Sustainable mobility a $400 billion opportunity for GCC

07 June 2021 4 min. read

Transitioning to sustainable mobility is a crucial link in the green agenda spreading through GCC economies – a move that could unlock a $400 billion monetary benefit in the next two decades, according to a new Strategy& report. 

Reinvention is rife in the GCC: key markets such as the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are looking to diversify and modernise their economies through ‘Vision 2030’ programmes. Sustainability is a crucial pillar of this future ambition, and – as it stands – transportation and mobility is the biggest barrier. 

“Most transportation in the region, particularly in cities, is dominated by road infrastructure and privately owned vehicles, leading to considerable CO2 emissions, congestion, and the consequent economic costs,” explained Strategy& Middle East principal Mark Haddad.

Private vehicles dominate the GCC mobility landscape

Indeed, where private transport makes up roughly 30% of all mobility in major global cities such as Singapore, London, Stockholm and Barcelona – GCC’s urban mobility leaders Dubai and Doha have a 75% to 80% ratio of private vehicles. The GCC average is a staggering 91%, with Riyadh having the highest private vehicle share of 95%.

“This prevents countries from achieving their sustainability goals,” said Strategy& partner Marwan Bejjani, noting a lack of tangible progress despite lofty targets and green policies introduced in most economies. So what needs to be done? The experts suggest a comprehensive overhaul – based on five pillars of a sustainable mobility ecosystem.

Five pillars of sustainable mobility

Public transport, electrification, shared mobility, soft modes of transport and future communities are harbingers of greener mobility – according to Strategy& researchers – and each requires a host enabling initiatives. 

Pillars of a sustainable future

A multi-modal, integrated and efficient public transport system, for instance, requires upgrades to existing infrastructure as well as a host of new fixtures – a heavy government investment but with tangible benefits. “Advancing public transport ridership has allowed urban areas across the globe to overcome many less-than-efficient mobility and societal outcomes,” explained Strategy& Middle East partner Shihab Elborai. 

Topping this off is the need for advanced tech investments such as Internet of Things, connectivity, data analytics and artificial intelligence – to keep pace with changes in mobility. The same mix of infrastructure and tech upgrades can be applied to spark an electrification drive, as electric vehicles gain more longevity and charging points increase in volume.

Shared mobility is gaining traction with a host of new platforms – although policy intervention is needed to reach a critical mass. The experts suggest stricter emissions standards and congestion pricing as means to encourage ride sharing.

Economic value of a sustainable mobility landscape

And that’s for longer distances. For small trips – first and last mile for instance – many city governments worldwide have introduced options such as shared bikes or e-scooters. GCC cities could draw tremendous value from such investments.

The last pillar is the most fundamental change. “Governments can reduce the need for transportation through sustainable urban designs that use new living and community concepts to make vital goods and services available within walking distance from residential areas,” explained Gustave Cordahi, a Manager at Strategy&. Specialised ‘sustainability districts’ could be a starting point for such an overhaul.

Combining these efforts could help GCC governments realise their sustainable visions – and there’s a substantial pay day in the mix too. Per the report, reduced infrastructure spending, better road safety, higher productivity, lower emissions and more energy efficiency – all hallmarks of a sustainable mobility landscape – could add up to a staggering $400 billion economic benefit for GCC economies by 2040.