The Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority, or SAGIA, has begun a long-term economic growth project that involves the development of four cities across the country. These urban hubs, called Economic Cities (ECs), are meant to boost the country’s economy by creating new jobs, training Saudis in new skills, and fostering market competition.
Each city is planned around an industrial theme. SAGIA estimates that the ECs will account for almost a quarter of the Saudi economy by the year 2020.
Another ancillary benefit of the ECs is that they will take population pressure off of the country’s existing metropolitan areas, such as Riyadh and Makkah. Here’s a closer look at the four cities in question:
King Abdullah Economic City
King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) is located in the Rabigh region on Saudi Arabia’s west coast. One of SAGIA’s first EC projects, KAEC is expected to be the largest EC upon its completion.
KAEC has an investment of nearly $95 billion, almost all of which comes from private funding. The city reportedly receives no direct support from oil revenues.
KAEC is slated to employ 1 million people and have a residential population of 2 million.
The city will be divided into six zones. These will include a 25-square-mile industrial district with over 2,500 companies, a seaport covering 5 square miles, and a residential zone with more than 300,000 apartments and villas. There will also be a district dedicated to business, a tourism zone with 10 square miles of resort facilities, and an educational zone with a university campus.
In its entirety, the city will span over about 70 square miles, making it larger than the American capital city of Washington, D.C.
Though the CEO of the city recently reported that construction was on track for completion in 2035, less than 25 percent of the city has been developed or is currently under construction.
Prince Abdulaziz Bin Mousaed Economic City (PABMEC)
Located in north east Saudi Arabia, the Prince Abdulaziz Bin Mousaed Economic City (PABMEC) broke ground for construction in 2009, shortly after KAEC. Because the project is of a smaller scale, it’s expected to be complete in 2025.
The industry theme for PABMEC is transportation. The city will also focus heavily on agriculture and construction materials.
The heart of PABMEC will be the logistics and transportation center, which will include an international airport with a capacity for 3 million annual passengers, land ports that can process more than 1 million tons of cargo each year, and a railway station that will connect the city to other parts of Saudi Arabia, as well as across borders into Jordan and Iraq.
PABMEC will also be home to an agricultural research center intended to increase crop production. A large portion of the city will be dedicated to education, with numerous schools serving as many as 40,000 students. One PABMEC zone will be entirely focused on mining, with processing facilities, land surveyors, equipment rental, and other related businesses.
The petrochemical industries zone of PABMEC will have its own processing plant for natural gas, an oil refinery, and multiple production facilities for materials like fertilizer.
Like the other ECs, PABMEC will have a robust residential zone. With a budget of just under $3 billion, this zone is expected to create more than 50,000 jobs and provide about 15,000 homes for the city’s expected population of 80,000.
Tourism will also be a part of life of PABMEC. An entertainment zone in the city is expected to attract more than 65,000 tourists annually.
The Knowledge Economic City
The third EC project, the Knowledge Economic City (KEC), was also launched in 2006. A much smaller project, KEC will span just under 2 square miles and be located in the Madinah region of Saudi Arabia.
As the name suggests, KEC will be focused on education and knowledge-based industries. The purpose of the city will be to support and nurture young Saudi entrepreneurs. The city will be home to multiple campuses for the study of medicine, biology, and Islamic civilizations.
The medical campus will also double as a hospital for residents. The biology campus will focus on solutions to problems faced by the national population, such as water treatment and the study of vaccines.
KEC will also have a fully-developed commercial and residential environment for its young residents. The city will be home to a theme park called Seera Land, a mosque with a 10,000-person capacity, and a shopping mall that will ultimately boast more than 3 million square feet of retail space.
Residential areas will have space to accommodate a constant population of 150,000 people as well as room for 30,000 tourists.
Jazan Economic City
In the southwest corner of Saudi Arabia is the fourth Economic City, Jazan Economic City (JEC). The city will span over 43 square miles and be divided into four zones, the largest of which will be devoted to an industrial district.
The city will feature a power plant, a water desalination plant that will produce almost 2 million cubic feet of water daily, and a port on the Red Sea. A refinery in JEC will produce more than 250,000 barrels of oil each day, and a local aluminum smelter facility will produce 1 million metric tons of aluminum every year.
There will also be facilities for processing iron ore and building ships.