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SAUDI ARABIA - Industry

Suliman Almazroua

CEO, National Industrial Development and Logistics Program (NIDLP)

Bio

Eng. Suliman Almazroua, CEO of the National Industrial Development and Logistics Program (NIDLP). He leads change and strives for innovation at this important stage of the program to contribute in achieving the strategic objectives of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.
In recent roles prior to his assignment as Head of the Program Office, he acted as Executive Director in the National Transformation Program, the NTP program was mandated to achieve the 37 strategic objectives of Vision 2030. Almazroua also acted as the Director General of the Delivery and Rapid Intervention Center where he managed a team of over 90 professionals to support the delivery of Vision 2030 goals. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Systems Engineering from King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in 2001 and his master’s degree in business administration from Hull University (UK) in 2006. He also participated in many global leadership programs, including Program Management from Rice University and Executive Program of Harvard University. Since then, he has gained a wealth of experience in technical, managerial, and leadership roles in the industrial sector; he began his career in Saudi Aramco in the technical field and then he moved to the managerial field, both experiences contributed to shaping his technical, managerial and leadership skills. In 2011, Almazroua was appointed as Manager of the International Operations for Saudi Aramco in Houston, USA where he established North America Satellite Research and Development Centers, improved Cybersecurity Posture in all Saudi Aramco international offices and technical management of the healthcare sector in Saudi Aramco. He acquired the technical skills and industry knowledge that enabled him to build a unique problem-solving ability. Equipped with his skills and work ethics, Almazroua aspires to play a pivotal role in KSA’s most prominent Vision Realization Program, NIDLP, which is focused on transforming Saudi Arabia into a pioneering industrial powerhouse and a global logistics hub by integrating growth in four key sectors: Mining, Industry, Logistics, and Energy (with focus on Industry 4.0) in line with Vision 2030.

"NIDLP was created to enable the transformation of the Kingdom into an industrial powerhouse and global logistics hub."
TBY talks to Suliman Almazroua, CEO of the National Industrial Development and Logistics Program (NIDLP), about the environment, innovation and technology, and developing a skilled workforce.
Could you provide an overview of the goals and objectives of the National Industrial and Logistics Development Program (NIDLP) in alignment with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030?

The National Industrial Development and Logistics Program (NIDLP) was launched in 2019 to accelerate Saudi Arabia’s economic diversification by transforming the Kingdom into an industrial powerhouse and global logistics hub. NIDLP has evolved and become a ‘catalyst of catalysts’, working to ensure systematic integration across economic sectors by working with more than 40 government and government-related entities. These and many more organizations are doing transformational work to make Saudi Arabia a great place to do business. They are catalysts for economic development. At NIDLP, we aim to be a catalyst for their work, enabling maximum efficiency and effectiveness. At the moment, we are even busier than usual, as we are racing to take advantage of the countless opportunities that come with being the fastest-growing G20 economy!

NIDLP aims to transform Saudi Arabia into a global industrial and logistics hub. How does the program plan to achieve this vision, and what strategies are in place to attract both local and international investments?

NIDLP seeks to contribute to creating a thriving, diverse and sustainable economy by unlocking growth opportunities and generating quality jobs, We are doing this by:

● Focusing on a diversified portfolio of sectors
● Empowering the private sector to create economic growth by enabling an attractive investment environment
● Focusing on regulations and legislations that stimulate faster growth
● Building on the Kingdom’s current competitive advantages.

One of the key aspects of NIDLP is to enhance the contribution of the industrial and logistics sectors to the Kingdom’s GDP. Can you elaborate on the specific initiatives or projects that are being undertaken to achieve this goal?

