There is a healthy level of “good competition” between Saudi Arabia's two planned economic cities on the kingdom's Red Sea coastline.
King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC), planned as a city for 2 million on a site the size of Brussels, was launched in 2006. It was envisioned as a logistics and manufacturing hub, with a seaport and an industrial zone, as well as residential zones.
More recently, Saudi Arabia's King Salman launched Neom last year, a proposed $500 billion futuristic city and global tourism destination.
Rather than being in competition, KAEC group CEO Ahmed Linjawi said the two complement each other, catering to slightly different needs in Saudi Arabia.
According to Arabian Business, Linjawi said that “we cannot deny that there is a level of competition” between the two master planned urban developments.
“It’s a good competition,” he said. “It’s good to have that, because it puts everyone on their best effort.
"That [competition] is certainly not the intention of the government,” Linjawi added. “These developments are intended to fulfil certain sectors and certain needs in the country.”
Linjawi said that “some overlap” between the two cities that is driven by Saudi Arabia’s geography, with the two cities more than 1,000 km apart on the kingdom’s Red Sea coast.
“You can have leisure facilities and entertainment facilities here, but you can also have it there,” he said. “We look at each other, in a way, and see how we can be better.
“That competition is good,” he added. “But I think the main objective is to complement and complete the full ecosystem that the country has to offer and unleash its potential.”
Last week and early this week, KAEC was the site of the Saudi International – the kingdom’s first professional golf tournament – as well as the venue for concerts from Mariah Carey, DJ Tiesto and Sean Paul.
Neom, for its part, remains a work in progress, with the first phase of construction slated to begin in Q1 2019 and finish in 2020.
Additionally, enhancement work for the airport in Sharma – which will be a hub for flights to and from the city – will also be completed later this year as part of the project’s first phase.