Al-Afandi has its name on some of the world’s best solar cells and its diverse activities span IT, road safety and agriculture
Solar power is a natural choice for a country like Saudi Arabia, where the sun beats down all year round for an average of 12 hours a day. In the vanguard of the drive to harness the power of the sun is Al-Afandi
Establishment for Trade, Industry and Contracting, whose state-of-the-art factory in Jeddah utilises the latest American, French and Swiss technologies to manufacture solar cells for small-scale electricity generation.
“It is our objective to lead this area in Saudi Arabia,” says Sheikh Ibrahim Al-Afandi, the company’s general manager. “After 20 years of spending money and effort gaining experience and knowledge, we now have our name on one of the best solar cells in the world.”
One of the long-established firms that has contributed to the evolution of modern Jeddah, Al-Afandi is a company with a range of business interests, from technology to real estate, tourism and farming. Its core philosophy is to engage in activities that promote the common good.
“We have been able to establish ourselves as one of the three leading investors here in Saudi Arabia,” says Sheikh Al-Afandi. “The most important responsibility of the private sector is to support, help and build the country.”
Alongside renewable energy, the company focuses on information technology, an area in which it has spent more than $53 million (£33 million) on research and development over the last 20 years. Al-Afandi turned its attention to modern technology and research – traditionally limited to developed countries – as long ago as 1987, establishing a hi-tech department aimed at producing distinctive products for the Middle East.
Today, the company employs a team of 15 highly qualified researchers, engineers and technicians, and R&D plays a key role in the expansion of its business activities.
One area in which its technology division specialises is in developing and integrating systems and solutions for security and surveillance.
The company has become the leader in traffic management systems, which it has recently started to install in the kingdom. Saudi Arabia has the highest road accident death toll in the world and Al-Afandi has developed several integrated solutions for traffic management that have been implemented in the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah, for example, as well as in coastal, border and inner city areas. A pilot project relating to red light and speed control has been tried out in Jeddah and Riyadh with remarkable success.
“We are one of just three investors to be granted permission to implement the system all over the country,” says Sheikh Al-Afandi. “One of our major upcoming projects is a contract we have with the government that is ongoing for the next five years, covering three regions in Saudi Arabia: the East Region, the North Region and the South Region.
“We are going to be focusing on this in particular for the Arab countries. We are already competing in other Arab countries, for example the United Arab Emirates, Dubai in particular, and in Qatar, Lebanon and Jordan. We are in a good position to start pushing and supporting these activities for the future.”
Al-Afandi is a leading investor in healthcare and an exclusive provider of medical equipment to the largest health institutions in the kingdom and some other Gulf states. It is also the sole distributor for a large number of international medical companies, including Shimadzu Corporation of Japan.
In the real estate sector, Al-Afandi’s projects include Al-Buhairat City, a water-oriented resort and residential complex fronting more than half a mile of the Red Sea coast that is designed to attract regional as well as local visitors.
Other real estate projects include Saudia Airline City, comprising 4,000 residential units; Al-Baha, a scheme focusing on housing and tourism; and Mecca Gate, a residential, commercial and recreational project.
One of the group’s most important foreign investments is the Gang Ranch in British Columbia, Western Canada. Extending over some 1,450 square miles, including woods, lakes and mountains, it is the second largest farm in North America and, with 5,000 head of cattle, one of Canada’s largest cattle producers.