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Saudi businessman highlights KAEC’s meteoric rise

Amr M. Khashoggi
JEDDAH: A leading Saudi businessman has highlighted the meteoric growth of King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC). In an interview with Arab News, Amr M. Khashoggi, vice president of human resources and group affairs at the Jeddah-based Zahid Group, said: “We (the Zahid Group) were the first tenants in KAEC.
“We signed a contract to build a lubricant plant as a joint venture between the Zahid Group and Total. We signed the agreement in Dubai when there was absolutely nothing in KAEC. When the cornerstone was laid by the late King Abdullah, there were Saudi, Emaar, Total and Zahid flags. There was nothing else.”
In the years since, KAEC has expanded beyond recognition — according to the BBC, it will eventually be “a metropolis slightly larger than Washington DC.” The Zahid Group, major investors in heavy machinery, transport, energy and a few other industries, has grown alongside it.
“Once the (King Abdullah) port at KAEC was operational, that was the kick-off and the engine behind greater investment by the Zahid Group in the City,” said Khashoggi, 65.
“That’s why we invested in building a truck assembly plant with Volvo in addition to our collaboration with Total. We also created a logistics hub called Wared Logistics, and we’ll soon be opening our Casper and Gambini’s fine dining restaurant at the new Views Hotel, where we’ll handle all the catering for the hotel expected to open soon at KAEC.”
Khashoggi described the Zahid Group as “firm believers” in KAEC and its mission. He cited the strategic location of the city — with road, sea, land and air connections nearby — and the vision behind it as reasons for that belief.
“There’s also a very good environment for living,” he added. “A lot of young people are going to come here.”
As someone who has lived under the reign of every Saudi king, Khashoggi said there has never been a better time to live and work in the country.
He is bullish about the way the country is developing for the next generation under “a young, vibrant, visionary leader,” Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
“We’ve entered a new era in Saudi Arabia. Vision 2030 is becoming more and more of a reality,” Khashoggi said.
“Saudi Arabia has opened its doors to serious investment from abroad, which will come in hundreds and billions of dollars,” he added.
“The country is moving ahead. We have a very young population. What we need is to provide our young men and women with skills that would map with the job requirement,” he said.
“At Zahid, we have women engineers with high technical skills; they can even operate the enormous Caterpillar equipment, which is very impressive, and starting next June will be able to drive cars on Saudi roads,” Khashoggi added.
“We want to make sure the young people of Saudi Arabia have the necessary skills to match the job requirements. Without that, it will be very challenging for us to create jobs and employ people in sustainable ways.”
Khashoggi was impressed by the youthful dynamism of several speakers he saw at a recent forum at KAEC — including the city’s CEO Fahad Al-Rasheed; Ibrahim Al-Omar, governor of the Saudi Arabia General Investment Authority (SAGIA); and Mohanud Helal, secretary-general of the Economic Cities Authority. This has left him convinced “the City is in good hands.”
“We’re a very young country. We’re learning and moving very rapidly. I feel very optimistic about the future,” Khashoggi said.
His message to Saudi youth is simple: “Come and board the bullet train. It’s moving very fast; if you’re not on it, you’ll be left behind.”

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