On March 31 in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the world fair EXPO 2020 ended. The event, which lasted six months, opened a wide range of opportunities for Latvian companies to get acquainted with the Gulf countries, establish contacts with 192 countries and present Latvian products and innovations to the global market. Overall EXPO 2020 has bought thousands of new business contacts, while the Latvian pavilion recently received the silver prize in the rental pavilion category.
In general, this EXPO fair is to be seen as the most successful for Latvia to date. 443 Latvian companies participated in 29 thematic events, more than 3,000 business contacts were made, 33 contracts were concluded, partnerships with the UAE, Brazil, Chile, France, Malaysia, Estonia, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Germany were established, as well as negotiations on several potential investment projects were started. The most fruitful for establishing new business contacts were two of the largest industry events in the Middle East and North Africa region: health fair ‘Arab Health’ in January this year that also brought the most of the new contracts for Latvian companies, and the ‘Yummex’ fair for sweets and snacks in November last year.
“It is hard to name a single field which has been the most successful, as we had great results in all events where, apart from the fairs, trade missions and networking events were organised. Since the aim was to use business, thematic week programmes and fairs as a tool to approach not only the UAE, but also all the countries of the world, each sector had the possibility to reach its most effective target market. Many visitors to the Latvian pavilion changed their view of Latvia substantially as a timber and grain exporter from the former Soviet Union and discovered our state anew: The EXPO brought many surprises as regards the Latvian nature, people, the potential for entrepreneurs, academic staff and science institutions by discovering that Latvia is an ambitious, modern, and innovative European country that is able to deal with global social, economic and sustainability challenges on a high level,” says Inga Ulmane, Head of the Representative Office of the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia (LIAA) in the UAE.
Even during the last days of the fair there was huge interest in the Latvian pavilion: visitors were queuing for up to an hour and a half to enter it. The organisers of EXPO 2020 awarded the Latvian pavilion with the silver prize in the rental pavilion category, which is a very high recognition. In this category, the Mexican and Montenegro pavilions won the gold and bronze respectively. it should be noted that the Latvian pavilion was created by the ‘SOIL’ team consisting of three Latvian companies: ‘Didzis Jaunzems Arhitektūra’, smart technology company ‘Solavi’ and advertising producer ‘Ad Production’.
Even though we will be able to speak about given numbers in terms of contribution to exports after about a year when it will be possible to compare this year’s export data with other years, already now the LIAA data show that in 2021, exports to the UAE increased by EUR 4,46 million, and during the first months of 2022 positive trends can be observed. The Latvian start-up ecosystem has gained a significant platform for growth. During the EXPO, Latvia and the UAE signed a Memorandum of Understanding on establishing a joint acceleration programme ‘Scale Up Latvia’ that provides for entry of UAE start-ups to the European market via the Latvian platform. It should be added that in the UAE, the status of a start-up is enjoyed by companies whose annual turnover reaches several million euros.
Also, an agreement was reached between the two countries to establish an investment fund supporting priority sectors, which could be related to biomedicine, bioeconomy, smart energy, photonics, smart city and circular economy solutions.
At the same time, the Latvian Exporters Association “The Red Jackets” signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Sharjah Research, Technology & Innovation Park, which is surrounded by the best 14 UAE universities. This cooperation will allow the members of the Association to offer their innovation products in this Park.
On 1 April, dismantling of the Latvian pavilion has started, but already in May LIAA will start to prepare for the next EXPO that will take place in 2025 in Osaka, Japan.