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Elizabeth Morgan | Dubai Expo and the Caribbean Investment Forum – Jamaica Gleaner

A lot has been happening in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), involving CARICOM countries, which, except for a few articles, have mostly gone under the radar in the region.
Dubai has been hosting a world exposition from October 1, 2021, which ends on March 31. World expositions are large-scale universal fairs covering a variety of themes. These fairs are sanctioned by the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE). It was agreed from 2013 that Dubai would host this exposition in 2020. Due to the COVID-19 virus, however, this first world exposition to be held in the Middle East was postponed to 2021.
These world fairs are seen as opportunities to showcase the participating countries in individual pavilions. They are also opportunities to make contacts, forge partnerships, deepen relations, explore investment opportunities, cooperate on various projects, and exchange information and experiences. The CARICOM member states have participated in several of these expositions over the years, either collectively or as individual countries.
This 2020 Dubai exposition is being held under the theme ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’ with sub-themes on opportunity, mobility and sustainability. Topics highlighted during the expo included climate and biodiversity, urban and rural development, travel and connectivity, and food, agriculture and livelihoods.
One hundred and ninety-two countries have been participating, including, from CARICOM, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.
The expo has provided an opportunity to host various trade and economic events in Dubai. Thus, CARICOM government officials have visited their pavilions on their national days and participated in the various spin-off events. Jamaica’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, visited in February, along with Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, for Jamaica’s National Day on February 18.
Up to the end of February, it was reported that over 14 million people had visited this expo.
The Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export), in association with the Caribbean Association of Investment Promotion Agencies (CAIPA), hosted the Caribbean Export Forum in Dubai on March 22. This high-level event aimed to present a variety of investment opportunities in the Caribbean in agricultural technology, hotel and resort development, logistics and transportation, and financial technology.
The forum had sessions on doing business in the Caribbean and investment opportunities, as well as providing time for networking. The forum was showcasing the Caribbean in the UAE and to others in that region. It was attended by over 250 participants, with business meetings taking place over three days.
The keynote address was delivered by His Excellency Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali, President of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana. President Ali pointed to the Caribbean as a region built on resilience and diversity which will allow investment to thrive, even though its population is small.
He said that: “Once you have the capital, the foresight, access to technology, then the Caribbean region is a destination you should be looking at. It is a destination that offers you an opportunity to build a complex, multifaceted investment platform. And it’s a region that is looking at being self-sufficient in many areas.”
President Ali highlighted the region’s economic potential and spoke extensively about opportunities in environmental services, the blue economy, agriculture, infrastructure, logistics, tourism, and other areas of potential and predicted growth.
He pointed to the region’s location, with its direct access to South, Central and North America, and its investment and trade arrangements. Countries in the region, he said, are aiming to transform their infrastructure, and are looking at building infrastructure that will support regional development.
The president also spoke of Guyana’s great potential as an investment destination, given its natural resources. The region is seeking investments from the Middle East, where capital is available.
CARICOM countries have made other efforts to court investments in the Middle East. I hope that participation in the Dubai 2020 Expo, which closes this week, will be successful in generating new investment flows into the region to aid the effort to ‘build back better’ post-COVID.
Elizabeth Morgan is a specialist in international trade policy and international politics. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.
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