Think of World Expos as a global gathering of nations dedicated to finding solutions to pressing challenges of our time. They are organized every 5 years and provide a platform for people and businesses to come together, share ideas, discuss issues and advance on topics that will influence the future. The next World Expo, Expo 2020, will take place in Dubai. It was originally scheduled for 2020 to be later pushed back a year over safety concerns due to the Covid19 pandemic. The delayed Expo 2020 is now set to start on October 1, 2021 and run for 6 months.
The choice of Dubai to host the event is a celebration of the largest UAE Emirate's strengths in diversity, infrastructure and stability. All these attributes are supported and amplified by the fact that the UAE is perfectly situated geographically, connecting three continents, Europe, Asia and Africa. With Dubai historically called Al Wasl, or the 'Connection', it makes perfect sense that the theme of this Expo 2020 was chosen to be 'Connecting Minds, Creating the Future'.
Expo 2020 is the first World Expo to be held in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia region, and the largest event ever to be hosted by an Arab nation. This is clearly marking a break from the usual suspects of European, North American and Asian hosts and at the very least, showcases the prominence of the Emirate – and the UAE in general – in the Middle East region. We like to think of this 'win' as yet another indication of Dubai's ambition, dedication and commitment to constantly generate new business, diversify away from oil and maintain its position high up in the rankings of global cities.
For the event, more than 190 countries have confirmed participation and over 25 million visitors will flow in the city from all over the world, 70% of which will come from outside the UAE. In our eyes, this is a one of a kind opportunity for Dubai to put its welcoming nature and cosmopolitan character on a display and boost its reputation as an international business hub. All the while demonstrating its superior level of preparedness and safety standards amidst the pandemic.
Undoubtedly, the expo is a bet the city does not want to lose. Dubai is already world renowned for its tourism and zero tax regime, but to sustain growth it needs to keep on attracting new business. Expo 2020, with all its lights and world attention, offers a unique chance to make this happen; to show the world it can deliver, show its people it can sustain the growth, attract new people by offering new opportunities. In short, 'feed' the abundant supply of infrastructure and materials with real economic substance.
The greatest impact the event will have on Dubai will be of economic nature. Estimates show that the country will be receiving benefits for a full decade following the exhibition. Either from infrastructure, transportation facilities or services, the figures below speak for themselves (1 AED = 0.27 US$).
Real estate prices are set to rise too, both residential and commercial, and the expectation is that demand will meet supply and sustain the growth. So far, the signs are looking good. The GDP growth seen so far firms up the estimates for the future and all together set the stage for the goals to be reached. We think this is a great moment to invest in the city, from an actual investment point of view (real estate, setting up a business there etc.) and by choosing to become a resident if only to reap all the other benefits that come with it.
Speaking of keeping up the momentum, it is true that GDP growth attracts new talent and talent, along with all the infrastructure needed to support it, is a driver of growth in itself. The work done in preparation of the expo not only suggests a growth in real estate but also provides a fertile ground for start-up companies to base their operations in Dubai.
Amongst other topics, technology holds a prominent position at the expo and Dubai chose connectivity to be a major topic for a good reason. The Expo 2020 will be the first major commercial customer in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia to access 5G. Its legacy development, District 2020, in the heart of Dubai South and where the majority of the expo and post-expo commercial and residential infrastructure will be situated, is expected to support this vision. Accenture and Siemens have already signed up for it, confirming their tenancy.
The expo's 'invitation' to new businesses and new jobs as well as the long-term visa changes the UAE introduced earlier this year all suggest a country that is pro-business and open to new ideas and make it a super attractive destination for foreign business owners.
Any way you look at it, the expo will supercharge the economy and provide it with a new mix of employment sectors further away from oil. Foreign entrepreneurs have already expressed interest in attending the event and, more likely than not, this will lead to an influx of investment capital and a growth of investment projects.
Equally tied to the economic boost, the event is expected to generate a considerable exposure for both the city and the country. If Dubai manages to pull off this gigantic project on time, and not only successfully host the event but also sustain the benefits for the years to come, this will be considered a big victory.
The planning made for the Expo 2020 was made under the strict premise that work done now will be useful in the future and more than 80% of the expo infrastructure is expected to be useable post the event. This might fly or fail. But one thing is certain; Dubai's track record as a visionary city and the clarity in direction we have seen in the past in the country's leaders, both indicate there is a very good chance the numbers will be met, and the country's resources will not, by any means, go to waste.
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