Social infrastructure projects support economic stability in the GCC, and countries are continuing to invest in health, education, entertainment, and transport projects, with the aim of achieving long-term growth and diversification ambitions.

In May 2017, Faithful + Gould's associate director, Michael Connor, said the market should expect a rise in social infrastructure contractor awards from Q4 2017 onwards. 

Indeed, Connor's estimations have materialised in the region. The UAE and Saudi Arabia have continued to make significant investments in social infrastructure projects.

Both countries aim to capture the myriad socio-economic benefits derived from building more schools, hospitals, transport networks, and places of entertainment. And for all social infrastructure projects, there is a primary and secondary benefit: social and economic incentives.

In the following pages, Construction Week explores the top segments for social infrastructure growth in the Middle East.


In Saudi and the UAE, the public and private sectors are working together on social infrastructure.

Abu Dhabi City Municipality signed $24m (AED87m) worth of contracts with property development and investment companies to build social infrastructure projects in the emirate in January 2018.

The contracts included building three recreational playgrounds for workers, a sports complex in Musaffah, and four service stations in residential districts Wathba, Rahba, Shahama, and Falah. 

Another notable project is the $6.5bn (AED24bn) Aljada mega development in Sharjah. Enabling works on the sprawling mixed-use site began in April 2018. Renowned UK firm Zaha Hadid Architects recently won a contract to design the Central Hub of Aljada too. And while this project has many elements, there is a notable social one as well.

Ibrahim Al Nemeh, design director of the UAE-based developer Arada, told Construction Week last year that the project will feature space for extreme sports such as skateboarding and parkour.

“The whole idea is to create an entertainment district focussing on kids and families. There’s going to be a huge kids’ discovery centre, as well as cultural and art components, in addition to cinemas, theatres, and public facilities like libraries and clinics,” he said.

In Saudi Arabia, a number of entertainment-based social infrastructure projects are under way. One that made headlines recently is the country’s plan to build up to 100 cinemas by 2030.

A subsidiary of the country’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), the Development and Investment Entertainment Company (DIEC), teamed up with US-based AMC to operate the cinemas.

Saudi is complementing its cinema construction with other social infrastructure projects in the entertainment space. In April, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, laid the foundation stone for the 334km² Qiddiya entertainment city project. Complementing Qiddiya is the Six Flags theme park, set to open in 2020.

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