MUSCAT: A total of eight new industrial, economic, and investment zones were initiated for development at key locations across the Sultanate of Oman during 2023, underscoring a new thrust in the government’s ongoing bid to diversify the economy and drive employment generation.
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According to the Public Authority for Special Economic Zones and Free Zones (OPAZ), which is administering this expanding portfolio of investment hubs, the new zones are under various stages of study, planning, and initial development and will encompass a total area of over 2,200 square kilometres.
They include the Integrated Economic Zone in Al Dhahirah Governorate, the Muscat International Airport Free Zone, and Al Rawdha Special Economic Zone in Buraimi Governorate, taking the total number of zones operating under OPAZ’s auspices to 30.
The most notable, by far, is the Integrated Economic Zone at Al Dhahirah (EZAD). Planned for development on a sprawling 388 sq km area, EZAD will serve as a new economic growth engine in a strategically important part of the country. Located just 20 kilometres from the border crossing established on Oman’s border with Saudi Arabia in The Empty Quarter (Rub Al Khali), EZAD will leverage its advantageous proximity to the massive Saudi market to target manufacturing, mining, oilfield, logistics, renewable energy and a host of other investments.
Another key highlight of 2023 was a decision by OPAZ to launch the development of Oman’s first airport-free zone at Muscat International Airport. Under agreements signed last month, Asyad Group – the global integrated logistics provider of Oman – has been granted a 50-year concession to develop, manage and operate the airfreight-focused free zone. Similar free zone developments are also envisioned at Suhar and Salalah airports.
Muscat International Airport Free Zone will be developed over multiple phases on a 1.7 million m2 area, with the first phase set to come up on a 170,000 m2 parcel of land.
“The free zone will also offer world-class logistics facilities to support the burgeoning express shipping and e-commerce industries,” the Authority explained. “Through its advanced facilities and state-of-the-art infrastructure, the free zone will provide the ideal business-friendly environment that light industry can leverage companies to boost their growth and access global markets through seamless logistics integration with Muscat International Airport, as well as Oman’s vibrant seaports and land ports,” it added in a report featured in its newsletter, Duqm Economist.
Madayn, an affiliate of OPAZ with a focus on the management of the country’s industrial cities, has seen its coverage grow to an impressive 122 km2. Industrial cities and investment zones currently in operation under Madayn’s umbrella include those located at Rusayl, Sur, Suhar, Raysut, Nizwa, Buraimi, Samayil, Wadi al Kabir, Knowledge Oasis Muscat and Al Mazunah Free Zone.
New clusters under various stages of planning and development are coming up at Ibri, Al Mudhaibi, Mahas (Wilayat of Khasab), and Thamrait (Dhofar Governorate). Industrial lands in Duqm Special Economic Zone were also transferred to Madayn’s administrative control in a decision adopted by OPAZ last March.