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Ahmed Akkak

OMAN - Transport

Ahmed bin Ali Akaak

Acting CEO, SEZAD

Bio

Ahmed bin Ali Akaak is the Acting CEO of SEZAD. He previously worked as advisor to the Minister of Transport for Ports, as well as Group Chief Marketing Officer at Asyad and Deputy CEO of the Port of Salalah. He has a degree in planning from the US and a master’s in HR management.

"We have been generous when it comes to fiscal incentives."
The Special Economic Zone at Duqm (SEZAD) is the largest of its kind in the region and underpins much of Oman’s greater economic ambition.
Can you tell us about Duqm’s most prominent characteristics and some of the highlights of the past year?

Duqm is a multi-economic city that covers around eight zones with heavy industry, an airport, and a fishery. Also, we are considering an area dedicated to AI. It is a huge area that is one of our key advantages as we can readily accommodate all business types. Construction started 10 years ago, and the projects are phased depending on the business model. We have now delivered the most critical part of the projects. They will guarantee that Duqm is well connected to both regional and global markets. Additionally, there are massive roads and highway projects ongoing in Duqm. Moving into 2023, we will see new strategic projects commissioned, including the refinery. We will have the capacity to handle all types of liquid material as the strategic tank farms also come online. Meanwhile, the container terminal will also be operational. Many people are moving to Duqm. And as we enter the project’s operational phase, there will be a great deal of traffic.

What incentive packages do you extend to attract residents to the area?

We have been generous when it comes to fiscal incentives. Today, we are providing gas, which is a key challenge in Duqm. We are also looking at offshore banking, which will help provide considerable leverage in connecting the shipping industry to emerging markets in East Africa. We need investments in energy and funding. And galvanizing these areas through fiscal incentives will activate Duqm as a multipurpose economic zone accommodating a diversity of businesses.

What are some of your competitive advantages?

One of the unique factors of Duqm is its proximity to natural resources. In addition, it is by far the largest economic city or free zone in the region. On top of this, Duqm sits in a peaceful area free of political turbulence. Stability is a key advantage for retaining our investors within Duqm. Additionally, it is situated in the center of the country with ready access north or south through a comprehensive transportation matrix. This is promising for investors because they see the realization of large-scale projects that cannot be accommodated anywhere else. The most critical factor, however, is that Duqm is probably the first project in the region to anchor renewable energy projects. This has been committed as part of the decarbonization of assets. In fact, Duqm is destined to become the main carrier of clean hydrogen to global markets.

Apart from renewable energy and decarbonization, what are you doing in terms of green practices. When it comes to construction, how do you preserve the natural environment?

We have a clear mandate and a defined policy regarding the environment and sustainability management. We are looking forward to achieving Net Zero by 2050, and we are setting those compliance measures today in Duqm. Besides, we are looking into creating the right fundamental infrastructure to facilitate the vision. I think that setting rigorous and aggressive targets for certain industries, by decarbonizing their current assets from today, will introduce the right measures. Industries will try to fit into the line, regardless of the industry’s nature.

What are the prospects for utilizing AI?

Many factories are present within Duqm because of the possibility to achieve many things in one location. We have an 18km zone for AI. In Duqm, there are also three-dimension houses that we call airspace settlements where people can run simulations. Duqm has also become the R&D area for many universities. And what’s more, we have an economy geared toward innovation, with teams and committees in place dedicated to it. We give people the freedom to test, think, and explore future scenarios that cannot be tested beyond Duqm.

What are your expectations for the short term?

Now that we have accomplished key projects we need to ensure that we optimize and expand on them. We must ensure that we anchor investors to guarantee proper national positioning. This will create jobs and technology for the country, and we are resolutely advancing toward this.

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