The momentous implications of the Expo 2020 win are still to be fully understood. First, I want to take a step back and reflect on the historical importance of this win, then I will make some bold predictions for the next few years.

This win is historical

Dubai Expo 2020 Logo Stacked EnWhen the Expo comes to Dubai in 2020, it will be 169 years since “The Great Exhibition” took place in London in the year 1851. By then, Dubai will be the 57th city to host a World Expo.

Putting that in perspective, and depending whether you consider Korea as an emerging market or not (Daejeon 1993 and Yeosu 2012), the UAE should be the second or third “EM” country to host the expo after China (Shanghai 2010) and Russia (Astana 2017).

So this is a win for the entire Dubai “catchment area”, a region which

  • covers an area going east to India and Pakistan and west to Morocco, and
  • has more than 2 billion people.

Again, thinking about the “BRICs” (Brazil, Russia, India, China), it is truly amazing that a small country like the UAE manages to host such an event ahead of India and Brazil.

The cultural and political implications are extremely exciting. At a time where the west is relaxing relations with Iran, there could be no better time for the Arab and Muslim world to show a modern, progressive, and friendly face to the world.

In this historical light, the motto of the Expo “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future” takes its full historical dimension.

The Economic implications are very exciting

An estimated $7billion+ needs to be spent on additional infrastructure. Add this spending to the ongoing investments in Dubai, due to its existing fundamentals, and the compounding effect is very potent.

Business and consumer confidence will be boosted even more. It is likely that real estate will be a major beneficiary of the investments. Population will increase, along with local wealth creation.

The equity markets will continue to have strong tail winds. This will support regional investment, generally including private equity and venture capital.

Corporate Governance will strengthen as regional companies benefit from closer examination. This leads to stronger companies with better profits, which fuels the virtual cycle of investment and job creation.

Dubai will attract more and better talent, including people from North America and Europe. The city will be more cosmopolitan than ever with fewer people speaking Arabic.

China’s fascination with and focus on Dubai will increase. The city’s role as a hub between East and West, particularly between Asia and Africa, will strengthen.

Can everybody be a winner?

For long time Dubai residents and nationals, the joy and pride of being part of the expo will sometimes be balanced by the price to be paid in making the expo a success.

Building sites will be busier than ever. Road-works too.

Real estate prices will go up, and with them the costs of rent, schooling, healthcare etc.

While the city and business owners will be clear beneficiaries of the business boom, the emerging middle class will need salaries to rise in order to maintain their standards of living.

The government and employers will need to exercise responsible judgment so that everyone wins.

It is all about execution now

While Dubai had competition to contend with for the bid, “the execution is entirely in our hands now”.

And execution is one thing Dubai knows about.

In an inspirational speech to a gathering of Dubai businessmen last night, Jeremy Irons said in his unique style: “you are the can-do people, go and do it! And please export this can-do attitude to the rest of the world…”

And that too is Connecting Minds, Creating the Future.

Click below to watch a presentation about opportunities in the Middle East.


Opportunities in the Middle East