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Seizing new opportunities

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As the founding partner of the UK Pavilion at Expo 2020 and corporate sponsor of the India Pavilion, HSBC looks into the impact of Expo 2020 on businesses.

Companies cannot afford to miss the business and investment opportunities that will be created by the global event.

Expo 2020 is not just an extravaganza that aims to dazzle and entertain millions of tourists. It also currently presents a multibillion-dollar opportunity for domestic and international businesses even though the event has already begun.

It’s not too late for companies to seize the opportunities. With all eyes on Dubai right now, businesses that can excel, shine and provide innovative solutions to their clients can use the mega-event as a launch pad to raise their profile and grow their clientele.

While the event ends on March 31, 2022, its economic impact is expected to reverberate far into the future. The Dubai government [1] expects the event to generate AED122.6 billion (USD33.4 billion) and support 905,200 jobs until 2031.

And the business and investment opportunities span the entire spectrum of the economy – from retailing to renewable energy, manufacturing to machine learning and from aviation to artificial intelligence.

Opportunities for Local Businesses

For companies that are already well-entrenched in Dubai, the first advantage is the business boost with around 25 million visits expected to the event, of which 70 percent are projected to be international tourists – i.e. new customers.

This presents tremendous opportunities for the hospitality industry including hotels, food and beverage facilities and other retail outlets, and ancillary services including transportation, logistics and other parts of the supply chain.

Dubai businesses are already feeling optimistic on prospects of higher sales. IHS Markit’s [2] September Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) noted that business confidence improved as firms, led by travel and tourism plus wholesale and retail businesses, hope that the event will drive a renewed increase in sales.

Connecting the World

With 192 countries participating at the event, Expo 2020 will showcase Dubai’s tourist and business appeal to the entire world.

One key ambition of the organisers is to present Dubai as the gateway connecting businesses to the 3.5 billion people in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia.

The Expo 2020 B2B App is one unique way to make thousands of new business contacts at the event and seek out new opportunities. The app allows business to receive personalized contact recommendations generated by AI technology, access the full profiles of registered visitors once connection is accepted and filter the list based on your specific and personalized criteria.

The weekly business events also highlight businesses focused on innovation technologies, investment opportunities, mobility, live events and sustainability.

Expo 2020 is also providing opportunities in new sectors that have taken special significance post-COVID 19.

These includes energy technologies, such as advances in solar, wind, hydrogen, nuclear fusion and reducing emissions of fossil fuels and latest developments in sustainable cities, new communities and hyperconnected zones and locations.

Sustainable agriculture and social initiatives in line with United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals also provide fresh opportunities that also dovetail with the UAE's net-zero emissions pledge by 2050.

Emerging technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence, 4th Industrial Revolution, space technologies are also areas that most UAE corporations are looking to incorporate in their own businesses.

The spate of opportunities in the UAE has certainly caught the eye of start-ups and multinationals across the world, which are leveraging their country pavilions to showcase services and product expertise.

The UK Pavilion [3], for example, is highlighting British companies’ strengths in artificial intelligence, machine learning and space. Inspired by a project from the late British scientist Stephen Hawking, the pavilion features HSBC as a founding partner.

Canada [4] is using its country pavilion to showcase companies focused on healthcare, cleantech and information and communications technology.

Future Business Trends

With some 200 pavilions across three themed districts – Sustainability, Mobility and Opportunity – Expo 2020 comes at an opportune moment.

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically altered how governments, businesses and individuals operate, and accelerated a number of trends reflected in the event’s themes under the overarching banner “Connecting Minds and Creating the Future”.

The pandemic and climate change have underscored the fragility of our environment and supply chains, an issue that will come into sharp focus in the Sustainability District.

Companies providing cleantech innovation, renewable energy and sustainable practices – particularly across the wider economy – will be able to leverage their expertise well after the event. For example, firms at the Czech Republic Pavilion [5] aim to show how barren land can be made fertile with innovative techniques to extract water vapour from air using solar energy.

The Mobility District highlights the global move to digital services and remote work during COVID-19 and the importance of being able to function in any location. Here, the Republic of Korea Pavilion [6] will showcase its unique and dynamic architecture with a sequence of mobility-related experiences.

The disruption caused by the pandemic has also created a slew of opportunities for innovative entrepreneurs, giving them an opening to challenge established business models. This is exemplified in the Opportunity District, where the Egypt Pavilion [7] will focus on the country’s tourism, infrastructure, education and more.

For businesses looking to secure contracts, win opportunities and attract investment and talent, these three themes will endure long after Expo 2020’s six-month run. Business learnings from these pavilions will transcend the event and help Dubai emerge as a hive for innovation, knowledge and cutting-edge technologies and ideas.

Opportunities Now

Securing contracts for Expo 2020 events can serve as the gateway for new business and investment opportunities. This is especially true for international businesses looking for breakthroughs in new markets and eager to showcase their expertise, products and services to new customers.

In the run-up to the event, Expo 2020 [8] awarded 4,500 contract representing investment of nearly AED5 billion (USD1.4 billion).

Expo organisers are also encouraging businesses to take advantage of the range of opportunities still available during the event and become an Expo 2020 supplier through platforms such as the Ariba sourcing portal.

The organisers are looking for suppliers in the areas of construction, manpower, events and ceremonies, technology, security, transport and logistics, waste management and a whole host of other areas, according to Ariba [9].

Expo 2020 [10] has already transacted more than AED1 billion (USD272 million) on the Ariba platform.

International companies looking to get a foot in the door and eyeing business growth in the UAE should take advantage of HSBC’s well-established regional financial services platform. The bank has launched a U.S.5 billion growth initiative to support the UAE’s strategy by financing businesses looking to invest for international growth in sustainable and innovative ways. The bank’s vast UAE-wide network can lend expertise and financing support for businesses looking to grow their businesses in the UAE.

Indeed, Expo 2020 is just the start. The Government of Dubai [11] in October unveiled new public-private partnership (PPP) projects valued at AED25 billion (USD6.8 billion) in sectors including utilities, transport and health.

The proposed projects were unveiled to a global and local audience of more than 600 decision-makers in the fields of investment, contracting, consultancy and infrastructure development. These projects will trickle down to the rest of the business community as larger companies outsource part of the contracts and seek suppliers for services and products.

Expo 2020 is revitalising domestic and regional supply chains just when businesses most need it. Now is the time for companies to find opportunities to be part of this emerging ecosystem.

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