In 2020, Dubai will host the biggest event in the history of the Arab World: the first World Expo ever held in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region.
Our theme, ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’, is based on the belief that innovation and progress are the result of people and ideas coming together in new and unique ways.
With 25 million visits expected between 20 October, 2020 and 10 April, 2021 and more than 200 participants, including nations, multilateral organisations, businesses and educational institutions, it is not difficult to see how Expo 2020 is ‘Connecting Minds’.
But how are we ‘Creating the Future’? We believe a World Expo should leave a lasting impact on the path of human progress, and we are working to realise this vision across various dimensions.
From the very beginning, Expo 2020 has been committed to building a legacy that is meaningful and sustainable, extending its impact and benefits beyond the UAE to the wider region and the rest of the world. Expo 2020’s long-term approach is based on four pillars: physical, economic, social and reputational.
Expo 2020 will take place on a 4.38 sq km masterplanned site inspired by our core theme. Al Wasl Plaza, which takes its name from the Arabic term for ‘the connection’, is the site’s centrepiece. It connects three Themed Districts, each of which is dedicated to one of our key subthemes: Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability. A large part of our physical strategy involves the site’s transformation immediately after the World Expo into District 2020 – a highly accessible, well connected and integrated urban development that will continue our mission to Connect, Create and Innovate.
District 2020 will be a world-class integrated community, building on the legacy of Expo 2020 Dubai and supporting the acceleration of Dubai’s development. It has been carefully planned to support the UAE’s future vision by supporting sustainable economic development, moving towards an innovation-driven economy and creating a business environment that directly encourages progress within key growth industries.
It has been designed to offer a new urban experience at the cutting edge of modern working and living, and to promote a collaborative and innovation-driven business ecosystem that encourages a sustainable, healthy and balanced lifestyle. It will include a variety of residential and commercial spaces in a location that will become home to innovation, educational and entertainment facilities, parks, health and leisure amenities, as well as a Conference and Exhibition Centre (CoEx) developed by Dubai World Trade Centre.
It will be one of the most connected places on the planet. Located near Al Maktoum International Airport, the community will be connected to Dubai Metro via a dedicated station and major highways, making it easily accessible from all of the UAE’s air and sea ports.
District 2020 will reuse 80 per cent of Expo 2020’s built environment and many aspects of the Expo 2020 masterplan have been designed with dual purposes in mind. The Sustainability Pavilion, one of the iconic Expo 2020 signature pavilions, will remain as a world-class Children and Science Centre, continuing its mission to encourage appreciation of science and nature among visitors and residents, particularly youth, for years to come.
While the CoEx will provide 45,000 sqm of exhibition space during the World Expo, this will be increased to 180,000 sqm for District 2020, spurring on Dubai’s evolution as a leading global destination for events, conferences and exhibitions.
Two multinational giants have already committed to establishing a permanent presence within District 2020. Siemens will base its global headquarters for airports, cargo and ports logistics at the site, while Accenture will open a digital hub.
District 2020 will also be home to an array of social and cultural attractions and recreational spaces. It will retain the iconic Al Wasl Plaza, the site’s 150-metre diameter centrepiece, which will feature a 67.5-metre tall domed trellis inspired by Expo 2020’s logo.
Expo 2020 will also spur significant long-term economic growth. Our business-focused tools and outreach programmes are engaging firms of all sizes, including a particular emphasis on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), as we understand they are the backbone of any economy. Our new Online Marketplace also connects businesses and suppliers not only to our partners but also to each other, creating a platform unlike no other in the region.
More than 20,000 companies from 140 countries, including more than 14,100 SMEs, have already registered on the Expo 2020 Dubai e-Sourcing Portal. Last year, more than AED 10.8 billion of Expo construction contracts and AED 411 million of non-construction contracts were awarded. To date, Expo has awarded a total of 3,093 contracts, with more than half going to SMEs, helping them to grow their futures.
By building ties that will remain well beyond 2020, Expo will continue to contribute to new business generation, GDP growth and job creation across the region for generations to come.
Bringing the world together
Expo 2020 will also strengthen the UAE’s reputation on the international stage by demonstrating the country’s capacity to bring the world together. It will not only highlight the UAE as an inclusive, diverse, tolerant, safe and cooperative nation, but also showcase the great potential of the wider region to the rest of the world.
From a social perspective, Expo 2020 is an opportunity to inspire, empower and involve our youth, enabling young people to expand their horizons. It will encourage an understanding of – and an interest in – key drivers of future progress in line with our three subthemes.
The MEASA region boasts a substantial youth population with an enormous wealth of potential. Our youth are the innovators and thought leaders of tomorrow, so we are working to harness and nurture their talent as the new stewards of our planet.
The next World Expo is an immense opportunity to create an integrated ecosystem that will continue to attract businesses, visitors and residents long into the future. It is a festival for all that brings the world together, but its impact will extend far beyond the six months of the event. Expo 2020 is one of many steps along the road to ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’.
This article first appeared in the Summer 2018 issue of Host City magazine