JEDDAH: King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) signed agreements worth SR2 billion ($533 million) with various companies on the sidelines of the Time Forum on Wednesday.
Time Forum is a platform where KAEC’s leaders can meet with partners from ministries, government agencies, the private sector and other interested parties.
More than 300 investors and leaders from business and government attended the forum, including representatives from international organizations, including the Young Professionals’ Organization (YPO) and a delegation of global leaders interested in the development of major global infrastructure projects.
KAEC’s new deals include an agreement with the General Customs Authority and the Economic Cities Authority (ECA) to establish a deposit and re-export zone in KAEC; an agreement to establish an auto-racing circuit at Lagoona and Marina Dreams; an agreement to establish a gas station; and an agreement to expand the Industrial Valley.
In addition, deals were signed in the real estate development, tourism and leisure, and administrative services sectors.
Time Forum was held under the patronage of Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) Gov. Ibrahim Al-Omar.
In his address to the attendees, Al-Omar said: “Under Vision 2030, we are creating new growth engines in strategic sectors including transport, health care, ICT, renewable energy, and local manufacturing to drive greater economic diversification in the Kingdom.
“KAEC, which combines a strategic location, strong national and international connectivity, and a robust private-sector mindset, is an important part of our vision for the future.
“KAEC is one of the main development engines in the region and is witnessing rapid growth in a range of promising sectors such as infrastructure, services and facilities.
“The interaction and turnout of local, regional and international companies at the Time Forum shows the strength and attractiveness of the Saudi economy.”
Fahd Al-Rasheed, managing director and chief executive officer of KAEC, presented KAEC’s strategic vision, as well as its latest developments and achievements.
Al-Rasheed emphasized the important role that the Saudi government has played in the success of KAEC through its emphasis on the development of the non-oil economy.
He stressed the value of the public-private partnership model in attracting investors to the promising opportunities offered by KAEC.
Al-Rasheed also highlighted the key role played by the economic city in generating quality employment opportunities for young Saudis.
“At KAEC, we need to focus on the creation of jobs. That is our primary driver. Everything we are doing aligns with Vision 2030,” he said. “The vision is telling us where we are heading and what our pivot should be.”
Speaking to Arab News later in the day, Al-Rasheed revealed KAEC had launched new projects that offered investment opportunities worth more than SR7 billion.
“These are the investments that we are offering to the private sector to develop either entirely on their own or in partnership with us,” he said.
“These are opportunities that we want to develop and we will make sure that every investment we are offering today is delivered and developed.”
Al-Rasheed explained that, so far, KAEC had funded a number of different projects in their entirety but was now looking to establish partnerships with investors because “we believe that, ultimately, a city is built by hundreds of entities.”
He revealed that KAEC had already signed two hotel development deals, including one yesterday, along with “other real estate deals, such as compounds.”
Mohanud Helal, secretary-general of the Economic Cities Authority, said: “We take pride in KAEC’s achievements and we look forward to further growth in all developmental fields.
“Today, economic cities are among the social and economic pillars that attract large companies, embrace small and medium-sized enterprises, and provide residential solutions, career opportunities and modern lifestyles to meet people’s aspirations and the leadership’s ambitions.
“Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman recently highlighted that the government is working with KAEC on 45 programs, showing the enormous support given by the Kingdom’s government to the private sector, which strengthens KAEC’s position on the national economic map.”
SAGIA chief Ibrahim Al-Omar declared that the Kingdom is “the hub of Arab and Islamic countries,” adding that since the launch of Vision 2030, the number of investment licenses SAGIA has issued is up 40 percent compared to last year.
“Investment is the major theme of the vision,” he said. “To increase foreign direct investment in our economy and to increase the contribution of the private sector.”
Talking of SAGIA chief Al-Omar’s focus on facilitating ease of investment in the Kingdom, Al-Rasheed told Arab News, “SAGIA is responsible for the investment environment in Saudi Arabia. We work with them because SAGIA can be a great enabler for us to attract global companies to KAEC.”
Al-Rasheed stated that he had told Al-Omar that KAEC was willing to offer considerable incentives to investors, including “the provision of free office space for five years, education and travel costs for their children, as well as subsidized accommodation.”
“We want to accelerate investment in the city. We have done this already in Industrial Valley, attracting 120 companies,” Al-Rasheed continued. “We believe that with partners we will do things faster and bigger.”