Connecting Minds, Creating the Future: The Dubai Expo 2020

The much-awaited Dubai Expo 2020 kicked off on October 01, 2021. The bid to host the 2020 Expo was awarded to Dubai on November 27, 2013, by the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) General Assembly in Paris. It is the first universal exhibition held in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia (MEASA) region. Dubai will host the Expo 2020 for six months from October 01 to March 31, 2022.

Projections indicate that Expo 2020 will attract 25 million visits, with 70 percent of visitors expected to come from outside the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The Expo 2020 Dubai is based on the theme “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future,” which compliments the belief that bringing the world together can catalyze an exchange of new perspectives and inspire action to deliver real-life solutions to real-world challenges. Apart from the central theme, Dubai Expo is categorized into three sub-themes: Opportunity, Mobility, and Sustainability; each theme has its dedicated pavilion. The opportunity theme represents freeing the potential of individuals and communities to create a better future. The perspective of the mobility theme is to discover innovative logistics, transport, and communication systems for people, while the Sustainability theme depicts the accessibility and resilience of environmental, energy, and water resources. Dubai Expo 2020 is a global event expected to bring change in global thinking patterns navigating towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

His Excellency Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum

A Visionary Icon

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is the Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Ruler of Dubai. His Excellency became the Ruler of Dubai on January 04, 2006, and on January 05, the members of the UAE Supreme Council elected Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum as the Vice-President of the UAE. After one month, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the President nominated Sheikh Mohammed to become the Prime Minister of the UAE. As the Prime Minister of the UAE, His Excellency launched ground-breaking initiatives in a record time, adopted the open skies policy, and established the fundamentals of the touristic industry. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum launched the ‘UAE Vision 2021.’ His Highness Sheikh Mohammed envisions UAE as an open, progressive, and tolerant country. His Excellency has overseen the development of specific projects in Dubai, including the creation of a technology park, a free economic zone, Dubai Internet City, Dubai Media City, the Dubai International Finance Centre, the Palm Islands, and the Burj al Arab hotel. His Excellency had foreseen Dubai as the nucleus of economic activity, coupled with cultural diversity, a vision he has accomplished with exceptional leadership abilities. The Dubai Expo 2020, with its unique theme “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future,” has global attention. Multinational companies, businesses, social workers, influential individuals have all gathered to share their experience and started to advocate for a better future by achieving Sustainable Development Goals. Likewise, the sub-themes of the Dubai Expo 2020 hold considerable significance. Based on the Opportunity, Mobility, and Sustainability, each sub-theme revolves around several objectives.

 Opportunity District – The Mission Possible

 The pavilion enables an individual to explore its true potential and empowers one with new opportunities. Country-specific pavilion aims to make impossible possible, the opportunity pavilion makes one feel inter-connected with everything. Opportunity pavilion is a place for people to connect across age, language, and culture, celebrate shared human experiences, and find new desirable opportunities. The pavilion revolves around the theme that our lives and actions are interconnected. Parallel tracks run through the pavilion, focusing on water, food, and energy (three key Sustainable Development Goals). These tracks/resources have been chosen because they are basic human needs and essential for progress. Opportunity pavilion allows one to participate in activities specifically designed with youth empowerment and skill-building in mind. In essence, the opportunity pavilion is the home of opportunity for everyone.

Alif – The Mobility District 

The Mobility District endeavors to create connections to drive the world forward, breaking down the divide between the physical and digital worlds to build a harmonious, global society where information, ideas and goods are exchanged faster than ever before. The Pavilion will host the world’s most giant passenger elevator, capable of transporting approximately 160 people at once. The space will present an exhibition of smart cities and the role of artificial intelligence, big data, robotics, machine learning, and autonomous transport. The design addresses how people, goods, ideas, data movement, and in this regard, the Pavilion takes one to a journey from ancient exploration to artificial intelligence. The Pavilion also stars a partly underground, partly open-air track for visitors to see cutting-edge mobility devices in action.

Terra – The Sustainability District

 The sustainability district at the Expo 2020 is all about experiencing how the human race can enjoy living in harmony with nature in a high-tech future. The sustainability Pavilion offers to explore the hidden treasures of our natural world, see humanity impact on the environment, and let one discover the implementation of innovative technologies and creative ideas to help people and the planet thrive in harmony. To correspond with the Sustainability theme of Expo 2020, this Sustainability Pavilion generates its power through its rooftop photovoltaics. It derives clean water by recycling wastewater, condensation, and brackish surface water. The sustainability Pavilion is themed at generating clean energy, reducing water consumption, promoting natural solutions, ensuring sustainable events and operations management, using sustainable building materials, reducing waste, and encouraging sustainable tourism. The Pavilion offers natural living and the experience of diving into ocean depths to connect with the natural world to wander through forest roots, and explore the mysteries of forest.

