A $500bn megacity plan to a $1bn ticket to the space-age, Saudi Arabia is all set to be catapulted into a new age of digital renaissance.
About 3000 global leaders, politicians, and key industry players were hosted by Saudi Arabia at a glittering event held recently to announce the vision of the future. A piece of this vision consists of a plan for a new city, the US$500 billion Neom Investment Zone bordering the Red Sea.
Located 200kms north-east of the capital city of Riyadh, Neom city will be modeled on the free trade zone concept that was earlier pioneered in Dubai. Such ‘free trade zones’ are not only exempt from tariffs and taxes but have their own laws and regulations, thereby operating separately from the rest of the government. The ambitious plan also includes a bridge spanning the Red Sea, which will connect the proposed city to Egypt and the rest of Africa itself. About 25,900 square kilometers’ have been allocated for the development of Neom city that will stretch into Jordan and Egypt.
The initiative has been dubbed as the ‘world’s most ambitious project‘ by leading media outlets.
Neom is one of many initiatives undertaken by Saudi Arabia in its effort to create alternate sources of revenue and become completely independent from petrodollars as the price of oil takes a dip around the world.
Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman has been the leading force behind of the Neom project, outlined the key reasons behind the initiative at an investment conference in Riyadh: “We are a G20 country and one of the biggest world economies. We’re in the middle of three continents. Changing Saudi Arabia for the better means helping the region and changing the world. So this is what we are trying to do here. And we hope we get support from everyone.”
Another investment down in pipeline is a billion-dollar investment in Virgin Galactic and associated companies to support the commercialization of access to space.
To infinity and beyond
The Kingdom has set its sights on the vastness of space with a $1 billion investment in Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic enterprise. The investment will mean a ‘significant’, but minority stake in Virgin Galactic, Virgin Orbit, and The Spaceship Company.
“This partnership with Virgin Group reflects the great strides the Kingdom is making towards our vision for a diversified, knowledge-based economy,” Prince Mohammad bin Salman said in a statement. “The future of Saudi Arabia is one of innovation … and it’s through partnerships with organizations like Virgin Group that we will make active contributions to those sectors and technologies that are driving progress on a global scale.”
The money to be invested will go towards Virgin’s space tourism program and the development of a new satellite launch development center. Virgin was ambiguous on what Saudi Arabia would get in return. The obvious outcome is that The Kingdom will have a huge stake in Virgin and may help in developing a ‘space-centric entertainment industry’ in the future.
It will ultimately mean that the diversification of the economy, both that are in the confines of this world or beyond, will lead to the creation of more jobs for the Saudi population, hundreds if not thousands who are going to enter the workforce in the decades to come.
To a new future.
The initiatives come in a response to move away from an oil-reliant economy and the dire need to develop non-oil sectors.
‘Economic diversification’ is the new watchword as deep structural reforms for the New Digital Age of AI, blockchain, FinTech, and associated technologies are needed so that The Kingdom’s economy will truly become self-reliant.
Diversifying the economy is one thing, but getting the workforce to power it is another ball game altogether.Technology will undoubtedly play a key role in Saudi Arabia’s drive for transformation which is prescribed in its Vision 2030.
Digitalisation of industries will lead to improved competitiveness that will prove invaluable in automating end-to-end business processes across the entire supply chain and thus will prove crucial in enhancing its workforce.
The initiatives are just at the tip of the iceberg. With digital transformation affecting so many industries, it is imperative to learn from the experts and understand the specific benefits and challenges of implementing digital transformation across every industry.
With that in mind, Trescon is organizing the Riyadh Big DT Show on 20 – 21 November 2017 at the Al Faisaliah Hotel, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.To book tickets or to explore sponsorship opportunities click here.