In just a little over two weeks, 191 countries will be gathered for the launch of Expo 2020 Dubai, the perfect opportunity for the global community to come together around “building a sustainable future”, according to Nadia Verjee, chief of staff to the CEO at Expo 2020. Given how multicultural the UAE is, it is
In just a little over two weeks, 191 countries will be gathered for the launch of Expo 2020 Dubai, the perfect opportunity for the global community to come together around “building a sustainable future”, according to Nadia Verjee, chief of staff to the CEO at Expo 2020.
Given how multicultural the UAE is, it is the ideal country to bring the world together for the much-anticipated exhibition, which is expected to attract 25 million visits over six months.
“Dubai and the UAE is a place where 200 nationalities live and work right outside this window. Whether it be through the physical-build, the operations of it, or through our programme, it [Expo 2020] really is owned by us with the world,” said Verjee.
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“That’s what I believe sets us all up for hopefully collective success at the end of the six months,” she added.
Verjee was head of strategy for the UAE’s bid to host Expo 2020 back in 2013 in what she described as a “totally different world” before coronavirus became a global reality. But she said the pandemic actually united the world around Expo and around ensuring that it is relevant in a “post-Covid era”.
“I had no idea back then that this is what we were going to go through, but I think we managed well because we have the support of the world. We managed to secure all the votes to host this Expo again in only four days, which tells you something,” explained Verjee, referring to the unanimously approved decision by the world expo governing body, Bureau International des Expositions, to postpone the event for a year in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The conversation that we had with them, which started 18 months ago when Covid hit, was how we ensure that what we’re discussing for six months and the outcomes that we drive together during that period are relevant today, but also relevant tomorrow as we begin to live with the kind of world that we’ll be in,” she continued.
As such, sustainability is a key element in Expo’s Programme for People and Planet, which covers five tracks and is divided into ten key themes, which all participating countries contributed to, essentially setting up a “collective agenda”, explained Verjee.
“The entire realm of the international community, from the private sector to INGOs, are looking at how to build a sustainable future, be it through government, businesses, or through people from all walks of life really understanding how we flip worldviews and how we drive towards a more sustainable outcome,” she said.
“This is really the purpose of Expo’s programme and hopefully what we aim to achieve through it,” added Verjee.
While there is something for everyone at Expo 2020, the business community will find in it a unique networking opportunity, explained Verjee. For the first time in Expo’s history, African countries will have their own pavilion instead of exhibiting together under one common pavilion.
“As the economic centre of gravity is shifting east, the UAE is at that nexus with an opening to India, China and Africa and so there’s a great opportunity for countries in the west and countries of the south to collaborate,” she said.
“In an Expo, you have six months where every day you have a head of state, a business delegation and the community coming in to really get a good understanding of how they can network, build back relations and just have a better understanding of other countries around the world that they knew nothing about,” continued Verjee.
To maximise the benefits for businesspeople, Expo curated its thematic weeks to concur with the exhibitions happening in the UAE at the same time, explained Verjee, giving the example of how the exhibition’s Space Week falls at the same time as the International Astronautical Congress.
The Visitors’ Journey option, available on the Expo app, allows users to curate their visits by selecting their area of interest and duration of visit – another option which could be attractive for a businessperson.