Expo 2020 Dubai boosts significant economic growth

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) were awarded contracts worth AED6.8 billion during Expo 2020 Dubai, a significant contribution to a vital sector of Dubai’s vibrant economy and exceeding the commitment made in 2016 to provide SMEs with at least 20% of all direct and indirect spend.

This figure represents more than a quarter of all Expo 2020 Dubai contracts by value. Of the 3,245 suppliers awarded Expo 2020 Dubai contracts, 66 per cent (2,150) were SMEs, with 64 per cent (1,390) of these being domestic SMEs, reflecting the level and diversity of businesses based in the UAE and supporting the UAE’s broader commitment to a thriving private sector and a more sustainable economy. 

Most of the 760 overseas SME suppliers are from the UK (24 per cent), the US (16 per cent), France (4 per cent), India (4 per cent) and Australia (4 per cent). Overall, suppliers from outside the UAE were represented in 94 countries, demonstrating the global reach and impact of the World Expo.

Mukhtar Safi, CFO and deputy general manager of Expo 2020 Dubai, said: “Our commitment to SMEs has been embedded in our planning since the beginning of the World Expo journey, honouring the visionary leadership of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to support and empower SMEs – the lifeblood of economies around the world, including the UAE, where they are an important driver of economic growth and vital source of job creation.

“Integrating SMEs into a truly exceptional World Expo will be an important part of the Expo’s legacy for the UAE and the wider region, boosting employment, strengthening existing industries, enhancing SME competitiveness and ultimately contributing to sustainable economic growth.”

General aerial view of Al Wasl with fog at Expo 2020 Dubai (Photo by Dany Eid/Expo 2020 Dubai)

From construction firms to event organisers, from retailers to food and beverage outlets, SMEs have played a key role in the success of Expo 2020 in Dubai, generating AED1.06 billion in revenue for UAE SMEs in 2021 alone.

Of this, AED 161.7 million ($44 million) in contracts were awarded to Dubai SMEs, strengthening Dubai’s Public Procurement Programme, which requires UAE government organisations and institutions with 25 per cent or more of government ownership to allocate 10 per cent of their procurement to Emirati firms that are members of SME Dubai – part of the Economic Development Department, which provides support, information and outreach to the growing SME sector.

Expo 2020 Dubai’s procurement process itself was based on three principles: Simplicity, Transparency and Inclusiveness, enabling businesses of all sizes to do business with Expo 2020 Dubai as simply and competitively as possible. In 2018, Expo 2020 Dubai was the first World Expo and only the second mega-event to win the Excellence in Procurement Award from the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply.

Expo 2020 Dubai defines an SME as any enterprise that falls within the thresholds of headcount and turnover, depending on the relevant sector, according to the Dubai SME classification.

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