Interview: Reem Al Hashimy
With Expo 2020 expected to stimulate significant economic activity, what role do you see for private sector capital and foreign investment?
REEM AL HASHIMY: Expo 2020 will support the ongoing development, diversification and long-term success of the UAE’s economy. Naturally there will be a significant quantity of economic activity directly and indirectly stimulated in the course of the design, build and operational phases of the event – all of which will provide opportunities for private and foreign investors. At its peak, the Expo will be a large construction project with a considerable supply chain. Over the course of six months, we expect 25m visits to the event, of which we estimate 70% will be international visitors. These people will have to be accommodated and entertained by hotels and businesses that need to be funded and built. This whole undertaking, along with the airport and other developments, will form the heart of Dubai South, a new 145-sq-km city-scale development under way near the location of the Al Maktoum International Airport.
What is vitally important is ensuring a sustainable economic legacy that continues after the event closes its gates. This goes beyond the tangible elements of the buildings and businesses on site, to the sorts of people who will be working there and across Dubai – the human capital and knowledge economy that we hope will be this Expo’s true dividend.
How can the financial and intellectual capital invested in the Expo foster entrepreneurship and innovation to form a lasting legacy?
AL HASHIMY: Growth will only be driven, particularly in this and other regions with emerging economies, by the forces of entrepreneurship and innovation, which together create goods, services and, above all, opportunities for the young. That requires investment, not only in hardware but, most importantly, in “liveware”, by which I mean people. We intend for Expo 2020 to act as a catalyst for the conversion of financial and intellectual capital into human capital, both here in the UAE and across the wider region. The theme is “Connecting Minds; Creating the Future”. Our plans embody this by giving individuals the tools they require to create and capitalise on opportunities and, in doing so, make a meaningful contribution to social mobility as part of an economically sustainable future for all. The YouthConnect programme, launched in November 2015, brought together young people with inspirational speakers and experts to do just that.
What types of new technology and integrated solutions will be used by Expo 2020 to make it a visitor-friendly environment?
AL HASHIMY: Technology has an important role to play behind the scenes in supporting the delivery of this event, enabling seamless operations that facilitate a memorable experience for both participants and visitors, helping us to achieve our objective of an inclusive and thrilling global expo. People who cannot physically attend can still be part of the event through an interactive virtual experience, enabling anyone from anywhere to “visit” the Expo. National and corporate participants will be able to take advantage of the same technologies to meet their own particular needs. This means the ability to manage and monitor information in real time, including visitor numbers and flow and footfall throughout the site, all of which leads to better scheduling of events and attractions.
In what ways does Expo 2020 complement the UAE’s Vision 2021 strategy?
AL HASHIMY: The ultimate goal of the UAE Vision 2021 is to place the nation among the best in the world. Achieving this will involve creating a competitive knowledge economy, as well as promoting a sustainable approach to the environment and infrastructure, which fits well with the themes of the Expo.
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