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Fri 19 Apr 2019 12:32 AM

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Opinion: why Expo 2020 is at the heart of the UAE's future

Expo 2020 Dubai is a long-term investment in the future of the UAE, the independently published EY report shows

Opinion: why Expo 2020 is at the heart of the UAE's future
This time for the UAE: Expo 2020 is expected to help tackle unemployment in the Emirates

Expo 2020 Dubai’s aims stretch far beyond hosting a spectacular mega event to impress the world. We are making a long term investment in the future of our country that will significantly boost the UAE economy, helping spur growth and support jobs for many years to come.

Global consultancy EY’s recent independently published report illustrates how our efforts are panning out. From the time we won the bid in November 2013, right through to a decade after Expo’s doors close, we will have contributed $33.4 billion (AED122.6 billion) to the UAE economy, supporting more than 900,000 full-time equivalent job-years across a wide spectrum of business sectors.

Direct and indirect investment in buildings, infrastructure and other assets will reach more than $10.9bn (AED40bn) over 2013-2031. During the six months of the World Expo, when we are expecting millions of visitors to spend money on tickets, merchandise, accommodation, transport and food, Expo 2020 will account for 1.5 per cent of GDP.

What happens after Expo 2020? We have big ambitions here, too.

These numbers are impressive, and Expo 2020 owes a great debt of gratitude to the perseverance, wisdom and forward vision of its founding fathers – a vision that inspired us and set the foundations for what we have already achieved and what we are set to achieve well into the future.

Of course, we will host an amazing World Expo, the first in our region, and we will proudly welcome millions of people to experience incredible architecture, cutting-edge infrastructure, never-before-seen technology and all the warmth and hospitality that the UAE has to offer.

But this report demonstrates that – even more than a global show – Expo 2020 will have an impact on on the future of the UAE for years to come. By stimulating travel and tourism, supporting economic diversification and leaving a sustainable economic legacy, it will cement the UAE’s position as the leading destination for business, leisure and investment in the region and beyond.

The groundwork currently underway, the opportunity for the UAE to influence and impress at the world’s largest meeting of minds, and the transformation of the Expo site after the event – all this will create a significant ‘Expo dividend’ that will be felt across a range of business sectors.

Significantly, this includes small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), an engine of growth and innovation and a vital part of the UAE economy. We have already awarded more than half our contracts to SMEs, and the sector will continue to be a priority, set to receive investment worth $1.3bn (AED4.7bn) by October 2020.

The construction sector is, of course, flying high in this pre-opening phase, accounting for more than two thirds of the $10.2bn (AED37.7bn) contribution to economic activity up to October 2020. The view from my window at Expo 2020 HQ changes every day as the remarkable buildings that will make up the 4.38 sq. km site grow before my eyes. New roads, bridges and the progress of the Route 2020 metro – they are all sights to behold.

Not only is this exciting progress towards opening day, it is the creation of the infrastructure of our future economy. Just as the dredging of Dubai creek propelled Dubai from port to major global trading hub, just as the Jebel Ali Free Zone grew spectacularly into a magnet for foreign direct investment – Expo 2020 and its legacy will have a huge impact on the UAE economy going forward.

The six months of Expo 2020 will bring together 190 nations, plus businesses, non-government organisations, educational institutions and – crucially – millions of people. We expect to record 25 million visits, with 70 percent of visitors coming from outside the UAE, so this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to show the world why the UAE is a great place to visit, live, work and invest. This will be a boon to the hotel and restaurant sector, which will contribute $3.1bn (AED11.4bn) to GDP across the 2013-2031 period, more than three quarters coming during the six months of the event.

During the six months of the World Expo... we are expecting millions of visitors to spend money on tickets, merchandise, accommodation, transport and food.

But what happens after Expo 2020? We have big ambitions here, too. We have always sought to leave a legacy that makes a positive long term economic contribution and supports UAE Vision 2021 in its mission to create a sustainable, resilient and diversified economy. This EY report shows Expo 2020 will achieve just that, sparking activity worth $17bn (AED62.2bn) in the decade following the event, the lion’s share in the events and business services sector.

The key driver will be the transformation of the Expo site into District 2020 – an integrated urban development with the impressive Dubai Exhibition Centre (DEC) at its core. District 2020 will be a buzzing area for business growth and an anchor for Dubai’s developing knowledge economy. It will diversify the UAE economy, stimulate inward and outward investment and positively impact business generation, economic growth and job creation, not just in the UAE but across the entire region.

All of this is good news, and a dose of optimism at a time when economies around the world are beset by uncertainty.

We have come a long way as a nation, from an economy once driven mainly by nomadic farming, date palm cultivation, fishing, pearling and seafaring, to major oil producer and exporter. Now we are in the next phase, and we at Expo 2020, by ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’, are proud to be at its heart.


Najeeb Mohammed Al-Ali, Executive Director of the Dubai Expo 2020 Bureau