Momentum is gathering pace at Expo 2020 Dubai and this will become increasingly visible in 2018 as we step up our plans to host an exceptional event. Construction of the first buildings started in earnest in 2017 and from April participating countries will start work on their pavilions. More than 160 nations have already publicly or privately confirmed their participation, placing us on schedule to reach our goal of at least 180 countries. This will help us achieve one of our key ambitions of making this the most inclusive World Expo in its 166-year history.
Participating nations are already working with us to craft a narrative that will engage, educate and inspire millions of visitors from around the world. They view Expo 2020 as a global platform to tell their story and to nurture relationships.
Expo 2020 will be the first World Expo in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia and we expect 70 percent of the 25 million visits will be from outside the UAE, the highest proportion of any World Expo. The experiences they will enjoy in our three pavilions are coming to life and we expect to provide the first glimpses in 2018.
Our progress is not just focused on our site, however. We have engaged with business communities in more than 70 countries and held multiple events, where hundreds of businesses, including SMEs, have learned about the benefits of entering the Expo 2020 supply chain, from long-term job creation to economic growth. These will continue in 2018.
To date, we have awarded more than 2,400 contracts, with more than half won by SMEs. Many SMEs will also be among the approximately 70 licensees that we have started to appoint. They will cover 40 categories and 5,000 types of products – many made here in the UAE. You can expect to hear more about these licensees in 2018.
Legacy is at the heart of our plans, with District 2020. More than 80 percent of Expo’s built environment will live on as a thriving community that offers a new urban experience. The district will be home to the latest in innovation, education, culture and entertainment as well as a conference and exhibition centres.
Siemens has revealed it will move its global logistics headquarters there. Accenture will also open a digital hub and we expect more world-class companies to join them, as we plan to launch land sales at District 2020 in early 2018.
District 2020 is only part of our legacy plan, which has four strands: economic, social, physical and reputational. More about the economic impact will be revealed in 2018. Our innovation programme, Expo Live, is also designed to leave a legacy. It has $100m to fund and promote creative solutions that improve lives while preserving our world.
It is already making an impact, with grants given to 45 global innovators in 30 countries and 19 grants made to student teams. These programmes and others will continue up to 2020.
We will also continue our search for 30,000-plus volunteers, many of whom will be the youth. They are our future and we are running programmes to inspire and empower young people. Our Youth Connect team has reached more than 65 schools and 24,000 students and will continue to engage with them.
So you can see, Expo 2020 is already having a positive impact – and we won’t open for another two and a half years! The next 12 months will build on this as we move closer to what will be the largest and most influential event this region has ever hosted.
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