King Abdullah Economic City: A shining example for economic development

March 17, 2015 in Infrastructure

Across the Gulf region infrastructure projects are on the table or well underway as states build for a future of economic prosperity. One of the biggest projects in progress at the moment is the visionary King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) in Saudi Arabia.

handshake-airportThe website dedicated to the project, describes this vast, ambitious initiative as follows: “KAEC is a megaproject revealed in 2005 by Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the king of Saudi Arabia.

“With a total development area of 173 square kilometres, the city is located along the coast of the Red Sea, around 100 kilometres north of Jeddah, the commercial hub of the kingdom, the city will also be approximately an hour away from the holy Islamic cities of Mecca and Medina by car and an hour away of all Middle Eastern capital cities by plane.

“The total cost of the city is $80 billion (around SR 300 billion), with the project being built by Emaar, The Economic City. A Tadawul-listed company created from Emaar Properties, a Dubai-based public joint stock company and one of the world’s largest real estate companies, and SAGIA (Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority) which is the main facilitator of the project.

“The city, along with another 5 economic cities, is a part of an ambitious “10×10″ program to place Saudi Arabia among the world’s top 10 competitive investment destinations by the year 2010, planned by SAGIA. The first stage of the city is planned to be completed in 2010, while the whole city is going to be fully completed by 2020. The city will help diversify the oil-based economy of the kingdom by bringing direct foreign and domestic investments. The city also will help create up to one million jobs for the youthful population of the country, where 40 per cent of the population are under 15.”

Upon completion, KAEC will be divided into 6 main components: Industrial Zone, Sea Port, Residential Areas, Sea Resort, Educational Zone, and a Central Business District which includes the Financial Island.

It has been reported that the industrial zone is estimated to cover 63 sqaure kilometres. The 4,400 hectares of land will be dedicated to industrial and light manufacturing facilities—identified as key growth drivers for the Saudi economy.

shutterstock_52564615The “Plastics Valley” planned within the zone will use raw materials readily available in Saudi Arabia to produce high-end plastics used in automotive, biomedical, construction and food packaging industries.

The Sea Port is estimated to cover 13.8 square kilometres, it will be the largest in the region with a capacity of over 10 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) of containers per year. The port will have facilities to handle cargo and dry bulk, and will be equipped to receive the world’s largest vessels. Another key component of the Port will be a custom-built Hajj Terminal with a capacity to handle up to 300,000 pilgrims on their way to Mecca and Medina, the holy Muslim cities.

The residential area is planned to include 260,000 apartments and 56,000 villas. It will be divided into smaller residential, commercial, and recreational areas. Parks and green spaces will be used extensively throughout the residential area. The area is estimated to be home for around half a million residents, and another ten thousand tourists. Each district would feature its own public amenities, such as mosques, shops and recreational venues.

The Resorts Area is designed to feature services and amenities, with the aim of attracting both local and international tourists. The area will include hotels, shopping centers and other recreational facilities. The number of hotel rooms and suites are proposed to be 25,000 hotel rooms in more than 120 hotels. Among the tourist draws at the resort is an 18-hole golf course, with training facilities and driving range. An equestrian club, yacht club and a range of water sports will also be constructed.

The Educational Zone is a part of plan to bring the Saudis capabilities and aspirations in technology to globally competitive levels. The Educational Zone is planned to consist of multi-university campus flanked by two Research & Development parks. The multi-university campus is designed to accommodate 18,000 students and a 7,500 faculty and staff members. The World Academy School has already opened its doors and in time should be able to cater for 2,250 students.

Of course most big cities include a central business district (CBD) and KAEC is no different, with 3.8 square kilometres of office space, hotels and mixed-use commercial space. The Financial Island, within the CBD, has now been doubled in area to cover 14 hectares of land, which will be the largest regional financial nerve center for the world’s leading banks, investment houses and insurance groups. (757 words)

With so much activity taking place, it is only natural that KAEC is seen as an attractive investment proposition and in December news broke that King Abdullah Economic City and Abdul Latif Jameel Group (ALJ) had signed a contract worth SR1.2 billion for the purchase of 1.5 million square metres of land in KAEC Industrial Valley phase 2. It is considered to be the largest investment to take place in KAEC in terms of land area and value.

The land will be used for the construction of an import, distribution, component manufacture and assembly center, which reflects the ALJ Group’s trust in KAEC as a regional hub for industry and logistics services.

The signing ceremony was attended by Saad Ateyah Al-Ghamdi, VP of ALJ Group, and Fahd Al-Rasheed, Managing Director and CEO of KAEC.

Al-Ghamdi said: “The Kingdom is witnessing continuous economic prosperity and the automotive industry is one of the key indicators for growth. Our reason for choosing KAEC as an import and distribution center for ALJ is because King Abdullah Port (KAP) will be one of the biggest regional ports with world-class operational efficiency.”

Following a hugely successful 2014, KAEC began the new year by showcasing its prestigious “Golf Community” land plots and villas. The luxury high-end residential offering is considered to be one of the most premium communities of the city and includes 147 villas that will have unmatched views of the new 18-hole championship golf course “Royal Greens”; which is being developed by the world’s best golf course designers. The exhibition for Golf Community properties took place at the Jeddah Hilton Hotel and in Riyadh at Al-Faisaliyah Hotel during February.

Commenting on this showcase, Al-Rasheed stated: “Our successful launches in 2014 have left us with high expectations for this year. The prestigious Golf Community has been developed to provide a high quality environment designed to meet the needs of today’s affluent Saudis who aspire to a luxury lifestyle supported by technologically advanced infrastructure and world class amenities.”

Saudi Arabia’s exciting new development is turning heads and looks set for another terrific year in 2015.