The NEOM economic zone is a visionary plan for a remarkable mega project initiated by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The history making concept will comprise a formidable area of 26,500 sq km (10,230 sq mi) primarily in the north-west region of Saudi Arabia with additional territory located in neighbouring Jordan and Egypt (via the proposed King Salman Bridge).
The initial investment will exceed a phenomenal $500 billion.
A map is displayed on the Plan page.
"The prince [HRH Prince Mohammed bin Salman], 32, made a rare public appearance at the conference to promote the project, telling the bankers and economic policy makers in attendance that the kingdom is moving to a 'new generation of cities.' NEOM will be powered by clean energy, he said, and will have no room 'for anything traditional.' "
Saudi Arabia Just Announced Plans to Build a Mega City That Will Cost $500 Billion
The inaugural Future Investment Initiative summit in Rihadh, part of the Vision 2030 Plan, is also called "Davos in the Desert." Around 3,500 people attended from 88 countries. Its focus is to design the Kingdom's transition away from a high dependence on the oil economy and create a world-leading future.
The stories and video highlights at the Future Investment Initiative website provide a fine overview of the enormous scope and potential of the mega-plan. The video highlights can also be watched on YouTube.
"The changes that we've seen in the last couple of years are very dramatic… we think that Saudi [Arabia] has made a terrific start in terms of opening up and the reforms that are taking place… Saudi [Arabia] is entering a completely new phase…"
EXCLUSIVE: HSBC CEO says bank interested in financing Saudi NEOM project
Al Arabiya (video transcript – Future Investment Initiative interview)
Never before has an independent zone been created spanning three countries. NEOM will be the hub that connects Asia, Europe, Africa and beyond. Described as a "Techutopia" by TechCrunch, it is a truly grand experiment, and with a stated goal of being in the service of humanity, one which is likely to create a noteworthy step forward for human civilization.
"NEOM will be constructed from the ground-up, on greenfield sites, allowing it a unique opportunity to be distinguished from all other places that have been developed and constructed over hundreds of years…"
"…All of this will allow for a new way of life to emerge that takes into account the ambitions and outlooks of humankind paired with best future technologies and outstanding economic prospects."
His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman
(PDF – Press Release Oct 2017 – Official NEOM Site)
The planning and implementation of Neom Zone will be unique and advanced technologies will be leveraged with the aim of achieving best-in-class results. There is a real possibility that the region will be dramatically different from any metropolis that has ever come before. It could become the exemplar of the most futuristic city in the world.
"The blank slate upon which NEOM is set to be developed provides unique opportunities. The fundamental distinction from traditional urban planning projects is the new technology that will be built into the blueprints of the infrastructural framework."
"The NEOM project is set to transform the Kingdom into a leading global innovation and trade hub..."
8 things to know about NEOM project
At the heart of NEOM will be livability. A new way of life, a new paradigm, will be created bridging the best aspects of sustainability, technology, healthy living, creativity, future thinking and more. The intent is for NEOM to be not just the most desirable place in Saudi Arabia to reside in, but for that aspiration to resonate in a global sense as well. The seeds of a noble new direction for human civilization will be planted. The initiative will be open and inclusive in a spirit of global friendship. It is a rare and remarkable invitation to the world.
FRIENDSHIP TO ALL NATIONS
"The land of the future, where the greatest minds and best talents are empowered to embody pioneering ideas and exceed boundaries in a world inspired by imagination."
"Building a global community with tomorrow's brightest talent that embraces innovation, creativity and friendship to all nations."
(PDF – Infographic – Official NEOM Site)
To succeed NEOM will need to attact international talent of the highest caliber. In particular, the zone will need to be an attractive destination for women. Saudi Arabia's two-part strategy of relaxing restrictions on women's activities (such as driving) throughout the Kingdom and creating a separate regulatory framework and legal system in Neom Zone at least begins to address these concerns.
An implied relaxation of dress codes and allowing women to drive are seen as significant and symbolic steps forward.
"But the end of the [driving] ban, coupled with the hints from the promotional video, signifies the country's shift toward more socially progressive attitudes."
Saudi Arabia’s vision for future cities includes women jogging in sports bras and working side-by-side with men
The Crown Prince's agenda seems to be popular with most of the nation's youthful population, and the determination to introduce significant social reform seems to be very genuine.
"The young prince proclaimed that he wants the kingdom to be 'a country of moderate Islam that is open to the world and open to all religions.' As for extremist ideas, 'we will destroy them today.' "
Saudi Arabia launches a futuristic economic zone
The Future Investment Initiative was attended by a stellar cast of political and business leaders. It's goal was to build a foundation for objective, expert-led debate about global investment trends.
The interactive program and expo was designed to promote sincere connections between a diverse and influential guest list from many cultures. It was an effort to understand new industrial and investment possibilities in the context of building a better society. It was an effort to peer into the future.
The agenda was far-reaching.
"Our ambition has no limits, and we are fully committed to invest in international talent and the global economy."
H.E. Dr Majid A. Al Qasabi
Minister of Commerce and Investment
"[What] is needed now is clearly to address two key issues. The first one is climate change. The second thing is inequality."
Managing Director, International Monetary Fund
"I want to use my artificial intelligence to help humans live a better life, like design smarter homes, build better cities of the future. I will do my best to make the world a better place."
Future Investment Initiative: Video Highlights
In a broad-ranging analysis Karen E. Young examines the precedent of state-planned cities having been built in the Gulf region. Decision making and authority are centralized in these "ultimate master-planned communities" with an assumption that social and economic growth are greatest if managed from above.
"There is a sharp departure from the isolated and iconoclastic Saudi Arabia of the past. The meteoric rise of Mohammed bin Salman is the embodiment of the immediacy of the kingdom's challenges. Saudi Arabia needs to change quickly…"
Saudi Arabia's Neom: State-Led Growth Meets New Global Capitalism
NEOM illustrates a shift in how economic development and capital investment might operate. Great effort is being made to create a "new Saudi Arabia". International investors are being sought in spectacular fashion and time is of the essence.
"In an internal study of 250 cities over three and a half years, Cisco found that if cities start to digitize themselves, 'over $3 trillion of incremental value can be created,' said Khetrapal [Munish Khetrapal, managing director of Smart Cities and Internet of Things, Cisco]."
5 lessons for cities on the cusp of a smart revolution
Meaning of the Name
The name "NEOM" is derived from the Latin prefix meaning "new" while the "M" is short for the Arabic word for the future "Mostaqbal." So essentially the meaning of the name is "New Future."