Today's official opening of the Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi is a step forward for the emirate and for the UAE.
When Mina Zayed opened, 40 years ago, it too was a symbol of progress and a tool for modernisation. But times change. The 5.4 square-kilometre port that seemed so up-to-date when the country was new is insufficient for the 21st century. And expansion was blocked: Mina Zayed is wedged awkwardly into one corner of Abu Dhabi Island and has fast-developing Saadiyat Island next door. A commercial and administrative metropolis is not the right place for an industrial port.
Kizad, as the new port and its industrial-park hinterland are known, is on a vastly larger scale: when completed, it will cover 417 sq km, offering improved efficiency for trans-shipments and warehousing, as well as for the import trade and industrial exporting. (Mina Zayed, meanwhile, will be dedicated to the cruise-ship industry, a logical use for an urban port.)
Kizad, strategically located between Abu Dhabi and Dubai, promises to play a vital part in the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030. To be more than an energy exporter, Abu Dhabi needs diversification, not only into knowledge-intensive high-tech industries such as aviation and aircraft parts and maintenance, but also into heavy industry. Low-cost power and fuel naturally appeal to many types of business, and so Kizad has been planned to house several vertically integrated clusters of companies in specific industries.
Aluminium is a fine example. Emirates Aluminium (Emal), a key Kizad tenant, plans to build the world's biggest smelter for the metal, which is in growing demand globally. "Downstream" from the smelter, Kizad foresees rolling mills, casting and forging plants, and more.
Ratan Tata, chairman of India's Tata Motors, recently said his company is considering building a Jaguar Land Rover assembly plant in Saudi Arabia, precisely because a big new aluminium smelter is to open next year in Ras Al Khair. "Given our commitment to aluminium in our products, we could have an interesting business case [for an assembly plant there] which we are examining today," he said. That kind of corporate thinking promises to make Kizad a potent economic engine.
Meeting the challenges of change demands careful planning. The opening of Kizad demonstrates to the world that Abu Dhabi is ready.