RAISING SAND

Saudi Arabia 2016 | CONSTRUCTION & REAL ESTATE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Fahd A. Al-Rasheed, Group CEO & Managing Director of King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC), on approaches to successful city management, advantages of the KAEC for investors, and goals for the project.

 Fahd A. Al-Rasheed
BIOGRAPHY
Fahd A. Al-Rasheed is the Group CEO of Emaar Economic City (EEC), a publicly listed company leading the development of one of the largest private sector projects in the world, King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC). Under his leadership, EEC has developed the first private mega container port in the region and attracted more than 100 leading global and regional companies to establish their manufacturing presence. Prior to joining EEC, Al-Rasheed held the post of CFO and Deputy Governor of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA). He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Washington University in St. Louis and an MBA from the Stanford Business School.

What would you say is the correct approach to city management?

Cities in general provide services to their residents, so in a way they should not be viewed as political entities but rather as business entities. The executives in charge of cities, which we call mayors, are city managers, and must play more of an executive role than a political role. Cities should be run more with the idea of serving customers. This approach enhances everything, and changes the way cities are managed. The most effective and simplest way to do this is to capitalize on social media and applications to assess citizens' feedback on how the city is being managed.

What are the elements for a successful city?

Proximity and diversity are the key factors for the success of a city. In each urban area, there is hard infrastructure and soft infrastructure. The former is easy to provide, in the form of ports, roadways, bridges, and other transport and utility structures. Soft infrastructure, on the other hand, comprises the regulatory framework and the services that you provide to residents, and the lifestyle and amenities that you offer to them, whether in form of food, culture, or public spaces. This is the more complicated aspect of running a city. A city is the result of its residents building their lives over time. If you saw it this way, you would forget about pipes and buildings and would focus on these intangible considerations.

What does KAEC offer foreign investors?

We deal with two types of investors. There are industrial investors to which we offer a world-class port, best-in-class infrastructure and logistics, and plug-and-play solutions. Then there are the residents who are investing not only their money, but also their livelihoods. To them we offer jobs, housing for all income levels, and lifestyle solutions such as tourism.

What are your goals for KAEC in 2016?

We have just reached our 10-year anniversary. Over the past decade, we have completed 40 major projects, and over the next 10 years we want to build 170 projects. This will represent a huge increase in investment in the city, and most of these will be building industrial infrastructure, which we specialize in, but also tourism, lifestyle, education, and healthcare solutions.