With the last package about to be awarded at Saudi Aramcos Jizan gasification project, it is a good time to reflect on how this underdeveloped region is now getting some much-needed investment.
Close to the Yemeni border, Jizan is being revitalised with major investment in the form of a world-scale oil refinery and adjacent gasification power plant. Aramco is behind both schemes and the companys total investment in the city is now well in excess of $15bn.
This is just the beginning and Aramco will be hoping that other companies soon start to realise the potential of Jizan. However, just having the patronage of the worlds biggest oil company should be enough to attract more firms to the area.
There are already plans to build integrated petrochemicals facilities in the city, but these are still in the early stages. Being able to source liquid feedstock from the refinery is a major first step, as is the development of port facilities.
However, industrialising Jizan is not going to be without challenges. Training and educational programmes will need to be prioritised in the region, focusing on core subjects such as science and technology. It may take a decade to fully train locals to fill all the roles, but steps are being taken now to ensure that future generations of Saudis will benefit.
Another issue is what many consider to be two of the kingdoms greatest success stories: Jubail and Yanbu industrial cities. Jubail and Yanbu are still the most desirable destinations for most businesses looking to enter the kingdoms petrochemicals and oil refining sectors, and this is the competition Jizan now faces.
It is up to Riyadh to make Jizan as attractive a proposition as possible to future investors. The foundations have now been laid and it is vital to ensure that these are built on.