Thursday Oct 06, 2022

Dubai Expo: Chance for Change in the Middle East and North Africa

Dubai Expo: Chance for Change in the Middle East and North Africa |  Business and Economy News

Dubai, United Arab Emirates – As Expo 2020 Dubai draws to a close in March, many national pavilions are beginning to reflect on the impact of the World Expo beyond its six-month run.

This is the first time a World Expo has been held in the Middle East and North Africa, and with similar events heralding great changes in technological advancement, improved international relations and increased trade , culture and tourism, many hope that the current exhibition will also have a positive impact on the MENA region.

Expo 2020 – which was delayed due to COVID-19 and opened in October 2021 – brings together 192 participating countries, each with its own custom-built pavilion showcasing its innovations, cultures and goals for the future, in a sprawling complex designed to fascinate visitors. For participants from the MENA region, this is a golden opportunity to generate interest in their country.

“This event is a major catalyst for Dubai and the United Arab Emirates. It has come at the right time to set the tone for economic recovery and create a positive environment for businesses to thrive,” Expo 2020 Senior Vice President for Political Affairs Maha Al Gargawi told Al Jazeera.

“Expo 2020 placed a particular emphasis on small and medium-sized enterprises, fully understanding that they are essential for future growth and job creation in the UAE. To this end, we have committed 20% of our expenditure direct and indirect in SMEs.

Expo 2020 “constantly spotlights breakthrough ideas, innovations and technologies that are shaping the future of our planet, helping to spark the next generation of technology,” she added.

“From harnessing volcanic energy, to conserving marine life with the help of a robotic baby penguin, or leading the way to a plastic-free world, there is a lot to learn and discover in unexpected places.”

The exterior of the United Arab Emirates pavilion is visibleExpo 2020 brings together 192 participating countries, each with its own custom-built pavilion showcasing its innovations, cultures and goals for the future. [Courtesy: UAE Pavilion]

At the United Arab Emirates Pavilion – a three-story marvel built in the shape of a falcon’s wings – visitors are guided through the past, present and aspirations for the future of the emirate.

Much of the experience is focused on showcasing their traditions and culture to educate visitors, but the final section – The Dreamers Who Do – aims to inspire people to relocate or work with the UAE United.

By organizing co-creation opportunities with Expo and pavilion stakeholders, they seek to encourage local and global stakeholders to collaborate on social, diplomatic and philanthropic initiatives.

“The UAE pavilion is really about the human capacity for innovation and the personal achievements of all those people who came together and built this country from scratch,” the pavilion’s protocol relations manager told Al Jazeera. of the United Arab Emirates, Nasser al-Shukaili.

“The United Arab Emirates are not only the Emirati people, but the [8.84 million] foreigners who now call the UAE home. We highlight the openness and willingness of the UAE to welcome new people, of all races, religions and cultures, and the opportunities available to them to come and find success here.

“We have leadership, space, resources and the ability to create anything and everything, but we are waiting for new ‘dreamers’ to join us,” he added.

“The UAE has a lot of capabilities, but we need ideas and innovators; people to come and realize them, so we show visitors how people from all over the world live in the United Arab Emirates and what they could achieve if they came too.

A group of men in traditional dress sing and play drums to celebrate Qatar's National Day with 'Qatar' posted on the wall behind themMen celebrate Qatar national day at Qatar pavilion [Courtesy: Qatar Pavilion]

With over 80% of the UAE’s population being non-Emirati, they are dependent on foreigners immigrating there. As their ambitions grow, more people will be needed to complete large-scale projects, and the Expo could be the catalyst for many to make the leap.

For Qatar, the Expo is a chance to boost tourism into business opportunities, in line with Doha’s National Vision 2030 plan. The pavilion, shaped like a dhow sailboat, promotes its goal of sustainable development and providing a high standard of living for its people.

“Qatar’s participation reflects the country’s goal to foster the development of a future where people, society and the environment are nurtured to fulfill their potential,” said Qatar Pavilion Commissioner General Nasser bin Mohammed. Almuhannadi.

“Expo provides Qatar with a platform through which the country can strengthen trade, industrial and investment cooperation relations with the various participating countries. This will in turn help support the industry, trade and tourism for further economic development.

With 800,000 visitors entering the Qatar pavilion so far and the World Cup scheduled for December, there are plenty of potential customers for Qatari businesses.

An installation with many swings is seen at the Lebanon pavilion with a photo of Lebanon displayed on a large screenA swing set-up is seen at the Lebanon Pavilion, showing guests the attractions the country has to offer [Courtesy: Lebanon Pavilion]

Unlike most pavilions, the Lebanon Pavilion is not nationally funded or managed and was assembled in two months after the UAE donated the structure, in solidarity with the country in crisis.

Their participation in the Expo offers direct contact with potential tourists, investors and Lebanese in the Diaspora willing to support their homeland, by bringing in foreign currency – a scarce resource after the devaluation of the Lebanese pound.

“Our goal is to promote anything and everything made in Lebanon,” Lebanon Pavilion deputy manager Khouloud Ezzeddine told Al Jazeera.

“[We] show the beauty of Lebanon to support tourism, from the landscapes of the mountains to our beaches, our incredible food or luxury fashion like that of Elie Saab.

“Our concept store brings together 47 Lebanese brands, which we highlight to the Expo public, on the one hand for the recognition of their brand and on the other hand to spread the word to support them financially”, a- she added.

“Then there is the business and innovation center, so that we can promote Lebanese intellects and minds, or new graduates looking for a job, to connect them with companies outside from Lebanon.”

Ezzeddine shared that they were able to help sign a number of contracts between Lebanese companies and partners or investors in Asia. For Lebanese startups or companies in difficulty due to the economic crisis, such transactions could be a lifeline.

According to an independent economic study commissioned by Dubai authorities, Ernst & Young expects the Expo to have generated 905,200 jobs in the region and boosted the UAE’s overall economy by $33.4 billion. 2031.

By the time Expo closes next month, around 25 million people will have visited and participated in its programs – all of whom will have exchanged knowledge, culture and business in one form or another – and contributed to the future development of the region.

Guests stand in a circular red and orange colored section of the UAE pavilion that explains the country's foundingGuests stand in a section of the UAE pavilion explaining the country’s founding [Courtesy: UAE Pavilion]

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