THE WORLD’S A STAGE

UAE, Dubai 2015 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to HE Reem Ebrahim Al Hashimi, Minister of State of the UAE, on what to expect from the World Expo 2020 in Dubai.

HE Reem Ebrahim Al Hashimi
BIOGRAPHY
HE Reem Ebrahim Al Hashimi completed her undergraduate studies at Tufts University where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations and French. She began her career as Commercial Attaché and subsequently Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of the UAE in Washington D.C. She then went on to Harvard University, where she earned her Master’s degree. She is Chairperson of both Dubai Cares and the Emirates Competitiveness Council, as well as being the Managing Director of Dubai’s Expo 2020 Executive Body, and the Chairperson of the National Bureau of Statistics.

What is the philosophy behind Expo 2020's motto of “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future?"

This represents the essence of the World Expo, of our generation, and of our nation's aspirations—the powerful spirit of partnership and collaboration that has been the driver of UAE's success in paving new paths for development and innovation. The theme carries a special meaning for Dubai, a historical hub of connectivity for the region and globally. Originally known as Al Wasl, Arabic for “the connection" or “intersection point," Dubai has evolved from a regional trading center into a diverse and progressive economic, social, and environmental leader regionally and globally. We are living in an age where long-term solutions to global problems must be resolved by global sharing. The 21st-century trends and transformations, such as population growth, urbanization, and new technologies are converging. These can be the source of major concerns, but also of exceptional future opportunities. Our greatest responsibility in the coming decade is to develop partnerships that can inspire us to shape a better future.

What are the main features that Expo 2020 will introduce compared with previous Expos?

Every World Expo has unique offerings, and through their theme and subthemes introduce and address timely and relevant global challenges. The Expo 2020 Dubai, the first World Fair in the Middle East, Northern Africa, and Southern Asia, will offer a theme that centers on developing partnerships that can inspire our global insight and ability to shape a better future. Our three subthemes: opportunity, mobility, and sustainability, are our interconnected drivers of progress that can provide the prism through which we can examine, connect, and address the changes we are experiencing today but haven't addressed collectively in previous World Expos. In addition, Expo 2020 is expected to attract 25 million unique visits, 70% of which will be international visits—the first time in World Expo history that international visitors will exceed domestic visitors. Likewise, Expo 2020, which will be open from October 2020 to April 2021, is the first Expo to operate during this seasonal period and will be the first Expo to offer one pavilion per country, encouraging and financially supporting the inclusion of eligible developing and low-income nations to foster inclusive, high-quality participation from around the world.

What will be the impact of Expo 2020 on FDI and trade?

Expo 2020 Dubai will provide an environment for global entrepreneurs to explore progressive and realistic ideas and build smart and sustainable relationships. The Expo 2020 Dubai theme “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future" represents the very essence of the World Expo. It is a deep commitment to encourage collaboration, partnerships, and innovative paths to address our local, regional, and global challenges—economic, social, and environmental. As the first World Expo in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia region, the Expo theme is both timely and opportune, as we are living in an age where long-term solutions to problems can only be resolved through collective problem solving. For the international business community, which is becoming more connected and interdependent, Expo 2020 Dubai is an opportunity to form partnerships that are key to building emerging markets and communities, and ensuring future generations have the tools to learn and grow.

What are the main challenges that the government face in the medium term?

The infrastructural and operational investment required by a nation to host large-scale international events are often offset by their ability to generate widespread and lasting economic value for the local resident community. To this end, Dubai Expo 2020 is focused on achieving a similar objective with net value outweighing the costs incurred in delivering the event, and ultimately creating long-term benefits as part of a well-planned economic legacy. We are working to ensure that the investments made by Dubai and every participant, as well as the revenue from international visitors, will directly contribute to the UAE economy. We are confident this will have a positive effect on the adjacent industries that are linked to the delivery of goods and services needed to meet the rise in demand. We expect that, with the growth across various sectors, there should be a natural spike in jobs created within the local economy, increasing the income levels of the people, and encouraging higher domestic consumption.

What strengths should Dubai demonstrate during Expo 2020?

Dubai's strength lies in our ability to attract 25 million unique visitors, of which 70% are international, to our city for Expo 2020. These visitors will experience the diversity of our tourism options, the 200 nationalities living and working in Dubai, and understand why Dubai is ranked amongst the world's top ten cities for international visitors. We want to showcase our world-class travel facilities, how our infrastructure is built for connectivity, and how the UAE has leveraged our hotel, hospitality, and airline assets, together with our presence in the worlds of sport, leisure, and tourism, to make Dubai a world-class destination for global travelers—both business and leisure. We want visitors and residents to witness a productive mega-event like Expo 2020 and leave knowing that Dubai is a hub for leaders, thinkers, international events, trade shows, art, culture, and leisure, and that the people and the business community of Dubai represent the world's best in class.