Interview: Najeeb Mohammed Al-Ali

How can Expo 2020 support the future development of Dubai and the UAE?

NAJEEB MOHAMMED AL-ALI: Expo 2020 is a long-term investment in the future of the UAE. The 173-day event will contribute to the objectives of UAE Vision 2021 by supporting tourism and local companies, and boosting the country’s international reputation as a place to do business. Expo 2020 will also have a significant economic legacy, contributing to both regional and international growth and creating a sustainable economy for the UAE. The event is expected to generate approximately Dh122.6bn ($33.4bn) in economic activity and support 905,200 jobs in the UAE between 2013 and 2031. In addition, more than 80% of Expo 2020’s infrastructure will have an enduring impact as part of District 2020, a new urban residential and business community designed to promote innovation and balanced lifestyles.

Which areas of the economy are expected to benefit most from Expo 2020?

AL-ALI: Based on projections from a report published by EY in 2019, Expo 2020 is likely to benefit a wide range of sectors between 2013 and 2031. The report predicted that the top-three sectors will be events and business services, with Dh68.9bn ($18.8bn); construction with Dh27bn ($7.3bn); and restaurants and hotels, with Dh11.4bn ($3.1bn).

In addition, according to the report, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from a wide range of sectors will benefit from Expo 2020. SMEs are expected to receive Dh4.7bn ($1.3bn) in investment prior to the event, supporting 12,600 jobs. As of the third quarter of 2019, Dh3.4bn ($925.5m) had been allocated to SMEs. Small businesses have been awarded 55.4% of all contracts under Expo 2020, and we are currently on track to allocate around 20% of all direct and indirect spending from the event’s budget to SMEs. More than 38,450 suppliers from 151 countries were registered with Expo 2020 as of the third quarter of 2019, approximately 85% of which are small businesses.

What is being done to ensure that the infrastructure developed in preparation for Expo 2020 does not become redundant after the event?

AL-ALI: Ensuring that Expo 2020 has a lasting legacy has been an important part of the planning stage from the start. To this end, more than 80% of the event’s erected structures will become part of District 2020. This urban community will comprise 65,000 sq metres of residential space and 135,000 sq metres of commercial space, in addition to educational, cultural and entertainment facilities, and the Dubai Exhibition Centre, which will continue to build the UAE’s reputation as a destination for meetings, incentives, conferences and events. District 2020 has been designed to support the UAE’s goals of achieving sustainable economic development, building an innovation-driven economy and supporting key growth industries such as education, transport, tourism and construction. The new city’s companies, including both large corporations and SMEs, are also focused on technology and innovation. Three of Expo 2020’s official partners, Accenture, DP World and Siemens, have committed to a permanent presence in District 2020. Accenture is set to open a digital centre, DP World plans to set up a logistics training hub and Siemens plans to establish its global headquarters for airports, cargoes and ports logistics.

In addition, in line with long-term plans to ensure the event has a lasting impact, many of the major structures built for Expo 2020 will remain permanent fixtures in District 2020, albeit in some cases with new roles. For example, the Sustainability Pavilion will become a Children and Science Centre after the Expo, and Al Wasl Plaza and the Mobility Pavilion will continue their roles as venues in District 2020.