Interview: Hilal bin Hamad Al Hasani
What kind of companies are currently operating within Oman’s industrial cities, and where is the majority of foreign investment coming from?
HILAL BIN HAMAD AL HASANI: There are seven developed prime industrial cities in Oman, namely Sur, Sohar, Raysut, Nizwa, Al Buraimi, Al Rusayl and Samail. According to recent statistics, the total land area of Madayn’s cities exceeds 100m sq metres. There are over 2200 projects operating in these cities, employing more than 60,000 people. These industrial cities are home to a wide variety of industries, including fibre-optic and electrical cables, chemical products, building materials, food and beverages, furniture, plastics, cement blocks, medical and pharmaceutical products, among others.
The majority of foreign investment is currently coming from India and the UAE, while the total volume of investment amounts to more than $17bn. The ultimate goal is to attract local and global businesses from leading business cities to Oman. Aside from the new Shinas and Thumrait industrial cities, and with Al Rusayl already fully occupied, the new expansions of Samail, Sohar, Sur and Raysut’s industrial cities are set to attract more attention. Expansion projects throughout various cities will continue to take place in order to meet growing demand from investors.
In what ways will the industrial cities in Thumrait and Shinas contribute to Oman’s mission of creating a diversified and privatised economy?
AL HASANI: The announcement of the two cities in the Dhofar and North Al Batinah governorates has generated interest from local and foreign investors. These developments are in line with the promotion of a diversified and privatised economy in the sultanate, and will extensively utilise public-private partnerships.
Thumrait Industrial City will be located on a land that is less than 100 km away from the Port of Salalah and Salalah International Airport, less than 200 km away from the border with Yemen, 900 km away from the capital Muscat and 600 km away from the Port of Duqm. Consequently, the arrival and exit of imports and exports from Thumrait Industrial City through Oman’s ports will only take a few hours. This shall give the industrial city a competitive advantage and allow it to position itself as a vital manufacturing and logistics point for goods heading to Yemen. Thumrait Industrial City will also primarily target mineral-based industries.
Shinas Industrial City will complement the role played by the Sohar Industrial City in boosting economic and social development in the North Al Batinah Governorate. Shinas Industrial City is one of the major economic destinations in the sultanate overall, with a strategic location close to the Sohar Port and the Sohar Freezone, Sohar Industrial City and the UAE border, which will greatly enhance the trade exchange between the UAE, North Al Batinah and the rest of Oman. Shinas Industrial City’s main aim will be to attract food-related industries, as it is located close to the agricultural lands of the Al Batinah Governorate.
How would you assess the potential for smart city development in Oman’s industrial cities?
AL HASANI: Significant efforts are being made to implement smart city solutions in Oman. These solutions can considerably help in improving the quality of everyday life. The most notable of these was a 2019 memorandum of understanding between the Information Technology Authority (ITA) and Oman Telecommunications Company to implement a smart city pilot project at Madayn’s ICT park – the Knowledge Oasis Muscat (KOM). The project, which is currently being implemented in KOM by the ITA in cooperation with Madayn, shall incorporate applications of smart city, internet of things, cloud computing services, artificial intelligence and big data. Efforts are also being made to launch Li-Fi technology in KOM. Longer-term plans will focus on incorporating these smart city components throughout Oman’s various industrial cities.
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