The Business Year

Salim Al Thuhli

OMAN - Industry

Salim Al Thuhli

CEO, Khazaen Economic City

Bio

Salim Al Thuhli was appointed CEO of Khazaen Economic City in 2021 after leading the projects and engineering affairs area for three years. He has over 25 years of experience in project management, engineering contracts, infrastructure development, and tourism projects. He has worked in several institutions including Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) and Oman Tourism Development Company (Omran). He is a graduate of the Oman’s National CEO Program and holds training certificates in leadership from the London Business School and other international centers.

Thanks to its strategic location and high standard of infrastructure, Khazaen Economic City has signed 55 investment agreements so far worth over OMR60 million.

What were some of the major highlights for Khazaen Economic City over the past year?

In the last year, we completed the infrastructure and laid down the foundations despite the challenges from lockdowns, contractors, and supply chain outside the country. We opened 3.2 million sqm of leasable area that is now ready for various investors and sectors. We also completed 10km of roads, a 22-km water distribution network, a fiber-optic network, the storm water network, and the construction of the 6.7-km flood protection dike. We also built a water reservoir of 5,000cbm and a 9.8-km main transmission pipeline for that. The construction of the first inland dry port in Oman has been completed, and the expected operation is planned in 4Q2021. In terms of telecommunications, Oman Tower Company has already installed the required telecom towers used by all telecom operators in the country. Khazaen is ready for business as we have signed more than 55 investment agreements so far worth a total of OMR60 million. One of the cornerstones achievements during the course of 2021, Khazaen has signed with Muscat Municipality the relocation of the wholesale market from Al-Mawaleh Central Fruit and Vegetable Market to Khazaen Central Fruit and Vegetable market which will be a main component of the Food City.

How important is collaboration between the different free zones for achieving the diversification strategy of Oman?

The economic city and industrial zones are a major contribution to Oman’s economy and the GDP. They create employment and business and allow people to come to Oman to do business and stay here. It enhances diversification, not only on the economic side but culturally as well. As Omanis, we welcome everyone. We host international companies in these zones, adding in-country value (ICV) to Oman, especially when dealing with raw material such as mining, petroleum, and other materials. When we have economic zones, there is a platform for ICV initiators, therefore maximizing the GDP participation of these products. We complement each other, and each has its own unique characteristics, objectives, and value proposition.

What type of investors are interested?

We are always targeting diverse investors; however, the logistics sector is especially important. We do not have gas, so there is not much encouragement for heavy industry. Instead, we have signed with investors in the food sector, renewable energy, recycling energy and manufacturing. Other investors are setting up factories and workshops. One of the unique projects we already signed will involve a small factory for cable cars, solar panels, and electric car assembly. The solar factory may import some components, but the assembly can be done here. There will be also pre-built warehouses in the logistic zone. Some investors from the area are looking for a readily made storage solution in the city, which we can provide. We have also identified 1 million sqm in the city as a food cluster to help achieving Oman vision 2040 and the food security strategy. Half will be for a fruit and vegetable market, and the other half will be for processing and packaging for food-related industry. There will also be distribution and transport facilities for companies working in that sector.

What are your ambitions for the next 12 months?

My first ambition is to start the construction of the fruit and vegetable market by January 1, 2022. We will also move our headquarters from Muscat to Khazaen and recently announced the tender for that. Nevertheless, we still need to ensure connectivity to the expressway. In 2021, we aim to encourage investors and help them gain approvals from different government authorities so they can start their projects on the ground. In total, 13 investors have started, and the rest are working on their concept and engineering and designs. The city has great potential, so we need to dream big. We need to attract FDI and maximize the movement of goods and services and stimulate the growth of SMEs in Oman.

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