Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

King Abdullah bin AbdulAziz Launches Knowledge Economic City | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Madina, Asharq Al-Awsat – The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin AbdulAziz launched the Knowledge Economic City (KEC) in Madinah, Saudi Arabia yesterday. The project is the first of its kind and the third economic city in Saudi Arabia to be initiated by the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) in an aggressive bid to repatriate capital and attract value-added foreign investments. The move is part of efforts hoped to develop the Kingdom’s regions in a hi-tech manner while easing mounting pressure off the country’s three major cities’ infrastructures.

At the directives of King Abdullah, SAGIA liaised with a Consortium of Saudi investors lead by Savola Group to develop an economic city dedicated to knowledge-based industries (KBI). The Consortium—Savola Group Co., PMDC, Taibah Investment & Real Estate Development Co., and Quad International Real Estate Development Co.—along with the King Abdullah Foundation formed an investment vehicle to develop an economic city based on KBI. The new city, named “Knowledge Economic City” will be developed on a 4.8 million m2 land while the built up area will near 9 million m2 attracting some 25 billion Saudi riyals ($6.7 billion) worth of investments. The project will add 20,000 new jobs to the region.

The city will comprise various zones designed to compliment each other; a technology and KBI zone; an advanced IT studies institute; an interactive museum on the life of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH); a center for Islamic civilization studies; a campus for medical research and life sciences; an integrated medical services zone; a retail zone; a business district; residential zones including high rises, houses, and fully-serviced apartments; shopping malls; and a mosque with a 10,000 worshipper capacity.

Transportation within KEC will be facilitated via a ring road above which rises a monorail connecting the city to neighboring Grand Mosque of Madinah within minutes. This monorail will be tethered to the planned train station thus tapping into the railway access to Makkah, Yanbou, the King Abdullah Economic City as well as the port city of Jeddah.

SAGIA played a pivotal role in the conceptualization of the project. “The King’s vision to develop an economic city based on KBI is a forward looking step and the development will boost the region’s chances to attract investments hoped to overhaul services in Madinah,” commented Amr Dabbagh, governor of SAGIA.

“This vital project falls well within plans to upgrade the Kingdom’s regions in a sustainable fashion taking into consideration each region’s competitive advantages. Given Madinah’s historic stance as the launch pad of Islamic culture by Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) more than 14 centuries ago, the KEC project is a renaissance of sorts as Madinah will be used to launch the knowledge-based industries,” added Dabbagh.

Governor Amr Dabbagh pointed out that the three economic cities launched to date by SAGIA are in line with its strategy to promote investments into the country’s sectors that propose the best competitive advantages, namely, energy, transportation, and KBI. The first economic city launched December 2005 in Rabegh (the King Abdullah Economic City) focused on promoting energy- and transportation-related industries, while the second economic city launched last week in Hayel (the Prince AbdulAziz bin Mousaed Economic City) is designed around transportation and related logistical services. This latest city in Madinah captures the essence of SAGIA’s third focus, knowledge-based industries (KBI), concluded Dabbagh.

The Knowledge Economic City project is a culmination of efforts by a group of leading Saudi companies to develop an economic city to the east of Madinah that is planned to become an international KBI icon. The total built up area will reach 8.8 million m2 including 4,000 stores and 30,000 residential units that will house 200,000 inhabitants.