Four new special economic zones to be established in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. (File/SPA)
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. (File/SPA)
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Updated 14 April 2023

Four new special economic zones to be established in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. (File/SPA)
  • The aim of the new zones, which were announced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Thursday, is to open up new opportunities for international investors

RIYADH: Four special economic zones are to be established in Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced on Thursday.

The aim of the new zones, which will be located in Riyadh, Jazan, Ras Al-Khair and King Abdullah Economic City, is to open up new opportunities for international investors, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

“Saudi Arabia is open for business and welcomes investors from all around the world to see first-hand the historic opportunities we have to offer,” the crown prince said.

“The new special economic zones launched today will significantly impact how business is done in the country, create tens of thousands of jobs, and contribute billions of riyals to our gross domestic product.”

The zones will take advantage of the Kingdom’s strategic location to create new hubs for businesses across key growth sectors so that they can launch and expand companies and technologies that will help shape the future, according to the SPA.

They will support existing national strategies and create new links with international frameworks, building on the competitive advantages of each region of the country to support key sectors such as logistics, advanced manufacturing, technology, and other priority sectors in the Kingdom, it added.

The benefits to companies of operating in the zones will include: competitive corporate tax rates; exemption from customs duties on imports, production inputs, machinery and raw materials; 100 percent foreign ownership of companies; and flexibility to attract and hire the best talent worldwide.

The zones will also provide tremendous opportunities for developing the local economy, generating jobs, and localizing supply chains, officials said. They are said to represent a continuation of long-running initiatives that aim to transform the Kingdom into a global investment destination and a vital hub for global supply chains, by capitalizing on its position at the heart of global trade routes.

Thanks to a detailed program of regulations and incentives, the zones will offer rewarding and attractive benefits to foreign investors, officials said. The program will also allow for the acceleration of reforms required to facilitate business in all parts of the Kingdom, they added.

The new zones build on previous free-zone initiatives in the Kingdom, including the recent launch of an integrated special zone for logistics at King Salman International Airport in Riyadh. Together, they represent the first phase of a major, long-term program designed to encourage foreign direct investment, attract the most talented professionals from around the world, and promote entrepreneurship and economic development within the Kingdom, officials said.

The zones, which will be regulated by the Economic Cities and Special Zones Authority, will provide fresh solutions to the challenges many global businesses face as they attempt to localize and strengthen supply chains, they added, and help the Kingdom take advantage of key macroeconomic shifts to create a truly differentiated business environment, activating new sectors and value chains.

Saudi Minister of Investment Khalid Al-Falih, who is the chairman of the Economic Cities and Special Zones Authority, said: “This is an exciting moment. We are proud to see the launch of these four special economic zones that offer the chance for foreign investors to have a stake in the world’s fastest growing economy.”

The Secretary-General of the authority, Mr. Nabil Khoja, added, “With hugely attractive financial incentives, world-class infrastructure, business-friendly regulations and streamlined procedures for investors, there has never been a better time to be part of Saudi Arabia’s economic success story. The zones will become engines of growth, increasing the Kingdom’s export competitiveness, attracting talent, boosting technology and improving our global links.”

Special economic zones – or SEZs – are geographically defined areas that facilitate specific economic activities, such as investment, trade and employment, by providing competitive advantages and legislative frameworks that differ from the base economy. 

The zones launched today cover a wide range of industries:

King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) SEZ
The premier destination for advanced manufacturing and logistics, from automobile supply chain and assembly to consumer goods, ICT to MedTech. Set in a prime location on the Red Sea, less than 90 minutes from Jeddah Airport, this 60km2 site offers unrivaled access to global trade routes through King Abdullah Port, ranked the world’s most efficient by the World Bank in 2022. Anchor investor Lucid, a leader in the global EV industry, will produce 150,000 EVs a year from its base in KAEC SEZ.

Jazan SEZ
An industrial center and key platform for trade with fast-growing markets in Africa and Asia. Jazan SEZ offers access to the largest port in the region for export of goods and import of materials, helping investors benefit from and contribute to large-scale infrastructure projects in Saudi Arabia and around the world, backed by easy access to both natural and industrial resources. Jazan is part of the Kingdom’s fertile southwestern region, providing opportunities for the manufacturing, processing and distribution of food products to cater for growing regional demand and meet food security challenges across the region.

Ras Al-Khair SEZ
A launchpad on the Arabian Gulf for leaders in the maritime industry, Ras Al-Khair SEZ is a fully integrated marine ecosystem, with a rich network of existing investors – 40% of the zone is already reserved – and myriad opportunities across shipbuilding and repair, offshore drilling and maritime value chains.

Cloud Computing SEZ, located in King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST)
In King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST), a new Cloud Computing SEZ will serve as  a hub for emerging and disruptive technologies. A direct manifestation of the Kingdom’s ‘Cloud First’ policy, the Cloud Computing SEZ underlines the Kingdom’s commitment to digital innovation and the fast-growing tech sector. The Zone is based around an innovative hybrid model that allows investors to establish physical data centers and cloud computing infrastructure in multiple locations within the Kingdom.