NIDLP was created to enable the transformation of the Kingdom into an industrial powerhouse and global logistics hub. Our objective is to diversify the economy by increasing the competitiveness and productivity of the energy, mining, industry and logistics sectors and amplifying their economic impact. To achieve this, we must leverage the power of technology, in addition to Saudi Arabia’s natural resources and human capital. Specifically, NIDLP is focused on two key areas: the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and local content. Local content initiatives leverage Saudi Arabia’s purchasing power to promote domestic manufacturing, while 4IR technologies drive productivity growth. Additional enablers have been put in place, including regulatory reforms and incentives for investment and exports, and research and development initiatives to support the supply of innovative solutions to the global market.

The program emphasizes the development of world-class infrastructure and services. Could you provide insights into the infrastructure projects that are underway to support industrial and logistics growth in Saudi Arabia?

NIDLP has developed a support program that offers tremendous potential to local and international operators and investors. Our platform is designed to de-risk investment and operations, and maximize their success in a sustainable way. It is built on four pillars:

  1. Infrastructure – Over many years, the Kingdom has developed a world-class infrastructure – roads, rail and ports, as well as a reliable digital infrastructure and numerous ‘plug-and-play’ industrial parks. Yet, NIDLP calls for even more investment specifically to enhance sectors’ infrastructure. One example of NIDLP’s infrastructure initiatives is one to increase the Kingdom’s gas processing capacity, which reached to 19.3 BSCFD. We also are developing “Ready Built Factories,” with more than 830 factories already built. We also have developed JAZAN City’s infrastructure, and a Jubail support industries zone designated for the automobile industry. We have helped develop more than 21 logistics platforms around the country and established the Eastern Train Network (Dammam – Riyadh), Northern Train Network, and the internal railway network project in Jubail Industrial City. Finally, we have been involved in the development of ports infrastructure and logistics hubs that have impacted more than 5.5 million trans-shipment containers in 2023.
  2. Legal and regulatory environment – Virtually every public entity in Saudi Arabia has transformed its legal and regulatory frameworks in key areas, which allows simple, transparent ways to do business here. Plus, the Kingdom is secure, with stable fiscal and monetary policies.
  3. Critical resources – The Kingdom is blessed with an abundance of critical resources, including metallic and non-metallic raw materials, skilled and qualified human capital, and top-tier R&D centers.
  4. Geography – Located at the nexus of Europe, Africa and Asia, Saudi Arabia offers easy, convenient access to local and international markets. We have made the most of this by developing state-of-the-art, multi-mode logistics hubs, optimizing trade routes, creating local off-takes and establishing international partnerships and agreements.

On the logistics side, the volume of current investments has reached more than USD559 million, which is driving an unprecedented transformation of the sector. KSA’s comprehensive National Strategy for Transport and Logistics Services (NTLS) is designed to systematically advance the logistics industry by building high-quality systems and services, and applying competitive business models to the sector to enhance productivity and sustainability. In alignment with NTLS, trade zones such as Jazan Economic City are being introduced with additional duty exemptions, subsidies and benefits. New transport infrastructure developments such as Jazan Airport, NEOM Bay Airport, SPARK, expansion of the Red Sea Gateway Terminal (RSGT), and the introduction of commercial routes linking seaports and airports are examples of the many initiatives designed to expand the Kingdom’s logistics operations and make it a global trans-shipment hub. Saudi Arabia also is creating greenfield industrial sites and cities, a notable highlight of which is King Abdullah Economic City in Jeddah. Primarily focused on industry and logistics, the city has its own seaport, the King Abdullah Port, with a current capacity of 1.4 million TEU and a near-term goal of expanding to 10 million TEU.

Mining will turn into the 3rd pillar of KSA’s economy. As the Kingdom places more emphasis on mineral exploration, what specific initiative is NIDLP currently working on to impose the nation into a global mining hub?

