SAUDI ARABIA’s economy is undoubtedly one of the strongest and more secure in the world, attributing much of that economic prosperity to its position as a global leader in the energy industry. However, with renewable energy on the rise in Europe and a worldwide depletion of oil reserves, the Kingdom has been phasing out its resources in recent years with ambitious goals to diversify its economy and create a revolutionary, sustainable market for entrepreneurs. This is Saudi Arabia’s 2020 vision and, whether the pun is intentional or not, it remains a farsighted goal that offers real-world solutions in the aftermath of the global economic recession. At the cornerstone of this vision rests several economic cities, modern metropolises bent on increasing the country’s GDP, creating new jobs, and accommodating for the nation’s growing population. According to the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA), these economic cities will collectively increase the country’s GDP by $150 billion in 2020. Here is a list of some of the most ambitious of these economic cities.
King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC), Rabigh
Located north of Jeddah, KAEC’s focus is on port and logistic industries, light industries and services. Standing at a massive 168 million square meters, KAEC will house a population of two million, which creating an additional one million jobs in its various sectors. According to SAGIA, KAEC will feature a modern, world-class seaport, an industrial district, an education zone and residential area, world-class resorts for tourists and a financial island where multinationals have reportedly already laid down roots. The Red Sea has always been a lucrative trading route for Saudi Arabia, and all evidence points to KAEC taking full advantage of its cornucopious location and preparing it with diversified economic needs and goals.
Prince Abdulaziz Bin Musaid Economic City (PABMEC), Hail
Sitting at the foot of the historic Aja mountain, PABMEC is strategically situated on an age-old transportation and trade route for the Middle East. With a focus on logistics, agribusiness, minerals and construction materials, PABMEC might be the most specialized of the economic cities that will rise at the end of the decade. Its total area is 156 million square meters, and will house 80,000 people, with ambitions to create 55,000 new jobs in the region.
Knowledge Economic City (KEC), Madinah
KEC is a stones throw away from the Prophet’s Mosque, making it the world’s first economic city focused sheerly on knowledge-based industries with a deep Islamic focus, according to SAGIA. Though much smaller than its counterparts in Hail and Rabigh, the 4.8 million square meter city will house a more condensed population of 200,000 and create approximately 20,000 new jobs.
However, KEC’s economic vision rests heavily on a growing domestic tourism sector, with plans for a hotel complex overlooking a park themed around the Prophet’s heritage and a major retail hub inspired by traditional Arabic Souks. KEC’s core industry hovers around medical sciences, biotechnology, an Islamic civilization research center, and a state-of-the-art business district.
Jazan Economic City (JEC), Jazan
Jazan’s climate has inspired this economic city to be the first full-fledged agribusiness hub in the region. Situated in the Kingdom’s South-Western region on the Red Sea, JEC divides its focus between a tried-and-true heavy industry sector and a more experimental and cutting-edge agribusiness sector, collectively creating 500,000 new jobs in the Kingdom. JEC’s 100 million square meters will house 250,000 people, while a state-of-the-art Industrial Park will dominate two thirds of JEC. These economic cities are enticing global investors to contribute in the Kingdom’s ambitious future, establishing an investment climate that is unprecedented in the region, perhaps not since oil was first discovered here. While investors peer into Saudi Arabia’s future with microscopic scrutiny, these economic cities are preparing for the future with 20/20 hindsight.