Expo 2020 Dubai may be over, but its legacy has only just begun

At the end of March, after half a year of global collaboration and celebration, Expo 2020 Dubai concluded with a glittering closing ceremony.

The UAE has succeeded in welcoming the world to its shores, with 192 participating nations and dozens of partner organisations helping to put on one of the best shows the world has ever seen.

May I just say what a spectacular six months it has been!

Her Excellency Reem Al Hashimi and her colleagues have achieved what many thought was impossible, bringing the international community together despite a global pandemic.

With specific focuses on opportunity, mobility and sustainability, Expo 2020 has delivered far more than a fun day out for the family (although it has definitely given us that).

The global gathering has enabled leaders, policymakers and innovators from every corner of the planet to connect face-to-face with the shared goal of creating a better tomorrow.

I am immensely proud of the UAE, and especially the team in Dubai, for hosting such a spectacular event.

The Middle East’s first World Expo has been an enormous success in every respect, bringing millions of people to the region while offering a springboard for social, technological and economic advancement.

But proud as I am of everyone who has worked so hard to make Expo 2020 such a roaring success, I’m even more excited to see how the project continues to add value to our national and regional economies over the coming years and decades.

A tangible reminder

From the outset, the organisers of Expo have been working tirelessly to create a long-term legacy that is at once physical, social, economic and reputational in nature.

Perhaps the most obvious long-term benefits of Expo 2020 (at least in the medium term) will be delivered in the guise of District 2020, a human-centric future city that will empower its inhabitants and professionals to connect, create and innovate.

For those who don’t know, District 2020 is not a project that needs to be built from scratch. On the contrary, it will use the cutting-edge Expo site as its foundations, making it one of the most efficient and environmentally friendly mega-developments the UAE – and, indeed, the world – has ever seen.

In addition to the innovative way in which District 2020 plans to ‘recycle’ the Expo site, its developers are also committed to imbuing it with a technologically advanced infrastructure capable of supporting the UAE’s future economy.

Focuses will include key growth industries and disruptive technologies, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), big data and blockchain.

And while work on District 2020 is only just beginning, that hasn’t stopped it from grabbing the attention of several industry giants. Terminus, Siemens and DP World have already signed up as tenants.

Societal benefits

District 2020 may offer a physical example of Expo 2020’s legacy, but the social, economic and reputational benefits are no less important.

As the team behind the mega-event explains: “By challenging and addressing key conversations, such as climate change, responsible production, circular economies and ethical fashion, we hope that each of our visitors embarks on a purposeful journey after Expo 2020 to continue to seek collective solutions to global challenges in a culmination of innovation and collaboration.”

Fortunately, these “purposeful journeys” will have clear directions to follow thanks to the world-leading examples set by the event itself.

Expo has given us a blueprint for sustainability, for instance, connecting experts in a bid to create a cleaner, safer and healthier future for all. From the forward-thinking methods employed in the site’s original construction to the event’s continuous focus on environmental issues such as climate change and waste, Expo has set a plethora of sustainable benchmarks that will leave a meaningful legacy for generations to come.

The economic impact of Expo will be no less significant. According to Marmore MENA Intelligence, the value of the infrastructure developed for the event is approximately $12 billion, significantly higher than the $7.5 billion estimate put forward in 2013 when Dubai was named host.

A report released by EY predicts that, overall, Expo and its legacy will boost the UAE’s economic activity by a staggering $33.4 billion during the period 2013-31, supporting more than 900,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) job-years.

And from a reputational perspective, the long-term benefits are clear. By securing the participation of almost 200 nations (practically all of them), the UAE has cemented its status as a major player on the global stage.

It is impossible to overestimate the credibility and goodwill that the event has generated for the Emirates among the international community.

Mission accomplished

Ultimately, it’s difficult to accurately anticipate all the ways in which the mega-event will continue to benefit the UAE and communities around the world during the coming decades.

On a personal level, I’m certain that my experiences of Expo – and all the things I learned while visiting – will stay with me for the rest of my life.

As those who live and work in the Gulf will no doubt be aware, Expo 2020 Dubai’s main theme has been: ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’.

I think most would agree that in this respect alone, the Middle East’s first ever World Expo has been an unmitigated success, and I’m confident it will continue to deliver on this promise for many years to come.