How KAEC Leadership is Systematically Building a World-Class City, One Land Plot at a Time
King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) was established in 2006 as a private-public partnership. It is the largest startup city of its kind, operating entirely on private investment income with no direct funding from the government. From the very beginning, KAEC had to find a way to position the city to attract investors who would essentially fund its development.
KAEC leadership decided to leverage location as the city’s primary value offering. As a new city in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, one of the richest countries on earth, KAEC had a clear advantage by being located along the coast of the Red Sea. The Red Sea region has always been a key player in global trade, a market currently valued at $1.8 trillion.
KAEC would act as a trade and logistics gateway into Saudi Arabia and the Red Sea region, which required the building a trade and logistics infrastructure, supported by local commercial and manufacturing industries, that could support residential and civic infrastructure.
The world’s most successful cities have well-designed hard and soft infrastructures that nourish the development and growth of residential, commercial, and industrial communities. It takes years to develop infrastructures. Building a thriving city requires you to plan today and look to the future to see the fruits of an infrastructure you will build tomorrow.
Nurturing the various types of infrastructures needed to keep a city running requires a plan that will implement infrastructures as they are needed, not too soon, and not too late.
Prosperous cities have both residential communities and business communities. No one wants to live where there are no jobs or roads. Businesses don’t want to invest in areas where there are no people. KAEC has had to find a way to balance the needs of the city with the needs of its investors and residents.
The result has been a network of infrastructures that are supported by, and provide support to, one another. National and international brands have invested in the city and created jobs, which create a demand for housing. People need homes, but they also need schools, parks, healthcare facilities, grocers, and civil services.
By implementing a plan with built-in KPIs that measure the performance of different sectors of the economy, KAEC is able to focus energy and resources when and where they are most needed. The challenge is to find the balance between growing the economy, upholding the values of the Kingdom, and serving the people who will live, work, and invest in the city.
Once you have a strategy for managing those three key areas, you can build a thriving city.