quantum leap in the services provided and the size of the land allocated to the industry.
Additional information from wikipedia
The Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony said Monday that those performi…