By Datuk Zainal Abidin Bin Abu Hassan, Commissioner General for Malaysia’s Participation in Expo 2020 Dubai and Secretary General of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation
Malaysia’s participation in the Expo 2020 Dubai marks a new beginning for the country following the COVID-19 pandemic, which disrupted global operations. Being a part of the team that tackled this massive endeavour was both humbling and eye-opening.
Despite the initial setbacks, including due to the pandemic, the Malaysia Pavilion was an incredible success thanks to the support of the bright, brilliant, and dedicated personnel of the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation (MOSTI) and the implementing agency, Malaysian Green Technology and Climate Change Corporation with the strong support of 20 other ministries, 70 agencies and five state governments. Our rainforest canopy pavilion welcomed 1.2 million visitors throughout the six-month event, well-exceeding our targets.
Out of 192 countries, we constructed the world’s first net zero carbon pavilion. Inside the Pavilion, our exhibits reinforced our national vision and aspirations towards sustainable development driven by science, technology and innovation and our commitment to conserve our rainforest as the lung of the planet. This was in keeping with Malaysia’s Expo theme of “Energising Sustainability,” our means of making a difference for ourselves and the world we live in.
As our #MyButterflyEffect campaign suggests, Malaysia, despite being a developing country, is one of the key leaders in futureproofing a sustainable world, starting with drastic policy changes back home and even how we go about doing business traditionally. We have redesigned how we do business with the rest of the globe. We pushed ourselves to reassess our goals, putting sustainability first while not losing revenue or earnings.
The Malaysia Pavilion was a testimony to this agenda being implemented. We believe that we provided a truly Malaysian experience by spotlighting our rainforests, culture, and diversity in a high-level business setting. Our pavilion was built around the rainforest canopy while using sustainable materials and obtaining appropriate carbon offsets.
To offset the 1,240 m2 net carbon emissions for the pavilion, we participated in sustainable forest management (REDDPLUS) and planting of trees under The National Greening Malaysia: 100 million Trees Campaign. This is our commitment to a better future, and we hope this will set precedence for Malaysia’s future business blueprint.
We held 26 weekly thematic trade and business programmes in efforts to inclusively provide over 400 local companies access to global markets including startups, SMEs and big players. Each week, they were provided booths to showcase their products and services free-of-charge, besides networking with business communities at Expo. Over 1,000 business-related events were activated with 60,000 people attending physically.
This resulted in Malaysia achieving a new high of over RM70 billion (US $15.7 billion) in potential trade, business, and investments value. We signed over 100 Memorandums of Agreement, Memorandums of Understanding and Letters of Intent, as well as received nearly 5,000 business enquiries.
This demonstrates that Malaysia has emerged from the pandemic stronger and more determined to make its imprint on the globe. Despite relatively being a small size nation, we are competitive in contrast to other more developed countries
Furthermore, Malaysia not only showcased our businesses, but also aspects of our rich culture to the global community in Dubai. About 800 shows were performed over a 6-month period, and we also held numerous cultural collaborations with countries and organisations at the Expo.
In addition, we featured an arts and crafts exhibition with Malaysian Batik, weaving and beading crafts including original paintings by Malaysian Handicraft Development Corporation (Kraftangan Malaysia) artists. This demonstrates our ambition to show the world with a holistic Malaysia that encompasses business, culture, and nature. Malaysia, truly Asia.
Malaysia’s participation in the 5 Year Legacy Programme for Expo 2020 Dubai is part of the UAE government’s long-term initiative to repurpose the expo site post event as an integrated mixed-use community dubbed Expo City Dubai. This demonstrates our government’s commitment to advancing global technological development while also strengthening bilateral ties and cooperation with the UAE. The transformation of Malaysia Pavilion into a Technology and Innovation Hub reflects our country’s ambition to become a globally competitive digital nation.
Malaysia’s homegrown Aerodyne Group, which is also a global leader in drone services, was selected to take over operations of the pavilion building and we are excited to see the trickling effect of this new venture towards putting our technologies and innovations on the global map.
I am confident that our Malaysia showcase and our legacy at this expo reflected the course Malaysia charts for the future, embarking on our sustainable journey while achieving greater investments and collaboration for trade and business around the world.
As a parting note, I am truly grateful and appreciative to the Malaysian government, including The Most Honourable Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Bin Yaakob, The Honourable Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Dato’ Sri Dr. Adham Bin Baba, the previous Ministers of STI and Commissioner General of Malaysia, my colleagues at the ministry, and all those involved in the Malaysia Pavilion for the Dubai Expo.