Saudi Arabia must plan carefully for ‘super cities,’ says strategist

The NEOM mega-city is part of plans to transform the Saudi economy. Reuters text, Caption text. (Reuters)
Updated 22 November 2019

Saudi Arabia must plan carefully for ‘super cities,’ says strategist

  • Author and global strategist Parag Khanna held up Dubai as an example of a city that was making major progress in the drive to ”smart status”
  • In his recent book “Connectography,” he said that research by consultants McKinsey found that the minimum size for a “super city” was 4 million inhabitants

BEIJING: Saudi Arabia has the potential to develop “super cities” in the Kingdom, but must pay careful attention to the economic fundamentals behind such projects, according to global strategist and author Parag Khanna.

Speaking at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Beijing, Khanna told Arab News: “When you are building a city from scratch, you have to be certain of the plan. What is the economic master plan? How self-sustaining will the city be? What will people living there do for a living?”

The Kingdom is planning the mega-city NEOM on the northwest coast, as well as several other developments, under the Vision 2030 strategy to transform the economy.

Khanna, author of the recent book “Connectography,” said that research by consultants McKinsey found that the minimum size for a “super city” was 4 million inhabitants. In Saudi Arabia, only Riyadh had surpassed that figure in a single conurbation.

“The way to make up the difference is to create “smart” cities that will increase connectivity and living standards,” Khanna said. He held up Dubai as an example of a city that was making major progress in the drive to ”smart status,” adding “for the first time in a long time, other Arab cities are looking at another Arab city as a model of the kind of city they would like to live in, rather than a city outside the Arab world.”

Khanna said that he did not know enough about plans for NEOM and other Saudi projects to know whether they would be successful in reaching “super city” status. “I’d have to kick the tires,” he said, pointing to developments along the Red Sea coast like the King Abdullah Economic City and the regeneration of Riyadh as other potentially successful urban projects. 

Super cities are conurbations that drive economic growth and improvement in living standards. “Urbanization has been the single greatest factor in improving the human condition,” Khanna said.

The Arab world and South America have historically been urban dominated, but the drive to city building recently has gathered pace in China and India.


Ericsson hit by higher 5G costs and weaker US market

Ericsson CEO Borje Ekholm. The company’s position as a leader in 5G has not protected it from costs associated with the technology. (Reuters)
Updated 34 min 2 sec ago

Ericsson hit by higher 5G costs and weaker US market

  • Ericsson’s adjusted quarterly operating earnings rose to 5.7 billion crowns ($600.2 million) from 2.6 billion a year earlier, but were down from 7.4 billion the previous quarter

STOCKHOLM: Sweden’s Ericsson reported a smaller-than-expected rise in fourth-quarter core earnings on Friday and said higher costs would spill over into 2020 as the telecoms equipment maker looks to exploit its leading position in super-fast 5G networks. Its shares fell more than 6 percent in early trading.
After a number of lean years, Ericsson has been boosted by the roll-out of 5G, particularly in the US.
But while 5G has helped sales, it has increased costs. Ericsson has also opted to take on strategically important clients to gain market share, betting a hit on margins in the short term will help to deliver longer-term profitability.
The company recently bought the antenna and filter business of German’s Kathrein to boost its 5G portfolio and said costs and investments related to the deal would weigh on margins through 2020.
Increased investments in digitalization and more spending on compliance — after a $1 billion payment to resolve probes by US authorities into corruption — are also expected to mean somewhat higher operating costs in 2020.
Nevertheless, CEO Borje Ekholm said Ericsson was on track to deliver on its 2020 targets of an adjusted operating margin of more than 10 percent and sales of 230 to 240 billion ($25.1 billion) Swedish krona.
Ericsson is fighting rivals Nokia and Huawei to take the lead in the roll out of 5G networks, which are expected to host critical functions from driverless vehicles to smart electric grids and military communications.
That has led the US to blacklist Huawei and launch a worldwide campaign to try to persuade allies to ban the Chinese firm from their 5G networks, alleging its equipment could be used by Beijing for spying — which Huawei denies.

BACKGROUND

While the US is an early 5G adopter, China is expected to start its roll out this year and Western Europe after that.

The UK is expected soon to make a final decision on whether to allow Huawei equipment in its 5G mobile networks, while Germany may also rule on the matter during the spring.
North America has been the biggest market for 5G so far, boosting Ericsson’s sales, but the company said demand slowed in the fourth quarter as the proposed merger between Sprint and T-Mobile hit their spending.
“It was a significant impact in a small part of the market which means the quarter came out negative in North America,” Ekholm said. “But in general demand is very strong there.”
By 2025, the GSMA telecoms industry lobby group estimates operators globally will have spent $1 trillion building up 5G networks, offering a huge jackpot for the leading suppliers.
Ericsson’s adjusted quarterly operating earnings rose to 5.7 billion crowns ($600.2 million) from 2.6 billion a year earlier, but were down from 7.4 billion the previous quarter.