Entrepreneurship and Innovation Opportunities

 With more than 190 countries participating in the exhibition, it is one of the world’s largest Expos, which provides limitless business opportunities and opens new markets and revenue streams. It develops more business opportunities and provides the perfect launch pad for several cross-country business partnerships across the globe. Expo 2020 is the place to rekindle business connections. From connecting with global innovators to discover the future of logistics, boundless business opportunities await the visitors at Dubai Expo 2020. Moreover, it is an engine of global innovation that inspires and acts as a catalyst for creative and scalable solutions and serves as a network for collaboration between nations, organizations, and innovators via shared global challenges. In this regard, Innovation and Technology is expected to flourish in Dubai Expo 2020. Dubai Expo is home to innovations that create opportunities and innovations that drive mobility to innovations that nourish sustainability, a true amalgam of innovative ideas that supports the growing demands and meet the ever-increasing challenges of the globe. The Dubai Expo 2020 has a Pavilion dedicated to Artificial Intelligence, inspired by Stephen Hawking, which gives an awe-inspiring glimpse into the future. The innovations are not limited to air travel or artificial intelligence only, it also provides solutions for global health challenges and delivering medical supplies to remote communities through drone technology.

 Entertainment, Food and Livelihood

In its true essence, the expo 2020 food, and livelihood section is a place where taste knows no border. The Dubai Expo can also discover the creative merging of flavors and cuisines in various restaurants. The rich and lively experience of food and entertainment of every continent congregated at one place, serves as lifetime experience to the visitors. More to the visitor’s surprise, the section also offers a futuristic culinary experience showcasing more than 30 concepts in a state-of-the-art cloud kitchen with robots. With more than 200 foodstuff outlets, the global cuisines suit every palate and budget, from old classics to new favorites, making this section a Foodie’s paradise.

 Dubai Expo Pavilions

For the first time in World Expo history, every participating country has its Pavilion. Dubai Expo is home to immersive cultural experiences. One can discover what makes each country unique by exploring hundreds of Pavilions and being engulfed in unique architecture, culture, and inspiring innovations. These pavilions are further categorized into Partner Pavilion, Organization Pavilion, and Special Pavilion. In the partner Pavilions, countries will showcase the future through innovation and world-class expertise. More than 192 nations have their Pavilions, enabling the visitors to explore immense opportunities. To address the global challenges of our time, the organization Pavilion, dedicated to the organization and civil society, features their work and ideas.

Moreover, the organizations are not limited to regional spheres. Since the event is global, organizations all over the globe have invested in to showcase their expertise. In the special Pavilion, the visitors can embark on an immersive experience merging education, entertainment, and excitement as one explores thematic and Expo-owned Pavilions.

Pakistan’s Pavilion at a Glance

One of the tourist attractions at the Expo is Pakistan’s eye-catching Pavilion. Dazzling with bright lights and giving a royal outlook, the Pavilion is located in the Opportunity District of Expo 2020 Dubai. It displays stunning architecture on a plot of 35,000 square feet. Pakistan’s leading visual artists, Rashid Rana, designed The Pakistan Pavilion. Its popularity can be garnered from the fact that within a week since its opening, the Pavilion has received over 100,000 visitors and media outlets are flocking to have a look.

Pakistan’s President Dr. Arif Alvi officially inaugurated the Pakistan Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai on October 09, 2021. The Pavilion was in the top 5 most visited Pavilions at the Dubai Expo 2020. Pakistan’s Pavilion takes visitors on a voyage through time to showcase hidden treasures of Pakistan, such as its breathtaking landscapes, cultural and religious diversity, and colorful traditions.

The narrative of the Pakistan Pavilion reflects the poetic way in which the past, present, and future are woven together as a tapestry that reveals the rich and layered history, culture, people, and traditions of this land, while also highlighting the immense potential and possibilities it holds for the future. Moreover, in a gesture of goodwill and affection for Pakistan, United Arab Emirates (UAE) Ambassador Hamad Obaid Ibrahim Alzaabi has also shared pictures of Pakistan’s majestic Pavilion for Expo-2020 in Dubai.

Addressing Global Challenges through theme Weeks

 As part of the programme for people and the planet, ten theme weeks run throughout the six months of Expo 2020 Dubai, exploring humanity’s most critical challenges and opportunities through a cultural, social, environmental, and economic lens, the notion behind this inspiring new perspective is to tackle the challenges and explore the opportunities from space exploration to the future of human health. The theme weeks include Climate & Biodiversity, Urban & Rural Development, Tolerance & Inclusivity, Knowledge & Learning, Travel & Connectivity, Health & Wellness, Food, Agriculture & Livelihoods, Global Goals, Space, and most importantly, water. The setup and planning of the Expo’s infrastructure were based on the strict principle of sustainability and ecological welfare. In this regard, it is expected that 80 percent of the infrastructure will be helpful to post-event. Dubai expo lays the foundation for a sustainable legacy for future generations, emphasizing human development and technological advancements while respecting the planet’s ecological and natural resources.

