The six-month Expo 2020 bringing together 192 countries to Dubai that opened on October 1 is exploring opportunities for partnerships between Africa and the Middle East. Get a load of barista bots that make coffee and tell jokes, do calligraphy or tai-chi, and ones that bring Beethoven’s work to life through performance.

AS EXPO 2020 DUBAI ENTHRALS the world with the theme Connecting Minds and Creating the Future through three main districts: sustainability, mobility, and opportunity, in the glistening Middle Eastern city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), how is Africa a part?

The African Union (AU) took to the stage in October when the event opened focusing on Disaster Risk and Reduction to promote its implementation of Agenda 2063, the continent’s master plan to transform into a global powerhouse of the future.

Dr Levi Uche Madueke, the AU’s Expo Commissioner General, said at the official event that the engagement will throw light on health, infrastructure and industrialization, ICT, gender, security and governance, trade and investment, agriculture, and more.

Madueke added that it offers the opportunity to showcase the continent’s commitment to sustainable development aligning with the AU agenda, as well as explore potential partnerships required for the continent’s economic transformation.

“Our message is simple: Africa is ready and open for business. We are going to utilize this platform to tell the African story to the world the way it really is and project the Africa we want through the marketing of our Agenda 2063 and what it entails.”

He added that the AU wants to position Africa as a place for secure investment, with a view to fulfilling the mandate of its agenda, and the possibility of even hosting an edition of the World Expo.

Meanwhile, South Africa is being showcased under the ‘Think South Africa, Think Opportunity’ theme, focused on job creation and economic growth, led by the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, along with government stakeholders, private and business sectors, and educational institutions.

South Africa is in the Opportunity District. According to the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS), startup businesses representing fintech, creatives, health,
agro-processing, the circular economy, green energy and other sectors are traveling to the expo to connect with global investors to unlock business opportunities.

The expo will showcase a range of new technologies.

Expect to see bots serving food to guests, barista bots making coffee and telling jokes, doing calligraphy or tai-chi, and ones that bring Beethoven’s work to life.

There will also be patrol-bots with facial recognition and real-time thermo cameras to safeguard areas and remind guests to observe social distancing.

The Mobility District is centered around autonomous vehicles, space exploration, the merging of physical and virtual worlds, and a 330m long mobility track in action.

A new tech that launched at the expo is by e-hailing service Hala that predicts how many taxis are needed and dispatches them automatically to the site, to “optimally balance supply and demand”. The result is visitors being able to book a taxi via an app with no waiting times.

The pavilion also features smart cities brought together through AI, big data, robotics, machine learning and autonomous transport.

Singapore, a city that ranked number one globally on the Institute for Management Development’s Smart City Index 2020, is showcasing a 1,550m2 sustainable ‘city in nature’ with a self-sufficient ecosystem to achieve net-zero energy over six months at the expo, using solar panels, the management of energy and desalination of saline groundwater.

Commissioner-General of the Singapore pavilion, Larry Ng, said at the event that the Covid-19 pandemic has shown how quickly it can change the way people live, work and play.

“In the face of critical challenges and disruptions facing the world today, it’s important for nations to come together and find a way forward to build cities that sensitively adapt to tomorrow’s challenges.”

Apart from tech, the future of travel is being showcased by the UAE’s national carrier Emirates, offering visitors an immersive onboard experience including virtual reality and multi-sensory installations. It features tech for its next-gen aircraft, robotic arms, the advances made for engine propulsions and thrust to reduce emissions, and the science of flight.

The future is truly being set in motion in this dusty emirate.

Published in Forbes Africa Dec 2021/Jan 2022: