Expo 2020 Dubai: opening soon - September 2021

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Prepared by the Middle East Africa Division, New Zealand’s Embassy in Abu Dhabi and the New Zealand at Expo team in Dubai.


  • Expo 2020 Dubai opens this week and runs from 1 October 2021 to 31 March 2022. This global event is an important opportunity to promote New Zealand as a progressive, innovative and trusted partner and to reconnect with the world. With all of our key trade partners and competitors in attendance, we will use this event to signal that although our borders are closed, New Zealand is open for business.
  • A number of events are being planned at various times during the six months.  Key months for us will be November for Tolerance and Inclusivity Week (Te Aratini, 17-19 November) and February for Food, Agriculture and Livelihoods Week (20-26 February 2022).
  • New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) is leading an extensive Expo Business Leverage Programme and there is increasing interest from businesses to participate.


  • From 1 October Aotearoa New Zealand’s pavilion will welcome international visitors, delegations, businesses and host a number of events to showcase New Zealand’s creativity, values and innovation to the world. (Events | New Zealand at Expo(external link)). In the context of the global pandemic, efforts have been made to ensure that the New Zealand pavilion maximises the benefits from changing circumstances, including an increased digital offering.
  • Members of Whanganui Iwi have travelled to Dubai to dedicate the mauri of the New Zealand Pavilion, story and experience. The mauri is centred on a stone that sits within the pavilion and was sourced from Mount Tongariro, the main stem of the Whanganui River. A dawn dedication service will take place the day before the pavilion opens and will include cultural performances of welcome including from Emirati hosts and feature incantations and poi from Whanganui Iwi. The Minister of Foreign Affairs will give the opening address virtually.
  • Inspired by the story of the Whanganui River and its world-first legal personhood status, the pavilion shows how New Zealanders are driven to innovate because we Care for People and Place (the pavilion’s theme) – and it is this understanding of our connection and responsibility to the environment that motivates us to do better for future generations.

The return on investment in participating at Expo 2020 has been predicated on the ability to increase trade deals, attract investment, further country-to-country relationships, boost international education and tourism numbers and in general build on our reputation as a reliable partner.

Programme and Events

  • The official Expo 2020 programme covers 11 different themed weeks across six-months, from space to climate change and Sustainable Development Goals. Many New Zealand events and activities are planned to leverage this opportunity. Key focus months for us will be November for Tolerance and Inclusivity Week (Te Aratini), and February for Food, Agriculture and Livelihoods Week.
  • Te Aratini/Festival of Indigenous and Tribal Ideas is New Zealand’s flagship event at Expo, running over three days and profiling a range of national and international Indigenous speakers, performers and artists. International engagement in this event has been enthusiastic. 55 in-person speakers are confirmed, including from the US, Canada, and Australia. A range of our non-traditional international partners are also bringing speakers and delegates including Malaysia, Panama and Paraguay. A Te Aratini website has also been launched (tearatini.com(external link)) with information about the event, and the concept and plans behind it. The vision for Te Aratini is to create a movement toward elevating Indigenous peoples’ knowledge and know how in policy, economic cooperation, trade and business contexts.
  • In February 2022 the Food, Agriculture and Livelihoods week will see the most significant NZ Inc. activity with NZTE, G2G, MPI and MFAT- all with initiatives planned during that time – as well as the UAE hosted Gulfood (world's largest annual food and hospitality show).
  • New Zealand participation will be supported by a range of other events around Expo’s thematic programming. Highlights include:
    • NZTE Investment Showcases: with a focus on CleanTech and SmartAgriculture, investment opportunities with New Zealand companies will be promoted.
    • Entertainment and Cultural Programme (Events | New Zealand at Expo(external link)): curated by Parris Goebel, the programme highlights our youth, diversity and creative talent with performances from artists such as Six60, Sol3Mio, and Parris’ Royal Family dancers, plus kapa haka, street artists and more.  The full programme line-up has been announced on social media.  These events are designed to give New Zealand Inc. and NZTE’s export customers another opportunity to leverage and host key contacts.
    • Taste New Zealand: In January 2022, we will be shining a spotlight on New Zealand’s outstanding food and beverage offering during three-weeks of Taste New Zealand events. This will feature cooking demonstrations and curated dinners by well-known culinary personalities from New Zealand.
    • Expo 2020’s Programme for People and Planet: experts and thought leaders from Aotearoa New Zealand will join global debates on a range of subjects including: climate and biodiversity, space, knowledge and learning, global goals, food, agriculture and livelihoods and more.  The first speaker as part of the programme is Gerrard Albert, former Chair of Ngā Tāngata Tiaki o Whanganui, who will speak at three events during Climate and Biodiversity week in October.
    • New Zealand’s National Day will be celebrated on 31 January 2022, with formal elements and bilateral meetings with UAE leaders, an evening reception and entertainment and cultural programme performances.
  • Separately NZTE is running a Global Kaitiakitanga Project- (The Global Kaitiakitanga Project | NZ Expo 2020 Dubai(external link)) a  sustainability-focussed programme that provides business mentoring and international collaboration for young New Zealand innovators. Five teams from Young Enterprise have been on a nine-month business development journey as they worked with NZTE to scale their business. The two joint winning teams will travel to Expo to showcase their business in the New Zealand Pavilion and represent New Zealand in youth facing activities on the International Day of Education at Expo Park (January 2022).  

