Saudi Arabia: 7 things to know about NEOM, the megacities of the future by Mohammed bin Salman

Posted on Jul 26, 2022, 4:34 pmUpdated Jul 26, 2022 at 5:34 PM

We know more about the financing of Mohammed bin Salman’s mega project. On Monday, the Saudi Crown Prince announced the establishment of the NEOM Investment Fund, an investment fund of $80 billion. This is intended to partially finance the giant futuristic city that will be located in the northwest of the kingdom.

The director also announced that the company responsible for managing and developing the mega city of NEOM will be listed on the Riyadh Stock Exchange in 2024, in order to attract local and international investors. Here are seven things to know about this futuristic project, the features of which are still largely unknown.

1. An integral part of the Vision 2030 plan

Announced in 2017, the giant NEOM project is part of the Vision 2030 plan. This aims to diversify the Saudi economy into tourism, finance and real estate, to eventually help it out of its dependence on hydrocarbons.

In particular, it provides huge investments, which will be financed through the privatization of part of the national oil company, Saudi Aramco. The project of this mega-city is part of this logic: it should make it possible to attract investors and thus contribute to changing the image of Saudi Arabia internationally.

2. The cost of 500 billion dollars

A huge project at a huge cost: the NEOM project is estimated at 500 billion dollars. The cost of the first phase of construction, which is expected to run until 2030, is expected to be approximately $300 billion. Half of it will be covered by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund.

The remaining $200 billion should come from private investment – domestic and international – in addition to money raised through the IPO of the company behind the NEOM project.

3. Three times the area of ​​Cyprus

With an area of ​​about 26,500 square kilometres, the futuristic mega-city built on the shores of the Red Sea will be three times the size of Cyprus, and almost the size of Belgium.

Huge size responds to a demographic challenge: Prince Mohammed bin Salman plans to increase the population from the current 34 million to 50 or even 60 million by 2030, by attracting more foreigners.

4. Robot taxi and server

This is the point the Saudi authorities insist on most: the futuristic character of the city that will emerge from an area that is now completely desert.

According to the “Wall Street Journal” – which gained access to classified documents – the city could have satellites, phosphorescent beaches, flying taxis, as well as robotic butlers. Technologies that for the most part do not exist today.

5. 100% renewable energy blend

Emphasis is also placed on the environmental aspect of the future mega city. In fact, the Kingdom aims to make NEOM a region that is 100% renewable energy, in addition to being practically self-sufficient in terms of food.

However, many observers question the feasibility of such projects, in a country that still imports 80% of its food and is one of the largest emitters of carbon dioxide in the world. Moreover, it is hard to imagine the environmental cost of such an ambitious project in the middle of the desert.

6. Linear city 170 km long

Megacities should consist of several cities, all of which will be at the forefront of urban innovation. In addition to the industrial city of Oxagon, which will be the largest floating building on the water, and Trojena, which will include a giant complex at an altitude of almost 2,000 meters, Mohammed bin Salman has revealed plans for a third city called “The Line”. Line).

This stretches over a 170-kilometre-long structure, rising 500 meters above water level. It will house 1.5 million people by 2030 and 9 million by 2045.

7. Intense lobbying efforts

To respond to the multiple controversies raised by the project – including allegations of forced displacement from local tribes – Saudi Arabia has stepped up outreach efforts.

In July 2020, a few months after an activist who refused to leave his home was assassinated by Saudi security forces, the kingdom secured the services of Ruder Finn, a lobbying firm, for $1.7 million.

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