The much-anticipated Dubai World Expo is right around the corner. Bringing together countries, businesses, and organizations from across the globe, the expo seeks to kickstart conversations around sustainability, mobility, and opportunity. But what does this mean in practice? I sat down with Nina Kopola, Director General of Business Finland, and Khalid Sharaf, Director – Expo Business Programme for a candid chat.
The theme for the Dubai World Expo is ‘Connecting minds, creating the future.’ How do you see this coming alive, Khalid?
Khalid: The main themes that Expo 2020 is focusing on are sustainability, mobility, and opportunity. As a sub-theme, we have also launched a programme called ‘People and Planet’ and the idea is to bring people together to focus on these themes and find possible solutions. But the World Expo is not just about business. Every country’s pavilion will be showcasing its best in terms of innovation, in terms of culture, and in terms of entertainment. That, in a nutshell, is what ‘Connecting minds, creating the future is all about. I encourage people who are interested in knowing about these programmes to start looking up the various activities that are happening here and use the opportunity to get in touch with the right people at the right time.
Nina, how would countries and companies who participate in the World Expo gain from it?
Nina: If you think about what these expos do – they serve in educating the public, in sharing innovations, promoting progress, and fostering cooperation. And there is a very big audience for the Dubai World Expo. For countries, this translates into opportunities to strengthen their brand, bring forward their strengths, and increase their visibility on a global stage. While for companies, it allows them to launch and showcase innovations, their know-how and serves to reinforce their commitment to the Gulf markets. The mission of business Finland is to generate prosperity for Finland by accelerating our customers’ sustainable growth globally. Participation in the expo certainly helps us achieve this mission by strengthening the visibility of Finland and helps promote Finnish companies’ exports, internationalization, and competitiveness in the area.
And what is the glue that brings the partner companies and the country brand together at this point?
Nina: The main theme for Finland’s participation in Expo 2020 is ‘Sharing future happiness’ with sub-themes of circular economy, sustainability, and innovation. And this is what ties the companies and their offerings together. They are companies at the forefront of technology and the technology that they bring is making the world a better place. They see the expo as an opportunity to create contacts and make their offerings known.
Khalid, a record 191 countries – all of them having several partners alongside are participating in the Expo. How can we leverage the co-creation opportunities created here?
Khalid: With 191 countries coming together, it means you have access to 191 international markets in one place. And each one of them is bringing business delegations. We will have global business forums on the most important emerging markets right now internationally, which are the African markets, the ASEAN market, and the Latin American market. These are big events that will bring not only leaders of government but also leaders of business together – to ensure that you have that flow of connections, of investments, of partnership. On top of that, we are also going to have digital platforms that help people connect with people of interest from their industry, from their background, to really meet their objectives from this visit. More importantly, we are also ensuring that we have the chambers of commerce from the Middle East, from the GCC, and the UAE are at the expo site throughout the six months to help that collaboration and partnership conversation forward.
Why is there a need for companies to work across sectors and borders to come together to make real change?
Nina: I think we all agree that the climate crisis has highlighted that we have to act now. We cannot continue living in the way we have and continue wasting resources. We have to make a concerted effort throughout various actors to really make the change in the course of development. Otherwise, the future of our children will look very, very different. And if we tie these in then to the Expo discussion, it is important to get visibility to the newest sustainable innovations.
Khalid: To build on what Nina’s saying, we need to change our behavior. We have a sustainability pavilion which is one of our anchor pavilions here. And its main goal, the whole experience is for when people walk out of it, they walk out with a mindset of ‘I need to change my behavior. I need to change because if I don’t change, our oceans are going to get polluted, our fish are gonna die. And that has a whole huge impact on the ecosystem.’ As the human species, we need to be changemakers, each one of us has to change our behavior. And that’s one of the most important pillars of Expo 2020 for people that come there in person or experience it digitally.
This interview has been abridged. By Wartsila