Business participation

  • Participation in Expo 2020 supports the Government’s economic recovery and trade diversification strategy, with the pavilion giving exporters a platform to leverage in our tenth largest trading partner- the United Arab Emirates, the Middle East region and with other participating countries, noting that all of our key trading partners and competitors will be there.
  • NZTE is leading an extensive Expo Business Leverage Programme (Expo 2020 Dubai Business Leverage Programme(external link) to support and accelerate growth of our export customers in the Middle East, including a Māori business focus. 
  • The programme has different streams, both virtual and in-person, all built to help New Zealand companies fast-track their learning, networks and expansion across export markets. The streams include:
    • Discover Middle East - a market validation programme for companies new to the region, with a focus on FMCG, agritech, healthcare, technology and sustainability. It helps exporters understand what the opportunities are, while also assisting them in establishing important connections.
    • Accelerate Expo 2020 Summits - are high-level networking events, featuring access to regional and global sector specialists as well as networking opportunities with companies and business missions from other Expo 2020 country pavilions. These events are designed to support New Zealand exporters who are already doing business in the Middle East.
    • New Zealand Food & Beverage Programme - is designed for F&B exporters with a presence or understanding of the Middle East that want to showcase their products at NZTE's Expo events.
  • There is increasing interest from New Zealand businesses - some as sponsors, some participants, some to host events. More than 100 companies have expressed an interest in participating in NZTE’s Expo Business Leverage Programme.
  • New Zealand’s participation is supported by around 28 corporate sponsors, including Fonterra, Comvita, Kaynemaile, Zespri, Mr Apple and Shadowspec.  The project has continued to attract further sponsorship throughout the pandemic, including the recent addition of MEO masks to the group of sponsors.

New Zealand representation

  • The return on investment in participating at Expo 2020 has been predicated on the ability to increase trade deals, attract investment, further country-to-country relationships, boost international education and tourism numbers and in general build on our reputation as a reliable partner. The pavilion alone cannot maximise the investment and opportunity without in-person representation.
  • Official participants from New Zealand will include: business and investment leverage programme activities, sponsors, G2G delegations, Te Aratini participants including kapa haka, speakers and thought leaders, entertainment and cultural programme performers, Whanganui Iwi and pavilion operations.
  • The Government has approved 401 MIQ spaces for attendees returning from Expo from October 2021 to March 2022 as part of the Group Allocation Process which covers the majority of the participants. Officials are working to secure MIQ places for other participants who are not travelling as part of the groups, through the online booking system.
  • All Expo participants from New Zealand will be vaccinated before departure. It is a requirement at Expo that all staff, contractors and participants are vaccinated. Expo 2020 has also recently announced that all visitors 18yrs + must either have proof of vaccination or a PCR test taken less than 72 hours previously in order to enter the park.
  • In parallel, New Zealand has also developed a digital version of the pavilion experience that will ensure those not able to travel to Dubai, and the domestic audience, can engage with our story for Expo 2020 Dubai.

Opportunities for bilateral leveraging

  • Expo 2020 provides a prime leveraging opportunity for New Zealand’s bilateral relationship with the UAE. In addition to leveraging the UAE relationship, the NZ pavilion also offers other opportunities for international collaboration and bilateral contact hooks.  For example, using the NZ pavilion for bilateral and regional meetings, signing ceremonies, pavilion tours for selected delegations and hosting for VIPs in the pavilion restaurant where they will be treated with exclusively NZ food and beverage products.
  • There has been considerable investment not just in financial terms but also in resources and relationships and there is strong interest from New Zealand businesses and potential participants to make the most of the high profile global event, despite the Covid-19 challenges.

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This information released in this report aligns with the provisions of the Official Information Act 1982. The opinions and analysis expressed in this report are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views or official policy position of the New Zealand Government. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the New Zealand Government take no responsibility for the accuracy of this report.


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