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Expo 2020 in Dubai will boost infrastructure and FDI

Expo 2020 in Dubai will boost infrastructure and FDI

Expo 2020 is an excellent global platform for B2B opportunities, writes the founding partner of The Links Group

Having experienced its strongest economic year since formation, coupled with Dubai’s bid to host Expo 2020, the United Arab Emirates has positioned itself as an even more attractive trade destination for foreign companies. The opportunity for growth and development in the lead up to the expo is exponential. If Expo 2010 Shanghai and Expo Milano 2015 are any indication, the innovation necessary to build a functional, accessible environment through sustainable infrastructure is set to increase. Investment in the UAE and the need for for- eign investment is set to increase.

The inaugural World Expo, The Great Exhibition held in London in 1851, aspired to strengthen trade connections, celebrate cultural diversity and promote technological advancement. Today’s global focus on sustainability and the international community’s readiness to embrace it has evolved the expo. It goes beyond what was central to that era of industrialisation. While trade and technologi- cal advancement remain crucial, modern expos are now governed by the guiding principle that is to be of ‘universal concern to all humanity’.

This evolution can be seen through Shanghai’s 2010 theme Better City, Better Life that focused on urban and environmental sustainability. Expo Milano 2015’s Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life continues this theme by tackling issues facing the agricultural sector, fighting poverty and promoting sustainable development.

Four years later, 2020 Dubai will be the world’s first sustainable expo. It will present the three drivers of global development – sus- tainability, mobility and opportunity – via the overarching theme Connecting Minds, Feeding the Future. Demonstrating, by example, the transition to an eco-city in a viable way.

Time is running out for countries to adopt this model. If the UAE gets it right – which it is likely to do with the vision and drive of the leadership – Expo 2020 Dubai could become a defining moment in history. A global billboard to make eco-cities the standard mode of operation.

While it is clear that world expos offer the host country an excellent global platform, the business-to-business opportunities are not immediately obvious. But the build up and legacy are sure to be almost incalculable in financial terms and building diplomatic capital. Preliminary estimates indicate that the economic impact generated by Expo 2020 Dubai between now and 2021 will reach approximately €17.7bn. Much of this value will be retained within the region, generating an estimated 275,000 jobs.

As the first world expo ever to be held in a developing country, Expo 2010 Shanghai showcased the exemplary development expectations and opportunities placed on host countries. It saw 73 million visitors pass through its gates and a record 1.03 million visitors in just one day (October 16, 2010). The city opened six new subway lines between 2008 and 2010, not to mention 4,000 taxis coming online. Clearly, infrastructure projects to ensure the smooth operation of the expo and accessibility are essential.

This is where foreign companies that can lend their expertise to Expo 2020 Dubai stand to benefit tremendously. Recently announced plans to relax ownership relating to foreign-owned companies and foreign direct investment laws on a case-by-case basis have only increased incentive to become operational in the UAE. Opportunity is rife to win projects focused on enhanc- ing the local infrastructure in a sustainable way. There are great opportunities for engineering, construction, real estate, trans- portation and logistics firms. The UAE is looking to almost double its contribution to these industries, reaching nearly 20 per cent of the gross domestic product by 2020.

Market demand for knowledge-based and innovative sec- tors will see an influx of foreign investment from countries wellequipped to consult on this priority sector. The United Kingdom, United States and Australia are three such markets that have the UAE firmly on their investment radars, and are home to this coveted expertise. There are few places in the world where you can see the promising effects of commercialising green so immediately. The UAE is a prime example of this business opportunity that not only raises capital but also protects the planet.

As a receptive market that has a penchant for embracing innovation and diversification, it is set to remain a top notch FDI destination for the foreseeable future. The lower oil price and increased awareness of the limited availability of traditional fossil fuels is giving the new and renewable energy sector enormous momentum. The government is committed to making the country a successful model for the environmental economy and sustainable development. Foreign companies that can align themselves with this national development agenda stand to reap significant returns.

Equally apparent from both the Shanghai and Milan expos is that they offer an opportunity for the host country to showcase the very best of their unique culture, heritage and innovation on the world stage. Collaborating with fellow nations for sustainability across the board – social, economic and environmental – is key to driving forward a green economy. It also provides a monumental opportunity to capitalise on tourism. Shanghai saw overall revenue in this sector rise 13 per cent year-on-year during the Spring Festival to 2.1bn Yuan ($332.7m).

Beyond business, the positive outcome of a successful expo in the Middle East region will no doubt change some minds and opinions as to the safety, security and opportunity available in the UAE. It will continue to convene exceptional international minds, forge transformative new partnerships and provide a platform to promote dialogue and cooperation between nations, organisations and companies. It can improve the quality of life on a global scale and support the global push for sustainable investment.

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