Factories in the Desert: Saudi Arabia’s Pursuit of Manufacturing Dominance

Saudi Arabia, known for its oil-rich landscape, is now eyeing a transformation into a manufacturing powerhouse, steering away from its reliance on oil and gas. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has unveiled ambitious plans to propel the nation’s industrial exports and factory numbers to unprecedented heights.

Economic Shift:
With a vision to diversify its economy, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman aims to elevate Saudi Arabia’s industrial exports to a staggering $148 billion by 2030. The plan involves a remarkable expansion of the country’s factory count, projecting to reach 36,000 by 2035. This industrial surge is expected to encompass a wide spectrum of goods, from warships to automobiles.

Investment Ventures:
In pursuit of these goals, substantial investments have already been funneled into pivotal ventures. One of the notable partnerships includes Lucid, a prominent U.S. electric car manufacturer, slated to establish a factory within the kingdom’s borders. Additionally, a joint venture agreement has been forged with Navantia, the Spanish state-owned enterprise specializing in naval vessel construction.

Aircraft Ambitions:
The Crown Prince has now turned his attention to a considerably complex and high-stakes market: fighter jets. Recent developments reveal that Saudi Arabia is poised to potentially join the UK’s £72 billion Tempest program, aimed at developing a sixth-generation fighter jet by the mid-2020s. However, concerns about the nation’s technological capabilities and geopolitical implications arise.

Challenges and Controversies:
While Saudi Arabia’s financial clout is welcomed, doubts loom over the kingdom’s technological prowess and political baggage. The decision to participate in the Tempest program as a formal partner rather than a mere buyer of finished products underscores Saudi Arabia’s desire for technological influence and expertise. However, apprehensions surrounding the nation’s human rights record and its involvement in conflicts remain points of contention.

Global Impact and Transformation:
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s far-reaching Vision 2030 program aims to propel Saudi Arabia into the forefront of global industrial innovation and trade. The country has already made strides through ventures like Saudi Arabia’s Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC), which is prominent in chemicals, car parts, cosmetics ingredients, and metals. Liberalization efforts and the pursuit of international partnerships are reshaping Saudi Arabia’s image on the global stage.

The shift from oil dependency to industrial prowess represents a pivotal turning point for Saudi Arabia’s economic landscape. As the nation invests heavily in diversifying its industrial portfolio and establishing key partnerships, it sets a trajectory toward becoming a substantial global player in manufacturing and technology.

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