In 2020, with the approval of the new mining investment system, Saudi Arabia advanced one of the most important initiatives of its comprehensive strategy for mining and mineral industries in the country, opening the door wide for investment. In 2021-22, we attracted a record amount of mining investment in the Kingdom, growing year-on-year mining revenues by 27%. We attracted USD26 billion to expand aluminum and phosphate production. We issued more than 400 reconnaissance, exploration and exploitation licenses—also a record. Getting more granular… we worked with the Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources as the team there developed an online auction less than two years ago for a number of promising mining sites. That auction was hailed for its transparency and simplicity. Now, we are seeing major progress on the first of those auctions. For example, by 2025, the Khnaiguiyah site 200 km west of Riyadh is on track to produce 100,000 tons a year of zinc and 10,000 tons a year of copper… and these metals are critical to the global energy transition.

With sustainability being a crucial aspect of development, how is NIDLP integrating environmental considerations into its projects? What steps are being taken to ensure that industrial and logistics growth is environmentally responsible?

As NIDLP, we are focused on the thoughtful integration of four leading sectors – energy, mining, industry and logistics. We already are harnessing the power of what we have to offer in several areas, to help advance the energy transition. We also are increasing our emphasis on R&D, innovation and productivity, all of which represent great opportunities to enhance competitiveness. Combining Saudi Arabia’s strengths with the potential of the fourth industrial revolution, we plan to create smart mines that supply raw material inputs to automated factories… that are connected to smart industrial cities… that are powered by an efficient grid. Then, finished goods and people can get from Point A to Point B through best-in-class logistics services. The result will be more clean energy generation and utilization, shorter transportation routes and optimal deliveries, built around on-demand manufacturing. All of this benefits people and the environment.

NIDLP places great importance on innovation and technology adoption. Can you highlight some of the innovation-driven initiatives within the program that aim to foster growth and competitiveness in the industrial and logistics sectors?

As mentioned, our aim is to make Saudi Arabia an industrial powerhouse and global logistics hub. Many people are talking about electric vehicles. I’m excited to be able to say that Lucid Motors has recently started production in its facility in a special economic zone in the King Abdullah Economic City on a manufacturing plant. This is the first such plant to be built here. It’s important to note that this integrated value chain is enabled by the full scope of KSA’s capabilities – from finding and extracting the critical minerals needed, to fabricating aluminum and batteries, to assembling cars, to developing the support/parts suppliers needed to make the entire ecosystem work. Once assembled, cars then can be shipped all over the world from a smart Saudi logistics hub. We are also focusing on initiatives like Fourth industrial Revolution Capability Centers, developing use cases for emerging technologies and digital enablers platforms. These initiatives will Identify and accelerate the adopting and developing of fourth industrial revolution technology, and support manufacturers with digital services through a unified platform provided on a local cloud. We also are fostering the implementation of digitalization initiatives to optimize industrial and logistics processes. For example, we are helping to ensure the integration of advanced technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT) and the Fourth Industrial Revolution to streamline supply chains, reduce costs, and enhance transparency and security.

Collaboration is often key to successful development. How is NIDLP engaging with local and international partners, including the private sector, to ensure the success of its projects and initiatives?

In its role as an industrial/logistics enabler – a catalyst of catalysts – NIDLP’s primary task is eliminating potential roadblocks to unleash the economic power of the Kingdom. With the strong partnerships we have across the public and private sector, here in the Middle East and around the world, I am confident that we can deliver. It’s worth mentioning here the significant role Saudi Arabia already plays internationally across many areas – socially, culturally and of course economically. The positive impacts of Saudi Vision 2030 extend far beyond our borders and far beyond our remit. As just one example, Vision 2030 set out a goal for Saudi Arabia to become an industrial powerhouse and a global logistics hub. This has implications far beyond my country, or even the wider GCC region. Virtually every country in the world could be touched by work done the Kingdom in the areas of industrial development and logistics.

The program seeks to create job opportunities for Saudi nationals. How is NIDLP working to develop a skilled workforce that can support the evolving needs of the industrial and logistics sectors?

