Expo 2020 is not the preserve of industry giants

Expo 2020’s plans for 2017 will be music to the ears of the Middle East’s construction community, especially companies operating at the smaller end of the spectrum

COMMENT, Projects

It’s been an exciting week for the Middle East’s construction community. On 30 January, officials overseeing the delivery of Expo 2020 Dubai announced plans to award 47 construction contracts, worth a total of $3bn (AED11bn), during the course of 2017 (page 14). A further 98 non-construction contracts, totalling $98m (AED360m), will also be decided before the end of the year.

Contracts due to be awarded this year – which are open to local, regional, and international businesses – include the third and final infrastructure package for the event’s support areas. Other key packages will include the construction of three thematic districts that, as well as hosting the majority of the event’s pavilions, will accommodate public areas and all of the temporary architecture and infrastructure necessary for the show.

In short, 2017 looks set to be a huge year for contractors and consultants hoping to win work on Expo 2020. This could be the point at which the event begins to deliver on its construction-related promises.

In addition to confirming that there will be billions of dollars’ worth of contracts up for grabs in 2017, the Expo 2020 team revealed details of a major recently sealed deal. In late 2016, an Orascom-Besix joint venture (JV) was awarded the contract to develop deep infrastructure for the Expo 2020 site in Dubai South (page 6).

The scope of the JV’s infrastructure package will include irrigation and sewerage, pipes and cabling, roads, electrical and water, and telecoms ducting. Ultimately, the 4.38km2 site will be capable of hosting up to 300,000 visitors per day.

Orascom and Besix are two of the biggest players in Middle East construction, so it’s hardly surprising their contract win grabbed the headlines. However, the Expo 2020 team has gone to great pains to ensure that the event does not become the sole preserve of multinational giants. In August 2016, it was announced that 20% of the event’s total spend would be allocated to small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). To date, 43% of all contracts have been awarded to companies in this segment.

In fact, more than 12,000 suppliers and vendors from 121 countries have registered via the Expo 2020 Dubai eSourcing Portal since it was launched in 2015, and approximately two thirds of these firms are classified as SMEs.

According to the event’s organisers, these figures underscore their commitment to empowering and engaging businesses of all sizes, and leaving tangible fiscal benefits through economic growth and job creation.

Since the oil price began its decline in 2015, Middle East construction companies have bemoaned the dearth of regional projects – and with good reason. However, they have also been looking expectantly towards mega events and national visions to provide a much-needed boost.

Well, an initial shot in the arm has arrived in the form of Expo 2020’s plans for 2017, and you don’t even have to be an industry behemoth to benefit.

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