The Business Year

Najeeb Mohammed Al-Ali

UAE, DUBAI - Economy

Open for Business: Expo 2020

Executive Director, the Dubai Expo 2020 Bureau


Najeeb Mohammed Al-Ali is the Executive Director of the Dubai Expo 2020 Bureau, coordinating its projects across all governmental entities. He was previously the executive director of the Emirates Competitiveness Council, director of strategy and policy in the UAE Prime Minister’s office, director of special projects in the Executive Council of Dubai, and the executive director of the Dubai Centre for Corporate Values. He holds an MS in technology innovation management and a bachelor’s of engineering in telecommunication systems.

TBY talks to Najeeb Mohammed Al-Ali, Executive Director of the Dubai Expo 2020 Bureau, on being the most inclusive World Expo, supplying 50% of its energy usage from renewable sources, and laying the groundwork for its legacy.

What impact will Expo 2020 Dubai have on the economy, particularly SMEs?

Expo 2020 Dubai will contribute to new business generation, GDP growth, and job creation across the region since it is open to businesses of all sizes, especially SMEs—the pillar of any economy. We already have more than 20,000 companies from 140 countries registered on the expo’s e-sourcing portal, more than 14,000 of which are SMEs. More than half of Expo’s contracts awarded so far have been won by SMEs.

Could you explain the scale of Expo 2020, and how it will tap into new technologies and catalyze further development?

More than 200 nations, multilateral organizations, businesses, and educational institutions will participate in Expo 2020, and we expect to welcome 25 million visits, 70% of which are expected to come from outside the UAE. This means we will be the most inclusive World Expo ever. World Expos have introduced cutting-edge innovations for 167 years. We are doing it a little bit differently by implementing innovative services throughout the journey to 2020, such as our Online Marketplace, which connects entrepreneurs and businesses with each other anywhere in the world and helps to boost and expand opportunities. We view technology as an enabler rather than a substitute. In line with our theme, ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future,’ we want to use technology to encourage more interactions between people, not to replace them.

How are you working with partners from the public and private sectors to further build Dubai’s reputation on the international stage?

Since the bid phase, Expo 2020 organizers have worked as a team with the federal government and the rest of the country. Dubai’s record win, with 116 votes, was only possible due to strong collaboration. We will continue to work hand in hand with these stakeholders before and during the event. For example, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) has become our energy partner and supports the fulfillment of our goal to supply 50% of our energy usage from renewable sources. The Roads and Transport Authority is building a metro station right at the Expo site and is enhancing the surrounding road infrastructure and bus services. Commercial partnerships are also playing a vital role. We are working with a variety of world-class brands, including premier partners Accenture, Cisco, DP World, Emirates Airline, Emirates NBD, Etisalat, Nissan, PepsiCo, SAP, and Siemens, as well as official partners DEWA, ENOC, and UPS.

To what extent are you involving young people in the journey to 2020?

Youth and volunteers are critical to the success of Expo 2020. Our theme carries the word ‘future,’ and we cannot think of the future without thinking of our youth. Expo 2020’s Youth Connect team engages with schoolchildren in the UAE on a daily basis, and schools visit the Expo site to learn about our themes and see how work is progressing. So far, we have engaged with 40,000 students from 140 schools. Many of them will come back in 2020 and see Expo through a different lens.

How will you ensure that Expo 2020 leaves a meaningful legacy beyond April 2021?

From day one, we have been committed to building a legacy that is meaningful and sustainable. This is based on four pillars: physical, economic, social, and reputational. A large part of this strategy involves the site’s transformation after the Expo into District 2020, a world-class mixed-use development and integrated community that will reuse 80% of Expo 2020’s built environment. For example, the Sustainability Pavilion will become a Children and Science Centre. The Conference and Exhibition Centre, developed by Dubai World Trade Centre, will eventually be the biggest in the region, helping to expand Dubai’s existing reputation for hosting major international events and conferences. Two of our premier partners—Siemens and Accenture—have already committed to establishing a permanent presence within District 2020.



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