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Expo 2020: A year to go

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Expo 2020: A year to go
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Welcome to this special edition of Business Line, coming to you from a brand new area in the emirate that's currently under construction in the desert of the UAE.

World Expo 2020 will open its doors a year from now, marking the very first event of its kind to take place in the middle east. Organisers hope it’ll attract close to twelve million foreign visitors – and it's expected to add over €30 billion to the UAE’s economy.

Some 190 countries will participate in the six-month-long event, with over 80 nations already chosen to build their own pavilions. Major construction work has already been completed and the project recently reached a significant milestone.

The Dome

In mid-September, about 800 construction experts gathered for a mission unlike any other: the crowning of the dome. It will be the very epicentre of Expo 2020. It measures 130-metres-wide and is over 67 metres tall.

Ahmed Al-Khatib, Chief Development and Delivery Officer for Expo 2020 said, "We had the best team from all over the world, from engineers from contractors from specialists, to do this entire process. We have achieved something that really puts a new iconic landmark in Dubai."

Design concept

The idea behind the 724,000 cubic metre structure is inspired by everyday life.

Gordon Gill is the Architect (Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture) and explains the design concept, "When we presented the project we defined it as the room or the living room for Expo and as a typology of having a garden within a structure of that scale I think that's very unique and very rare. You compound that by presenting a 360-degree completely immersive experience that is both visible from the inside and the outside because the fabric is fiberglass and transmits light that is extraordinarily unique. The technology behind it is special, it's never been done before."

Local economy

The project so far has come in under budget, which HSBC previously valued at €6.2 billion. While some cities haven’t always seen enough long-term benefits from hosting an expo, Dubai could be the exception. Global consultancy firm Ernst and Young predict the event could add 1.5% to the UAE’s annual GDP.

Shaun Vorster, Vice President of Programming, Expo 2020 said, "We are planning for 25 million visits. To make 25 million visits concrete, it is like taking the whole population of a country like Australia visiting one destination in a six-month period. That's our level of ambition."

Business benefits to other countries

Dubai has huge ambitions when it comes to Expo 2020. But what are the business benefits for participating countries? We took the view of New Zealand’s Commissioner-General, Clayton Kimpton, to find out why his country is betting big on Expo.

Jane: "Clayton Kimpton thank you so much for joining us. There are 192 countries that are going to be coming to Dubai for the Expo. How is New Zealand going to stand out?"

Clayton: "Well, we see ourselves as creative, innovative… looking for solutions to problems that are good for the world."

Jane: "And there's also a rich kind of heritage and history of New Zealand that's explored throughout those themes."

Clayton: "That's right. we've made sure that our indigenous people, the Maori, the values that they bring are at the core of what we do. we're not just a country that looks after the environment. We see that the environment and the people are inextricably linked. and if we look after each other that will be good for future generations."

Jane: "Your biggest trading partners are Australia, America, and Japan - What scope does an event like this bring to take that further?

Clayton: "Well trade is incredibly important to New Zealand and whilst those countries you mentioned and China and US are very big trading partners we're not leaving all eggs in one basket."

Jane: "Well the UAE is your 10th largest trading partner. How are you looking to develop that relationship and strengthen it moving forward?"

Clayton: "The UAE is important not just for what we sell here but for the re-export into North Africa into Central Asia and Europe. So we want to see that really develop and grow. There are already a number of New Zealand companies here and we want to see that grow as they set up much larger head offices here and regional offices to re-export what they make.

Jane: "So dairy products meat and wine are some of your biggest exports. What are the avenues and areas of industry you know, say technology will you be looking to push further?"

Clayton: "We have a very big film production industry which is massive. The IT sector, health, education, technology and we want to see those grow. We don't want to see the others diminish. but we're looking to really push those other areas as well. We believe New Zealand comes up with amazing solutions that are not only good for us but are good for the world and that's what we're going to bring to Expo.

Creating a lasting legacy

Hosting a World Expo goes far beyond just creating a successful event. It’s all about creating a lasting legacy.

Expo 2020’s legacy is intrinsic to the project and is embodied through the post Expo plan for the site in which 80% of the built environment will be retained for District 2020 – a state of the art city within a city.

Khalid Sharaf, Director of International Business Engagement, Expo 2020 said, "What we are building is basically, (we're building) a site that will host an event during the beginning of its life. And after that, it's transformed into this ecosystem that brings start-ups and big companies, conglomerates, and r&d (research and development) facilities together to create a silicon-valley-like environment."

Expo is being built in a free zone – an area with its own legal jurisdiction making it easier for international companies to set up and operate there.

Sharaf said, "So currently the biggest industries that drive growth in Dubai and the UAE are the Real Estate, logistics, travel, and education. Now, as we move into the future, those will still be the biggest but also included are industries such as Artificial Intelligence, big data and IoT (Internet of Things) that's going to mix with that."

Expo Live

"The global projects are being enhanced through Expo Live – a €90 million programme supporting creative projects that champion sustainability and match up to Expo’s themes of “connecting minds, creating the future,” Sharaf added.

Yousuf Caires, Senior Vice President, Expo Live said, "Preparing for the future and ensuring that our Expo, (during) the six months that's going to happen here, also highlights the importance of living a sustainable life; governments arriving at sustainable policies; businesses attracting and transforming themselves to a more sustainable business practices all the way from plastic to the way we build a particular site the way we run the city through their use of technology."

The global stage

Expo 2020 is already turning heads on the global stage as a host of big players have already committed to bankrolling projects for the main event and legacy stage.

Marjan Faraidooni, Chief Pavilions and Exhibitions Officer, Expo said, "So Siemens has decided to set up their logistic global hub here at District 2020 after the Expo’s over. So has Accenture, to form an innovation hub. And we recently announced a collaboration with Atlas Capital and we continue as part of our legacy strategy in our district 2020 strategy to speak to markets and companies to set up shop here."

So it seems Dubai is pulling out all the stops to ensure that Expo 2020 lays the groundwork for its future while providing a blueprint for cutting-edge sustainable development.

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