As discussed, NIDLP has had a significant economic, social and environmental impacts on Saudi Arabia since it was founded in 2019. In terms of its economic impact, as of 2022, NIDLP sectors created more than 312,000 jobs that deliver great value and offer great opportunities for the future. NIDLP’s sectors also have contributed 16% to the Kingdom’s GDP in 2022. Some NIDLP initiatives that support job creation and develop skilled workforce are: The Saudi Logistics Academy, National Academy for the Military Industry and the National Academy for Motor Vehicles. Those academies contribute to achieving leadership in supporting and qualifying human capabilities in specialist areas, delivering various services at a higher level. And this success has continued in 2023, as the Kingdom’s industrial sector is dominating the employment market, driven largely by gigaprojects and strong demand for people with expertise in manufacturing and logistics. On an anecdotal level, NIDLP is offering young people the kinds of opportunities that were not available before. I met a young engineer recently who – even though she is still only in her 20s – already has worked in many sectors of the energy industry. She has worked in oil & gas, as well as in renewables and nuclear.

Could you share some success stories or milestones that NIDLP has achieved since its inception? What are some of the notable impacts that the program has had on Saudi Arabia’s industrial and logistics landscape?

As mentioned, our aim is to make Saudi Arabia an industrial powerhouse and global logistics hub. NIDLP can point to many success stories since its founding just four years ago. One of those is how an integrated approach is bringing this to life is in electric vehicles. We are well-advanced in the creation of an entire cluster around EVs – from finding and extracting the critical minerals needed, to fabricating aluminum and batteries, to assembling cars, to developing the support/parts suppliers needed to make the entire ecosystem work. Once assembled, cars then can be shipped all over the world from a Saudi logistics hub. Another success story would be the establishment and development of the integrated logistics special zone at King Khalid International Airport, which attracted its first investor in the region, Apple, as it aims to attract the 100 largest companies in the region. Also, the Made in Saudi Arabia Program is a national initiative launched by the Saudi Export Development Authority, which seeks to market national goods and services to become the preferred choice locally and globally, in cooperation with a group of partners from the public and private sectors, which has so far registered more than 10,000 products and more than 1,800 companies. The Saudi Export-Import Bank initiative was established with a capital estimated at 30 billion SAR, with the aim of promoting the development and diversification of Saudi exports and increasing their ability to compete in global markets in various sectors, and a mandate to provide export financing services. Administrations, guarantees and export credit insurance with competitive advantages are enhancing confidence in Saudi exports. YTD the bank has approved credits of approximately 16 billion SAR for 150 national companies in different sectors that reach more than 50 countries. Finally, on the jobs front, the Saudi Logistics Academy contributed to the creation of more than 270 logistics jobs and the training of more than 450 people in 2023 alone.

As the CEO of NIDLP, what are the biggest challenges you anticipate in realizing the program’s goals, and how do you plan to address them?

In a word: Implementation. All the pieces are in place, but we are in a hurry! In our role as an industrial/logistics enable, NIDLP’s primary task is eliminating potential roadblocks to unleash the economic power of the Kingdom. With the strong partnerships we have across the public and private sector, I am confident that we can deliver. We just need to retain our focus on the top priorities, deliver them, then move on to the next. We believe we have created – and are delivering against – an excellent plan. One that is also achievable. So we will continue to implement infrastructure, legislative, technical and other qualitative initiatives. We will continue building and intensifying partnerships with the private sector to achieve our investment and export targets. And we will continue in our role as a liaison between government entities to ensure that we stay focused on our industrial and logistical vision for the Kingdom.

Looking ahead, what is the short-term vision for NIDLP set in your 2023\24 agenda? What are your main short-term targets and priorities?

Some of our most important future activities include expanding NIDLP’s remit so that we are engaging more around international opportunities. And the good news is: Having recently met with dozens of government and business leaders from countries across the GCC, Europe, Africa and Asia, I can state that interest in Saudi Arabian industry and logistics is high!
We also are advancing rapidly in the implementation phase – which means building infrastructure, making connections and moving the projects that have been agreed from the drawing board to the real world. This process is well under way, and we look forward to continuing to advance Saudi Arabia’s industrial and logistics agenda through our strong partnerships inside the Kingdom and around the world.

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