DUBAI – This place is known for opulence as well as excellence. Dubai, one of seven emirates in the United Arab Emirates, is hosting Expo 2020. As with so many things in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic locked down the mega event, but it is now taking place from 1 October 2021 to 31 March 2022 under the theme Connecting Minds, Creating the Future.
Public and private sector representatives from 192 participating countries, of which Liberia is one are coming together and reimagining the world of tomorrow under the event’s three sub-themes of Opportunity, which seeks to unlock the potential within the individual, communities and countries to shape the future; Mobility, which aims to create smarter and more productive movement of people, ideas, goods and services; and Sustainability, with the goal of respecting and leaving in balance the world we inhabit.
Expo 2020 Dubai is important in World Expos’ history for a number of reasons. For starters, it is the first World Expo to be held in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region. More countries, peoples and cultures are participating in Expo 2020. Each of the 192 participating countries has its own pavilion. Thirdly, the hosting of Expo 2020 in this region reaffirms the rise of the rest, in that the event is serving “as a gateway to one of the most important geo-economic trends shaping our world: the rise of emerging markets, developing countries and South-South trade.” The MEASA region is home to 3.2 billion people and a GDP of $6.5 trillion.
Expo 2020 Dubai is hoping to achieve collective solutions to global challenges such as growth and economic development, gender inequality and climate change. “In today’s highly interconnected world, a renewed vision of progress and development based on shared purpose and commitment is key,”says His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum,Vice President and Prime Minster of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai. He argues that “it is by working together that we truly advance” [italics mine], concluding that “Connected thinking,” playing on the Expo 2020 theme of Connecting Minds, Creating the Future, “is the best hope for progress, and for successful and peaceful existence in the generations to come.”
The planning of global event has been years in the making. Dubai was awarded the rights to host Expo 2020 by the Bureau of International des Expositions (BIE) on November 27, 2013. The staging of Expo 2020 and the “preparations leading up to it are expected to result in 277,000 new jobs in the UAE, an injection of nearly $40 billion into the economy, and an increase in visitors of at least 25 million.” The organizers’ pitch is that “never in history have so many nations and so many cultures gathered together at a World Expo to do so much good for so many people. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, a feast for all of your senses, and an opportunity for us all to come together today to reimagine the world of tomorrow.
Uganda, like Liberia, is in the Opportunity District. Within a week of Expo 2020 opening, the country had locked in $900 million in deals, including for transportation, agriculture, mineral processing and renewable energy projects, representing nearly 25% of its $4 billion investment goal. “We’re that fast,” Happy Atukwase, a staff at the Uganda Pavilion and Export Promotion Board, tells me, after I expressed amazement at theeffective and efficient scope and speed with which her countryhandles investments.
Liberia’s strategy should aim to attract at least a third of GDP in new investment deals (which translates to about $1.109 billion). The country should also connect and integrate Expo 2020 with other national events, such as the upcoming Bicentennial. Rather than just a day-long celebration of its National Day on 30 November 2021, Liberia should consider having a week-long celebration of its history, culture, arts and entertainment, and investment attractions. But to implement such a strategy, the momentum needs to be built, strategic consultants (e.g., communications, investment, etc.) hired, and lobbying activities between Monrovia and Dubai worked out.
“We send a message of friendship and love to all the peoples of the world,” tweets the vision bearer of Expo 2020 Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, “through the largest cultural event in the world.” The man driving “This Is Our Time,” dreamt it; bided for it; won it—and is now astonishing the world with all the possible human ingenuity, innovation that this 21st century has to offer.
*The author—Robert O. Davis—is the Chief Strategist Officer at ROD Group of Strategists, INC. He tweets @realRODavis.