Prosper Ndlovu in Dubai, UAE
HUSTLING and bustling is intensifying each day at the world’s Expo 2020 Dubai as thousands of travellers trickle in from different parts of the globe to experience the last mile of the exhibition, which is being hosted by the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
For the past six months Zimbabwe, alongside 191 countries, has been participating in this multi-sectoral expo and has had its fair running.
The country has made its mark through its various product exhibits under the opportunities district where it has secured numerous business interests mainly in mining, health, agriculture, infrastructure and tourism sectors.
The large number of visitors flocking to the expo arena, estimated at 13,5 million between October 2021 when the expo began to mid-February this year plus over 75 million virtual visits and the hive of activity at the country’s pavilion per day, testify to the high-level subscription of the expo and the positive sentiment towards the country.
Zimbabwe’s pavilion team led by Expo Commissioner-General, Ambassador Mary Mubi, has worked harder to showcase the country’s unique and diverse opportunity offers.
Several business delegations including senior industry executives and Government representatives have also hosted sectoral conferences here and engaged with global stakeholders in a bid to entice investments into Zimbabwe and promote trade.
President Mnangagwa will be here next week to lead the National Day events on March 14, a day specifically set aside to honour Zimbabwe and afford it the limelight opportunity at the Expo, which will be the pinnacle of the country’s participation at the exhibition.
Through interaction with the best minds, innovators and other iconic figures from developed and developing countries, there have been significant breakthroughs and indeed eye-opening experiences that would entirely change the country’s perspective about the world of business.
Besides what the country has on offer here at the Expo, there are a lot of observations from the exhibition’s experience and the general developments in the United Arab Emirates’ thriving province of Dubai, which should inspire our own transformation journey as a country.
One of the striking observations here is the extended business operating hours, which stretch up to midnight. It is normal business here for one to walk or drive into town for shopping at 11PM and by that time all shops will still be open and restaurants serving clients and weekends are no exception. Actually, the Expo venue receives more visitors in the evening than during day time.
One would not miss the architectural design prowess of the Expo venue and individual eye-catching country pavilions that draw visitors’ attention from a distance.
This, among several other tailor-made activity experiences here, add to the glamour and adventure that attracts every visitor to each pavilion.
The organisers of the expo have deliberately introduced an “expo passport” given to every accredited exhibitor or visitor. This is exciting to many people here as they move from one pavilion to the other seeking to have their “passport” stamped, which gives an impression that they have visited those countries.
As they do this, they will be exposed to the exhibits in each stand and start engaging over business. The Dubai Expo largely draws it’s modelling focus from the global sustainable development goals (SDGs) hence it is segmented into three key pillars — sustainability, mobility and opportunity. Zimbabwe is exhibiting in the opportunities district.
The thematic focus modelling of the expo helps in guiding the showcasing of those impactful solutions that speak to the current global challenges and proffer solutions for the future.
While the UAE is known as an oil rich country, for instance, it has diversified its economy in a big way from reliance on commodity exports.
Value addition, transit economy modelling and unique tourism and commercial hub elements are now the biggest pillars. Essentially, the hallmark of Expo 2020 Dubai is anchored on competition for innovation and demand for synergies as businesses seek partnerships to enhance their capacities and knowledge sharing.
A lot of planning and precision seems to have been invested in designing the expo arena as a “one-stop-shop” for everything that a visitor could want or expect.
From hotels, conferencing facilities, restaurants, entertainment, media, free WiFi network and so on, the expo is not just about business but leisure and fun as well.
This creates opportunity for both small and established businesses, the creative sector, visitors and members of the public to converge and share experiences at one go and demonstrates deliberate multi-stakeholder consultation in planning for the event and the quest for inclusion.
This is also made possible by the efficient mass public transportation system in which high speed rail service, accessible at every five-minute interval, metro bus and metre tax, are all connected and drop visitors at the expo gate and return. These are available until midnight and beyond to smoothly ferry travellers to their various destinations.
Dubai has modelled itself as a smart city with a higher usage of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) in many aspects ranging from e-commerce to digital policing. It is very rare to see police officers on the road or streets and yet peace and order prevails.
The level of cleanliness is amazing and reckless littering is unknown. In fact, at the expo venue and anywhere on the streets refuse bins are divided into three to separate biodegradable waste, plastics and metallic objects.
Although the UAE is situated in a desert, it has green beauty, flowers and exotic trees around and drip-irrigation systems are used to water them.
While there is abundant power supply, Dubai has embraced solar in a big way and solar panels are all over on top of buildings, parkade centres and including the expo venue.
Art and cultural heritage are the biggest draw cards here at Expo Dubai, which emphasises the need to invest more in this sector as it is a potential export earner with opportunity to create more jobs.
The country is on a path to transform its economy towards an upper middle-income status by 2030 and will be hosting its prime trade showcase, the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) next month.
Guided by the National Development Strategy (2021-2025) Zimbabwe has also mainstreamed value addition, smart city modelling and ICT usage in its operations.
It will be critical going forward, to tap into some of these experiences gained from Expo 2020 Dubai to create a unique development narrative that will quicken the pace towards Vision 2030.
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