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Airport investment opportunities in Saudi, Afghanistan?

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The Middle East has not witnessed a great number of airport privatisation transactions, with a few exceptions such as the independently managed terminal at Kuwait Airport.

A few years ago Saudi Arabia was gravitating towards concessions on many of its airports, including some of the big city ones, but it all went quiet when the government there fell out of favour with most in the west.

Now it appears to be back as the authorities speak of ‘billions of dollars’ of investment opportunities, including within the airport sector as the country continues to diversify its economic base away from oil. And they have learned that airport development must go hand in hand with ‘sustainability’ to attract the attention of western investors in particular.

Along with that investment should come the international tourism that the authorities must see in a new light while their regional rival Qatar gears up for the Soccer World Cup in a year’s time. 

But first they must convince potential investors of the validity of the Saudi airports. There has been a worldwide pandemic since they were last on the ‘market’.

Meanwhile, over in Central Asia, in Afghanistan, the globally unrecognised Taliban government is in discussion with various states to operate Kabul’s airport.

Tourism does not feature in the conversation here: nobody in their right mind would go there, and the private sector would almost certainly eschew any participation even if it had the chance. The momentum here is being driven solely by political considerations.

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