What is the legacy of the UAE Expo for business?

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Now that Expo 2020 has ended, many are wondering what the lasting effects will be for the region. With over $7 billion of investment and 240 million hours of labour over six months, it would be fair to assume that the UAE is hoping for some return in terms of market growth. 

Aims & Achievements

Even before the Expo began, the UAE economy was boosted with a stock market index rise of 4% as soon as the announcement was made that they would be the host nation. Alongside the renewed confidence in the market as a direct result of being awarded the Expo, the UAE hoped to benefit from the investment in infrastructure, real estate and tourism.

The technology and sustainability-focused mega-exhibition generated interest in the innovation and creativity on display from a vast array of businesses, attracting just under 23 million visitors—this massively increased footfall to the area and enhanced spending in the leisure and property industries. 

It is possible that had the Expo not been delayed by Covid and hampered by associated travel restrictions, it may have been even more successful. Still, the pandemic didn’t stop the organisers from achieving their commitment to attracting 22.9 and 25.4 million visitors. 

With the exhibition split into three sprawling districts, with everything from Energy trees to the world’s largest projection screen and more robots than you can shake a USB stick at, the plan is to raise the profile of the UAE and showcase the region as being at the forefront of the future of tech and sustainability on a global scale, which certainly appears to have been achieved.

Business Benefits

Businesses from across the world came together to share in the benefits of Expo 2020 with partnerships being created between GCC countries and many others, including India in the steel sector and the Philippines, who secured letters of intent from companies in the region which could create around 4,000 new jobs. There were also benefits for UK businesses involved with the event, with export agreements won in the region of £188 million.

Other less tangible benefits for businesses have included the opportunity to showcase their innovations for tackling climate change and present new technology to a vast audience, building their brands and raising awareness. For those businesses who partnered with the Expo, alongside creating jobs, they could trial new processes on a giant scale.

Tariq Sanad – CFO of Agritech Start-Up Pure Harvest:

For our industry which is providing local to local farm produce, the EXPO was a great showcase of our capabilities to the different countries coming to visit, giving us visibility on a world stage that was in our home and accessible; we managed to sign letters of intent with governments for food security initiatives in Malaysia for example. Met with many global players in our industry and gained exposure to future investments from international players.

Lasting Legacy 

In addition to the partnerships created and the innovations shared with the world, the district itself is to become a state-of-the-art city, known as District 2020, with around 80% of the existing infrastructure being repurposed to create a community for people to work and live. The city will showcase and utilise the science and sustainability from the Expo to create a clean, safe and healthy environment for residents.

Not only should this prove to be a great place to live and work, but the UAE has started a global entrepreneurship programme, Scale2Dubai, to support small businesses and start-ups within the region. So far, 85 companies have already been welcomed to the region, with a second cohort lined up to move in by April 2023. With over 3,000 applications for space in District 2020, SMEs are clambering for a spot in the programme, and those lucky enough to be a part of the initiative will find themselves sitting alongside Fortune 500 companies, government departments and venture capitalists who are all moving their offices to the new Middle Eastern business hub.

In addition to the physical legacy of the Expo, it is hoped that the sharing of culture and the collaboration of ideas which took place during the six-month event will be something which all organisations can benefit from far into the future.

Alongside this, with around 2.8 million visits from young people under 18, the Expo has provided the opportunity to present aspirational ideas for the future to those who will be the business leaders of tomorrow, helping them to understand how to create sustainable companies and use technology responsibly to aid tackling environmental issues.

So as the UAE looks back on Expo 2020, it can be assured that the region’s profile has been raised significantly, and the Gulf state is now cementing its place on the global stage as a forward-thinking country with sustainability and business growth at the forefront of its activities.

Couple this with Dubai’s new 4-day week and the winning bid to host COP28, and the UAE is looking like a big player on the world stage, somewhere many companies may be looking to move their business.

Melhem Hamdan – CFO of Al Bidayer Holding:

We had a solid Q1 performance for our UAE business, and the external factors contributed to the second half of the Expo and the fact that Dubai opened up to visitors faster than the rest of the world in the post-covid world. Although the Expo or post-Expo phase does not directly impact our business, we are still witnessing growth this year from the other initiatives such as opening up for tourists, golden visa initiatives, etc.

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