Opportunities for UAE SMEs in 2016: Are You Ready For Expo 2020?

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SMEs represent almost 94% of the total number of companies operating in the UAE, with 400,000 SMEs contributing 60% to the nation's GDP- a figure that is expected to increase to 70% by 2021.


With Expo 2020 just around the corner, it is expected that the event will particularly benefit this segment of Dubai's industry. Dubai Government is taking steps to ensure that SMEs are an integral part of it and they recently announced that 20% of the Expo's total direct and indirect spend, representing more than AED 5 billion in contracts, will be allocated to small and medium enterprises, both local and international.

So as a business owner what areas of your organisation should you be focusing on to maximise on such an opportunity as Expo 2020? Here are a few ideas:

Network and Knowledge

Staying up to date has never been more critical as the UAE's 2021 vision to transition to knowledge-based economy, fostering creativity and innovation, drives development. How is your company innovating? What new products or services could you offer the market? Networking, learning, and developing knowledge should be a key area of focus over the next few years in order to understand market requirements even more and what solutions your business could provide.


With the Expo expected to attract over 25 million visitors over six months, skill sets such as customer service, project management, event knowledge, languages, cultural awareness, and communication will be critical. Identify training gaps in your organisation and put a plan (and a budget) in place to address them to ensure you have the talent to handle the brief.

Related: Four Industry Sectors That UAE Entrepreneurs (And Investors) Should Be Interested In


The Expo itself is expected to create over 270,000 jobs, and also has ambitious volunteer programme, which aims to include more than 30,000 volunteers. What growth strategy do you have in place to achieve your objectives by 2020 and what talent are you planning to hire to execute and support that strategy? Focusing on a long-term approach will help you plan more effectively to capitalise on upcoming opportunities.

Digital Awareness

70% of all visitors are expected to come from outside the UAE - the largest proportion of international visitors in Expo history. With that in mind, the volume of online search, as international and local visitors digitally explore the upcoming event, continues to be significant. With this in mind, what is your company digital footprint? Will viewers come across your company as they search? Make sure your content is up to date, that it relates to Expo 2020, and your business is easily findable.

Out of 6,196 suppliers registered on the Dubai Government's e-Sourcing Portal, 2,418 are SMEs, and of the 787 contracts already awarded, 320 have been won by SMEs. There's no doubt that for many organisations, Expo 2020 will be an important part of their strategy and with less than five years to go, it will pay to start planning now.

About Expo 2020:

  • Opening 20 October 2020 until 10 April 2021 at Dubai South District
  • Over 200 participants including organisation and educational institutions
  • The site covers an area of 4.38 square kilometres

Related: H.H. Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum: Powering The Engines Of Prosperity To Dubai Expo 2020 And Beyond