SPOTLIGHT Middle East and Africa: An In-Depth of The Recent Physical Hybrid Trade Show at Dubai’s GITEX 2020

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As some parts of the world have been able to open their economies despite COVID-19, Dubai and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as a whole has been able to do so. Today’s SPOTLIGHT Middle East and Africa (MEA) takes a look mainly at the recent GITEX held at Dubai World Trade Centre (WTC)

DUBAI WELCOMES THE WORLD AGAIN 

Dubai since July has opened its doors to the rest of the world again for tourists. A recent development has been the opening of trade shows again physically in a hybrid model. During pre-COVID days one of Dubai’s most important trade shows with visitors numbering over 100,000 has been GITEX. Organised and held at Dubai World Trade Centre (WTC), GITEX – whose acronym is ‘Gulf Information Technology Exhibition,’ is a major tech trade show not only for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) but also attracts major global players and visitors.

It has been been an exciting week for GITEX as recent predecessors in the trade show and/or conference space in particularly related to fintech, such as Finnovex, Seamless Middle East, and the AI Everything X Restart Dubai Summer Conference have been able to successfully hold hybrid trade shows and/or events – where visitors are able to attend (with strict safety and health measures of course) and for those who are not able to do so physically can still participate via online. The global meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) industry plays a huge part in the global economy as well as that in the global metropolis of Dubai.

 Trixie LohMirmand is the Executive Vice President of Events Management at Dubai World Trade Centre

 Trixie LohMirmand is the Executive Vice President of Events Management at Dubai World Trade Centre

Trixie LohMirmand, Executive Vice President, Events Management, Dubai World Trade Centre

“After months of missing major business opportunities, the landmark 40th edition of GITEX Technology week is finally allowing the technology industry to reconnect in-person. It is vital for business that in-person meetings are able to take place once again in a safe, responsible setting. GITEX is an essential catalyst in developing Dubai’s technology and entrepreneurial ecosystem and helps to fuel Dubai’s international business tourism. Now more than ever, governments and enterprises need innovation at scale,” said Trixie LohMirmand, Executive Vice President, Events Management, Dubai World Trade Centre, speaking exclusively to The FinTech Times.

GITEX is celebrating its 40th anniversary and was held from the 6th-10th – wrapping up today. According to its website, GITEX aimed to have 1,200+ innovative tech enterprises, startups and government entities from 60+ countries, 200+ of the most active investors and VCs from 30+ countries, and 350+ speakers from 30 countries live on-stage, delivering 280+ hours of powerful content.

GLOBAL PRESENCE GATHERED IN DUBAI FOR GITEX 

Huawei (below) were one of many global brands who took part as an exhibitor, alongside the likes of Ericsson, Honeywell, Microsoft, Avaya, IBM, Lenovo, Kaspersky, Aspire, Nokia, Toshiba, Commsvault and Dell. Regional MEA headquartered companies that took part included telecoms giants such as Etisalat and Du. Government entities that took part included the following: Smart Dubai, Dubai Police, Abu Dhabi Government, Ajman Government, The Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA) – to name a few.

Also, country pavilions and/or delegations that were present included Nigeria (below), Romania, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Latvia, USA, Israel, Brazil, France, Hong Kong SAR, Poland, Russia and Japan.

GITEX this year was the umbrella that encompassed the following trade shows and/or conferences: GITEX Technology Week, GITEX Future Stars, GISEC (Gulf Information Security Expo & Conference), Future Blockchain Summit, and Marketing Mania. I had an opportunity to moderate a panel called “Reboot, Reinvent and Reignite” at the Marketing Mania segment, alongside Cristina Covello, Hussein Kandil, Henry Rosas, David Balfour and Colin Lewis, which was both surreal yet wonderful to be able to be on a panel again in person just like in pre-COVID times.

THE UAE AND ISRAELI COLLABORATIVE EFFORTS ACROSS THE TECH ECOSYSTEM

As part of the recent Abraham Accords between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain, there was also a large Israeli participation at GITEX for the first time. In fact, GITEX even hosted a UAE-Israel Future Digital Economy Summit. In the wider tech ecosystem the topics of artificial intelligence (AI), 5G, future mobility, fintech, food security, cybersecurity and smart cities were on the agenda.

For the UAE-Israel Summit, some of the planned keynote speakers from the UAE included: H.E. Reem Ebrahim Al HashimyUAE Minister of State for International Cooperation and Director General Dubai Expo 2020, H.E. Omar bin Sultan Al OlamaUAE Minister of State, Al, Digital Economy and Remote Work Applications, H.E. Mariam bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Al MheiriUAE Minister of State, Food and Water Security, and H.E. Sultan Ahmed Bin SulayemGroup Chairman & CEO, DP World and Chairman of Ports, Customs & Free Zone Corporation. From Israel they included some of the following: Adiv BaruchChairman, Israel Export Institute, Yigal UnnaDirector General, Israel National Cyber Directorate (INCD), David LefflerCEO, Israeli Ministry of Economy and Industry, and Dr. Anat Lea BonshtienChairwoman and Director of Smart Mobility Initiative, Israel’s Prime Minister’s Office. As a whole, Israel, the UAE and Bahrain are set to benefit from the increase in trade across fintech and wider tech

A SENSE OF NORMALCY WITH A MAJOR TRADE SHOW BACK IN PERSON VIA A HYBRID FORMAT

Despite the size of the show, which had pretty much most of the halls filled at Dubai WTC, GITEX and the organisers had strict safety measures to protect the health and safety of visitors during COVID-19. Upon entering there were artificial intelligence (AI) powered thermal screenings of visitors to mask wearing at all times to social distancing.

GITEX was opened officially earlier in the week by HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crowne Prince of Dubai. In fact, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum – Ruler of Dubai and Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE made a special appearance at the show during the week.

THE FINTECH COMMUNITY WAS BUSY NOT JUST IN DUBAI BUT ACROSS THE WORLD – PARTICULARLY IN SINGAPORE WITH DUBAI TAKING PART

As a whole, this week has been an exciting one in not only promoting the celebrating of a large-scale trade show physically via a hybrid model (GITEX) but also across in Asia, where Singapore is celebrating its anticipated Singapore Fintech Festival (SFF) 2020, where various places across the world, including the Middle East’s own Dubai and various places in Africa (Nairobi, Kenya; Kigali, Rwanda; and Johannesburg, South Africa – UNCDF ones are Kampala, Uganda; and Dakar, Senegal)  hosting their own localised events as part of the mainly virtual SFF. In Dubai it was held on the 9th and hosted by Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) – the only global satellite event partner in the Middle East for Singapore Fintech Festival 2020. The majority of the events were virtual but the Dubai leg was one of a few where it was a physical event.

The SPOTLIGHT Middle East and Africa is another special edition and part of The FinTech Times’s new Middle East and Africa section, celebrating Dubai’s successful large scale technology trade show returning to its glory and the world this week in general – particularly with SFF in the fintech space – gathering together either physically and or virtually to connect and share ideas.

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