The Business Year

Dr. Alaa Nassif


1st Smart City in Saudi Arabia

CEO, Royal Commission at Yanbu & Jazan


Dr. Alaa Nassif is CEO of
the Royal Commission at Yanbu & Jazan, and also oversees the management of Yanbu Industrial City
and is CEO of the Royal Commission at Jazan City for Primary & Downstream Industries (RCJCPDI) since September 2015. He holds
a PhD from the University
of Salford in Manchester, a master’s from the University of Miami, and a bachelor’s from King Abdul Aziz University. He has also attended Oxford University and Massachusetts University of Technology (MIT). He is also a member of numerous boards of directors including the Saudi Energy Efficiency Council and the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST).

"This smart city project aims to improve citizens’ quality of life via deploying a new fiber network."

What changes has the Royal Commission at Yanbu seen over the past year?

We launched Yanbu as the first smart city in Saudi Arabia and in the process have received many awards, including first prize for the application with our partner Huawei and emerging number one amongst 370 global cities in the Smart City Expo World Congress projects 2017. We are both able to increase the appeal for Yanbu as a city and also use some of these smart applications as a source of revenue. Around 300 industrial entities are now connected to our smart city. Yanbu is a vibrant and growing city, with a number of projects being carried out in community areas. This smart city project aims to improve citizens’ quality of life via deploying a new fiber network, building a smart lighting control system, improving overall mobility, creating a big data platform, and developing an Integrated Communication Platform (ICP).

How is the importance of downstream segments evolving?

Yanbu still has the third-largest refining capacity in the world, and as soon as our new refining organizations are commissioned, we will be number one. Other downstream segments, such as the rubber industry, are also developing at a rapid pace in Yanbu. We have two new projects for manufacturing units that will be fully operational by the end of 2018. We are working on the site to prepare for the renewable energy shift, first solar and subsequently wind. Our competitive advantage in this area is that we will not only produce our renewable energy locally, but also produce the cells needed for this onsite. In addition, we conducted a successful project in industrial waste recycling and now have several plants that produce reused oil and lubricants and are exporting them worldwide. All of our water is reused, either in different industrial uses or for our landscape and irrigation needs; we do not have any wastage.

What are you doing to support SMEs?

We have a number of projects to support SMEs, some independently and others together with the Saudi Industrial Development Fund. The major issue for industrial SMEs is the high CAPEX in this sector. We, therefore, provide ready buildings that SMEs can lease and we support them by training their staff. In this way, they can commission and produce within three months, and it minimizes the time for SMEs to break even. We have gathered all governmental offices in a one-stop shop called a Business Center, where we help investors prepare everything they need in terms of certification and paperwork in one place. All procedures can be completed electronically to minimize time and cost. The business center started operations in March 2018.

How do the goals of your educational institutions align with Vision 2030?

The great thing about our colleges and institutes is that they are all market based. One way to do so is through consulting industrial committees. They evaluate our curriculum to determine if the materials are still relevant and if there are new subjects that should receive more attention. Furthermore, our entire program is internationally accredited and we partner with some of the world’s best universities to introduce new programs such as insurance specialties. Some of our subjects, such as our supply chain specialty, are unique in the GCC. In addition, we provide certificates and training for those who are more vocationally inclined. In 2017, 70% of Yanbu Industrial College and Yanbu University College graduates were able to find a job within six months, an impressive figure by international and local standards. Our first batch of female graduates will also enter the labor market in 2019. On an annual basis, 50-70% of the students who join the international competition in science, mathematics, chemistry, and biology are from our schools in Yanbu Industrial City. In mathematics, we achieved a gold medal standard, the first time for Saudi Arabia. In 2018, two of our students received scholarships to MIT and Harvard.



You may also be interested in...

Abderrahmane Mohamed CEO & Founder, Drill Corp Sahara Saudi


Abderrahmane Mohamed


CEO & Founder, Drill Corp Sahara Saudi

Thamer Aldhafiri, CEO of Cipher

SAUDI ARABIA - Telecoms & IT

Thamer Aldhafiri


CEO, Cipher


SAUDI ARABIA - Telecoms & IT

Hamad Alenizi


Group CEO, Faden Media Group

View All interviews