Not long after my arrival in the UAE a few years ago, decorations and flags began adorning towers, announcing that Dubai had been awarded the Expo for 2020. We were even given an extra day off from work to celebrate. It wasn’t unlike the fever experienced in London in 2005, when it was chosen to host the 2012 Olympics. Everyone was excited about this great event Dubai would be home to in 2020, but few seemed to know what “Expo” really meant. The best explanation I could find was “it’s every four years, and it’s all about trade. A big, long global trade show.”
Four years on, that description is fairly accurate, and coming to life at the rate we’ve all come to expect from the UAE. An official 438 hectare site has been chosen for the six-month long event beginning in October 2020 and culminating in April 2021, which will be home to more than 180 nations participating for the duration and numerous others who will visit to develop new international opportunities. A central plaza, entitled Al Wasl (meaning “the connection” in Arabic) is surrounded by three large pavilions built by Al-Futtaim Carillion, each dedicated to one of the Expo’s sub-themes: opportunity, mobility and sustainability.
In light of the latter, the site is set to become the town of “Dubai South” after the Expo, and will no doubt become one of Dubai’s hottest new locations with plenty of residential and commercial options. I recently visited the site, which has laid impressive foundations but is still mostly sand. How will this be done in three years? If we were in any other city I would say it were impossible. In Dubai, I wonder if we could do it in two!
The reason for my visit was to meet the team behind Expo Live. The Expo team have set goals relating to the subthemes, such as reducing food waste and increasing opportunities to recycle. They have created Expo Live to encourage innovation globally, particularly relating to startups with a social impact. Startups from anywhere in the world can apply directly to Expo for grants to support the development or expansion of their business. Selected startups are flown to Dubai to pitch and explain how they would use funding, and if successful are awarded the grants shortly after. We are thrilled to announce that NOW Money was in the most recent wave of selected startups, joining a fellow UAE social impact startup catering to the migrant worker population, Smart Labour. Alongside the obvious financial benefit, there are others: being listed as part of the Expo procurement website and the opportunity to demo at the event in 2020.
Applications for the next wave have just opened again for anyone who fits the profile!
Expo are hosting a huge, free party this Friday, 20th October at The Beach on JBR to mark exactly three years until the start of the main event. We have been asked to let all the friends of NOW Money know that you’re most welcome to attend! As well as lots of celebrations for every age (think a six-metre high zip-line, food trucks and Kris Fade) you can also expect to find a bit more about Expo… more than “a big, long, global trade show”!
For more info about getting to and around the event, please click here.