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What the Riyadh Expo bid says about Saudi Arabia

Bid aims to showcase and advance the kingdom's transformation

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman greets dignitaries at a reception for Riyadh's bid to host Expo 2030 Saudi Press Agency/Handout via Reuters
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman greets dignitaries at a reception for Riyadh's bid to host Expo 2030

Make a note in your diaries. On November 28, the host of Expo 2030 will be announced. Three cities are bidding for the exhibition: Busan in South Korea, Rome in Italy and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia.

I’ve seen some of the elements of the Saudi bid and the impression I got was of an expo that wants to take a leap forward in terms of vision, size and visits. In other words: think bigger than Dubai’s Expo 2020.

The expo’s area would be up to 6 million square metres, almost 50 percent bigger than the last expo, and the Riyadh organisers would look to attract 40 million site visits.

The focus areas are just as ambitious as the numbers. Riyadh is proposing three themes: “A Different Tomorrow”, focusing on how technology can best serve humanity; “Climate action”, exploring the preservation of our natural ecosystems; and “Prosperity for All”, which is about addressing inequalities globally.

From a country that until recently was not seen as a visitor destination outside Umrah or Hajj, this is Saudi Arabia’s way of saying: “We are here to welcome you all and we want to be part of the solution to the world’s biggest issues.” 

Riyadh Expo would be an opportunity for talk and action on these themes, as well as serving to develop Saudi Arabia. Vision 2030, Saudi’s roadmap for its own development, concludes in the same year, so the event would allow the kingdom to share its lessons in growth with the world.

Take climate change. The Saudi Green Initiative is an ambitious national programme to address sustainability at home and involve government, industry and the public in ways that were not imaginable a decade ago. 

The same is true of innovation – and the country is looking to diversify its economy rapidly to include areas such as smart mobility and technology manufacturing. Most important is the belief in education and how the country has invested heavily in giving young Saudis an opportunity to learn at home and abroad.

My hope is that Riyadh Expo could be a starting point for visitors to see what the kingdom is doing to showcase and preserve its history, in places such as Diriyah and AlUla, as a means to accelerate its development.

Over the past seven years, the kingdom has undergone a transformation the speed of which I have never seen before. Riyadh Expo would be the perfect point to come together to share lessons on national growth for the betterment of humanity, as well as push for action on the issue of our age – climate change.

I, for one, am looking forward to November 28 and to 2030.

Alex Malouf is a marketing communications executive based in the Middle East

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