The dazzling imagery of a ‘one building’ city called The Line. The awesome vision of a massive manufacturing and logistics hub floating on water. And the jaw-dropping moment when Trojena was awarded the Winter Olympics. These are the elements that are capturing the world’s attention about the NEOM project in KSA. And in many ways, so they should. Snow skiing in Saudi? Who wouldn’t acknowledge this perception-altering news?
However, without for one moment wanting to shrink these marvelous ideas, which are soon to become reality, they’re actually more like the wrapping paper of the gift NEOM will be giving to the world.
NEOM DEVELOPMENT IS A GLOBAL PROJECT, NOT A SAUDI PROJECT
The US$500 billion stake in KSA’s NEOM investment fund is planting in the ground is so much more than adrenalising the world about the new look Kingdom. It really is a stake in the ground, inviting the investment world to take a closer look.
The ROI for NEOM project companies? A sustainable future of caretaking, not scavenging.
If this, so far, appears to be hopelessly biased towards Saudi Arabia, guilty as charged. I spent almost two years in the same virtual room as the people who are making this Saudi NEOM city happen, making the NEOM city map come alive, and I have yet to come across such single-minded purpose as from his collective of scientists, specialists, engineers, and futurists from all over the world.
So, let’s get behind the glitter and get to the real gold of the city of NEOM in KSA.
NEOM’s The Line
Whenever you see promotional material about the cognitive city NEOM, The Line, it will appear as a fairly utopian lifestyle, with lots of greenery, smiling people, and an all-around modern-day oasis. Which is fine. But we live in an age where the most exercised part of the human body is the thumb muscle. The thumb muscle is in motion 12 hours a day, and rarely stops long enough to you to see anything of importance.
And besides, how can you show a child in 30 years’ time who would have died from a respiratory illness, had NEOM’s zero emission protocols for The Line not been adopted throughout the world?
The stake planted in the ground: “We cannot ignore the livability and environmental crises facing our cities….” That’s from the Crown Prince and Chairman of NEOM himself, His Royal Highness Mohammed bin Salman. So just for a moment, forget what you think The Line might look like. And imagine what it will feel like.
As a parent.
I’ll be writing a lot more in the near future about NEOM city progress. Particularly the telecoms tech, which will be a cornerstone of its zero-emission status. This is just too damned important, and we must do what we can to help it come into being, and, ultimately, be understood for the milestone in progress it surely is.
Imagine you were part of the planning committee for NEOM. You have this vast area called Tabuk Province in the Kingdom’s northwest sector.
You have a pretty wide range of topography to consider and even some climate variables, too. Then you see NEOM’s coastline. And then, you see how close ito the Suez Canal, and you realize NEOM is placed on probably the most important trade highway in the world, carrying 13% of the planet’s shipping freight.
So you decide to build a zero-emission port, factory city, and logistics hub all in one. 50 years later, 99% of all manufacturing in the world becomes based around proximity and access to raw materials and the end-user markets. Prices drop or stabilize across 99% of manufactured consumer goods, supply continuity is maintained, and consequently, economic upliftment abounds. The wrapping paper is the fact that Oxagon will be a floating city, which significantly aids sustainability goals. Again, this is a fantastic feat in itself. But it doesn’t even come close to the ripple effect on the prosperity of future consumer societies.
So far, we’ve covered just the impact NEOM will have on Humankind’s future. But we share this planet, and if we can’t find a way to rebalance our relationship with Earth’s flora and fauna, all of the aforementioned will be pointless. So NEOM, in concert with the National Center for Wildlife, has embarked on the most ambitious rewilding program in history, and as an example of their commitment, Oryx now roam parts of NEOM for the first time in a hundred years. But this is just the beginning. By tackling the loss of biodiversity largely because of industrialization, NEOM Smart City is creating an incubator of global awareness about reversing the so-called inevitability of extinction.
NEOM project in KSA is happening
I wrote earlier that we must do what we can to help projects such as the NEOM project in KSA reach the potential for which they were conceived. Even if the most we can do is be better informed, that’s already a great start. Yes, we live in uncertain times. Yes, the region in which Saudi Arabia calls its home has a colourful geopolitical history, fuelled in part by external propaganda machines. But everything you’ve read so far is empirical, not anecdotal.
It’s happening. It’s fascinating. And, without a doubt, is cause for well-founded optimism. You’ll be seeing a lot more about NEOM in KSA as it develops.
With confidence, not just hope.
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