SOLUTION FOR ALL

Oman 2020 | INDUSTRY | INTERVIEW

International investors and business owners can benefit from Khazaen Economic City's strategic location and its close proximity to the main gateways of the country to import, process, manufacture, distribute locally, and export their goods and services.

Khalid Al Balushi
BIOGRAPHY

Khalid Al Balushi was appointed CEO of Khazaen Economic City in 2019 following over four years leading the business development, R&D, investment operations, and corporate strategy of Muscat National Development and Investment Company ASAAS. Before that, he worked as an investment manager for Oman Investment Fund, where he capitalized on his experience as an engagement auditor at Ernst & Young. He holds a BS from the American University of Sharjah and an MBA from the University of Strathclyde.

What are the main pillars of Khazaen Economic City, and what is the strategy is moving forward in the long and short term?
Khazaen Economic City is the most recent integrated economic city being developed over 52 million sqm in the heart of Oman. Khazaen is the closest economic city to Muscat and is surrounded by a high-density population area, with a focus on light and medium industries. It is the first fully PPP project awarded to the private sector through a process of proposal submissions. The area is being developed with a commercial approach. In 2019, we laid down the city's foundation, and we also awarded the first contract for the first phase of infrastructure, which will open around 3 million sqm of leasable area and will include Oman's first dry port measuring around 250,000sqm. Our focus is to initiate and structure business opportunities and investment products to be offered to interested investors and business owners. Another key project which we have initiated is the food cluster. Khazaen will accommodate a well-designed food cluster project. A state-of-the-art facility designed to cover an area of almost 1 million sqm, the food cluster will enhance the value chain of Oman's food industry. The first phase will include a central fruits and vegetables market that will be the source of fresh produce and a platform for wholesale trade, and the second phase will include related industries such as food processing, packaging, canning, and preservations. Khazaen is also targeting international companies that operate across the food industry value chain besides local and global investors to establish their businesses at the city and use Oman as a hub for processing and distributing to the region and globally while benefiting from the well-established logistics gateways across the country, Khazaen's strategic location, and the attractive commercial and long-lease terms. The industrial and logistics components occupy around 60% of the total area. One of our key drivers is that the concentration of facilities and assets here allows businesses to lower their operational costs and be more efficient. We can have staff accommodation, warehousing, manufacturing, offices, and so on all located here.

What profile of investors do you want to attract, and how does the city fit into the overall industrial competitiveness of the country?
We have many business cities, parks, and infrastructures that complement one another. Any business that wants to have access to a large population center, different transportation options, or be close to Muscat is who we are perfect for. We are also focused on our offerings and only host light and medium projects. We have no intention of attracting heavy industries. Khazaen's location also gives it a great deal of competitive advantages especially for projects related to logistics and warehousing. Our proximity to all the key logistics gateways in the country like Muscat Airport (35 minutes), Suwaiq Port (30 minutes), and Sohar Port (2 hours) gives investors various options for its transportation and export. Our proximity to Muscat also allows the government to easily offer certain anchor projects they would like to have close by but not in the major population centers. Our focus is on attracting more international businesses and drawing more FDI into the country. Our interest is to bring business opportunities to Oman and serve as an expansion hub.

What prospects are there to make Khazaen into a smart city?
Our focus now is to develop an infrastructure that can accommodate any smart solution in the future. Our implementation of these solutions will be done in stages as the city and businesses' needs grow. We already talked to different international technology companies so as to be ready for these concepts. Earlier in 2020, we signed with Oman Broadband Company, which will invest in the fiber-optic infrastructure. Part of our agreement is also to explore the different modes of smart solutions that could be implemented in the city.