Dubai Expo Educational Program

Dubai Expo Educational Program is also a lifetime learning, educational and cultural experience for the students. Expo Educational program is further categorized in two subsection; Expo School Programme and Expo University Programme. Through Expo’s educational programme, students will connect with experts, explore different career paths, and discover new paths of collective future. Dubai Expo will be home to 192 country Pavilions, which will showcase the best educational services they have to offer, that too at an awe-inspiring location. The curated university programmes will enable students to enrich themselves in innovative inter-disciplinary concepts, enhancing the existing curriculum.

 Dubai Expo:  An Array of Optimism

 United Arab Emirates (UAE) is an ideal geographical juncture between Asia, Europe, and Africa, connecting these continents. Since the principal theme of the Dubai Expo is to enhance connectivity for a prosperous future, it is hoped that this Expo 2020 will bring a positive change throughout the globe. Commissioned by the Dubai authorities, a consultancy firm Ernst & Young, published an economic impact assessment and estimated that Dubai Expo 2020 would have the most significant impact on Dubai, significantly boosting its economic sector. This Expo can be regarded as a long-term investment in the future of the UAE. It is hoped that the event will provide approximately AED 122.6 bn ($33.4bn) boost to the local economy and support the equivalent of 49,700 full-time jobs a year. The Expo will create approximately 900,000 full-time equivalent jobs.

Breaking down its economic outcome sector wise, it is estimated that Restaurants and Hotels Sector will receive an investment of approximately AED11.4 bn, Construction services will receive approximately and Event Organization and business services will have an investment of around AED 68.9bn during the Expo 2020. International Monetary Fund (IMF) also depicted a rise in Dubai’s GDP during and after the Expo. Estimates also show that the UAE will continue to receive benefits from the Expo for a whole decade. Moreover, transportation facilities and infrastructure will also enhance during and after the Expo 2020.

One of the prominent activities will occur in the already established real-estate sector of Dubai, where both residential and commercial real-estate sectors will flourish. Many of the international companies have already established setups in UAE and subsequently, Expo is likely to attract more international setups and start-up companies to establish their operations in Dubai.

Developments will take place in the technological sector, which is also related to the connectivity theme of the Expo. The Expo’s invitation to new startups and businesses along with change in UAE’s visa policy indicate that the country is pro-business and open to new ideas. These policies have also attracted foreign business owners to establish their setups in Dubai. One of the crucial aspects of Dubai Expo 2020 is the interaction of various cultures.

Dubai is already famous for its cultural diversity as people from around the globe visit Dubai and to spend their holidays. The Expo 2020 Dubai will also serve as a conduit of communication between various cultures and societies.

The UAE Pavilion in the Dubai Expo 2020 also reflects and represents the country’s rich culture and bright future. Shaped like a falcon in flight, the Pavilion tells the story of the UAE as a global hub, and the vision of its leaders to create a peaceful and progressive society with ambitious future plans. To cater to its international audience, Dubai Expo 2020 is telecasting live shows through its web channel. UAE already has a commendable economic and political reputation in the Gulf States as well as internationally. Organizing events like Expo 2020, which has a global outreach, can further strengthen the UAE’s international outlook. Figures and estimates foresee Dubai Expo 2020 as a successful event and considering UAE’s repute to hold such events in the past; the event may outshine the expectations.

Middle-East outlook in the last decade or two was observed mainly through the security dimension. However, Dubai’s progressive success, coupled with its economic advancement, has changed this perception of the Middle East. With the initiation of the Dubai Expo 2020, the security clout predominant in Middle Eastern politics has now somewhat diminished. The Middle East, especially UAE, is viewed as the economic hub and is becoming the center of attraction for investors. Likewise, Pakistan and South Asian contemporary outlook internationally revolve around securitization perspective. Considering the economic disparity, it might not be possible for Pakistan to hold an event at such a massive level. However, policymakers should embrace the idea that an event like the Pakistan expo, even on a small scale, can attract many around the globe. Stakeholders and government should look into this opportunity and invest in transforming the security outlook of Pakistan towards a stable economic state.

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About Amna Malik 61 Articles
Author is the President, Center of Pakistan and International Relations (COPAIR) and Editor-in-Chief of ‘Mélange int’l Magazine’ and ‘ The Asian Telegraph’.