Meet the world’s first publicly-listed city

Jessica Morris and Hadley Gamble
King Abdullah Economic City CEO on growth

Along the coast of the Red Sea and equipped with a state-of-the-art deep-water port, a new purpose-built business hub in taking shape in Saudi Arabia.

King Abdullah Economic City, is a $100 billion project and will be the world's first publicly listed city. A new rail link means nearby cities of Jeddah, Mecca and Medina are just an hour away and the port should have a capacity of 4 million containers by 2016, according to King Abdullah Economic City CEO Fahd Al-Rasheed.

"The idea behind the King Abdullah Economic City is to diversify the economy," Al-Rasheed told CNBC.

The city, established in 2010, includes a residential area which includes homes, schools as well as shops and restaurants. Presently, it's building more business zones and family homes.

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Waseem Obaidi | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Saudi Arabia has one of the fastest growing economies in the Middle East however it remains heavily reliant on oil. The oil sector contributes around 35 percent of its GDP, according to a report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) published earlier this year. Projects, such as the Economic City, are one of the way's it's moving away from this by attracting more private sector investment.

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflows into Saudi Arabia declined in the three years from 2009, according to the United Nations Conference on Trading and Development. This was due to the fallout from the global financial crisis and continuing unrest in the Middle East region. Nearly three quarters of FDI goes towards the services sector and manufacturing and processing activities account for most of the rest.

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"We're building a global logistics and manufacturing hub in Abdullah Economic City," Al-Rasheed told CNBC. He said that the container port will be amongst of the world's top ten and that the industrial zone has attracted companies such as Pfizer and Mars who are investing in Saudi Arabia for the first time.

Additionally, it seeks to position itself as a gateway to what's termed as the 'red sea region' – East Africa and the Middle East – whose economies have a growth rate of between six to eight percent. "King Abdullah economic city is going to the place to invest in that market," Al-Rasheed said.