Saudi Arabia plans to build a business and industrial zone extending into Jordan and Egypt – thereby seeking to free itself from dependency on oil exports.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced a $500 billion plan in this regard at an international business conference in Riyadh on Tuesday.
Saudi Arabia’s main sovereign wealth fund Public Investment Fund (PIF) arranged the conference to present the kingdom as a 'leading global investment destination'.
According Crown Prince's plan, the 26,500 square km (10,230 square mile) zone, known as NEOM, to be powered entirely by renewable energy.
It will focus on industries including energy and water, biotechnology, food, advanced manufacturing and entertainment, Crown Prince said.
The zone is located adjacent to the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba and near maritime trade routes that use the Suez Canal.
It will also serve as a gateway to the proposed King Salman Bridge, which will link Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
“Its most prominent and strategic location will also facilitate the zone’s rapid emergence as a global hub that connects Asia, Europe and Africa.”
Prince Mohammed described it as an example of the innovative high tech future he has promised his highly conservative country.
“This project is not a place for any conventional investor ... This is a place for dreamers who want to do something in the world,” he said.
A Reuters report said there’s no immediate comment on the plan from Jordan and Egypt, which are close allies of Saudi Arabia.
Riyadh said it was already in contact with potential investors and would complete the project’s first phase by 2025.
Prince Mohammed appointed Klaus Kleinfeld, a former chief executive of Siemens AG and Alcoa Inc, to run the NEOM project.
Saudi Arabia’s economy, though rich, has struggled to overcome low oil prices. Prince Mohammed has launched a series of economic and social reforms -- such as allowing women to drive -- to modernise the kingdom.