Expo 2020 marks an opportunity for Middle East, African and South Asian communities on the world stage 


In 2013, Dubai was awarded the honor of hosting the World Expo 2020 by the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), an intergovernmental organization in charge of overseeing and regulating World Expos. His Highness, Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai, Vice President of the UAE, has long touted this Expo as one that belongs to the MEASA (Middle East, Africa, and South Asia) region, affirming that the region is a “world of possibilities”, a mantra that  captures the spirit of this part of the world, its people and its economic opportunities. As the MEASA region will drive the majority of future global population growth, the theme of “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future” marks a critical shift as the Global South gains heightened prominence on the world stage. 

Opportunities abound for Africa at Expo 2020 Dubai 

Her Excellency, Reem Al Hashemi, Director General of Expo 2020 has confirmed that this Expo will host the largest number of African countries to ever participate in a World Expo. Participating African nations include countries, such as Rwanda, Uganda, and Zambia. The Expo team will work closely with each delegation in order to curate a narrative and experience true to each respective nation, and enable each country to reflect its unique identity to the international community. 

The Expo 2020 is expected to host over 25 million visitors during its six-month run. With 70 percent of visitors projected to come from outside the UAE—the largest proportion of international visitors in the history of the event. Its location, Dubai, is expected to attract more citizens of African and Southeast Asian nations, many of whom were previously unable to participate in past editions due to high costs and visa requirements of the previous World Expo exhibitions held in Europe and North America. 

This Expo will also host cultural exhibitions and attractions, wellness exercises, and “virtual retreats.” Additionally, it will offer networking opportunities for international businesses, and fun academic edutainment workshops for children and adults.

Even in the age of the Internet, the offline experience still holds a special role 

Critics might argue that an Expo is hardly relevant in the age of the Internet when learning about other cultures, both remote and near, is nothing more than a click away. However, World Expos have always been an inspirational platform to convene global communities; they are a key gathering place for governments, innovators, and businesses to share innovation, opportunities, progress, and perspectives on critical global issues. World Expos are uniquely inclusive as they also welcome and invite dialogue and commentary from the general public —something few global events of this size and caliber prioritize as central to their success. 


Emerging markets are moving to the center

The global economy, the environment, sustainable development, and improving the quality of life for our planet’s growing population are some of the big ideas up for discussion on this huge global stage. 

India is one of Dubai’s largest trading partners, and despite the negative market outlook, trade in gold, jewelry, precious stones, and electronics has thrived, leading Dubai to record a 7% jump in foreign trade this year alone. Africa’s non-oil trade with Dubai has been growing steadily over the last decade, accounting for 10.5% of the emirate’s total non-oil foreign trade in 2018, and the recent signing of the African Continent Free Trade Agreement will serve to spur further growth and trade between the respective regions.


In 2021, the United Arab Emirates will celebrate its Golden Jubilee. Expo 2020 will showcase the UAE as it positions itself as a pioneer in the new knowledge economy, a key contribution as the country scales its investment in its education given that it now holds one of the world’s youngest populations.

The long term ripple effect of Expo 2020 into the city of Dubai — and the UAE, by extension — cannot be predicted, while the success of the event can only be assumed. What is assured, however, is a winning story: that this Expo will give emerging markets an opportunity to showcase their technology, art, and culture and an opportunity to pivot a narrative that for too long has been written by others. Now is the time to tell our story.

Questions about how you can prepare for Expo 2020 and build your connections within the MEASA region?
Contact Ameera Tameem, Gulf Regional Lead at Botho Emerging Markets Group, at ameera@botholtd.com