RIYADH: Speaking to Arab News on the sidelines of the Public Investment Fund Private sector Forum in Riyadh, Majid Abdullah Matbouly, head of Industrial Valley at King Abdullah Economic City, and Cyril Piaia CEO of master developer Emaar, the Economic City shed the light on the city's growth and how partnering with PIF has added great value.
Matbouly said that KAEC started as a public real estate company, and today it has PIF as shareholders.
“Previously, we have had several other engagements that included private sector and PIF companies, such as Lucid Ceer, and some others are in the pipeline.”
Piaia said: “It is actually part of our strategy and aligned with our strategy to involve third-party developers third-party investors and third-party operators in the development of the city. Previously, actually, the city was closed, we have been as a new strategy opening up the door to the third party and obviously engaging with the private sector is essential for us to enable local content and develop jobs in the city.”
The city partnership with PIF which happened last year strengthened its status in several ways.
“I think what we have today in the city is a model that can be expanded and later replicated in other places, and that is not only focused on industrial, so our strategy is to focus on the industrial piece of the land. But also there is the tourism and all the byproducts that support that growth.” Matbouly said.
Piaia added: “We want to welcome all those initiatives from Vision 2030 to the city, and allow the private sector and both the government for those initiatives to leverage our primary infrastructure that is a world-class type of infrastructure, and use it as a platform to develop that initiative into the city.”
Matbouly leverages his deep industry knowledge and expertise across multiple sectors to drive the growth and development of the 55 sq. km industrial and logistics hub.
“I think the beauty today of private sector or other companies or partners would be if that you have a vision that's so clear, and you always look at it and start to link yourself to that vision and reverse engineering to achieve certain KPIs for the vision and for the city.
"Today for the industrial, we have an adjacent within KAEC, we have the ports, the second-largest sports, and the growth and the growth of that port. And the growth of the industrial Valley will support the different vision initiatives related to local content related to export and at that diversification of income aside from the oil, that is one part.
"Then you have the other side of the quality of life and so on that, it happens in for the rest of the city. So I think it is a great platform.” Matbouly said
In 2021, KAEC was ranked second among the most efficient container ports in the world, according to the Container Port Performance Index published by The World Bank and IHS Markit.
“We are trying to anchor the city around two main positionings. One is about industrial and our port, which is one of the best ports in the world in terms of efficiency, the other anchor is all about tourism and leisure” Piaia said.
To support the goals of the Kingdom’s vision 2030 and the growth of tourism occurring in the country, KAEC initiated many projects to attract more visitors to its shores including the Rixos Emerald Shores project which is also supported by the Tourism Development Fund.
Piaia said: “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is going big time on opening up to tourism. So we are following that lead, and we are integrating ourselves into vision 2030 to reach that objective of developments of tourism. We are right now adding an anchor project in KAEC, which is the Rixos project. It's a massive result 546 rooms with a waterpark directly on the Red Sea. And that will act as an anchor for tourism.”
He added: “We are working with the full ecosystem with the Saudi Tourism authority and the Red Sea authority to make sure that KAEC is actually a nest for developing this initiative from Vision 2030.”
KAEC have also multiple initiatives that support SMEs, as in 2020 KAEC signed an SR10 million ($2.2 million) MoU to support entrepreneurs.
“We are engaged with a number of SMEs and we try to give all the incentives and all the capabilities into the city to welcome them so that they can grow for example, we have a success story with hope which is a mobility company, it was born and grown in KAEC and is now expanding in many other projects around the kingdom.”
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