Expo 2020 Dubai awarded Dh6.8 billion ($1.8bn) worth of contracts to small and medium businesses, exceeding a 2016 commitment to award at least 20 per cent of direct and indirect spend to them.
The amount represents more than a quarter of all Expo 2020 Dubai contracts in terms of value, organisers of the event said in a statement.
Among the 3,245 contracts, 66 per cent, or 2,150, were SMEs, including 1,390 local businesses, the statement said.
Most of the 760 overseas SME suppliers came from the UK (24 per cent), the US (16 per cent), France (4 per cent), India (4 per cent), and Australia (4 per cent).
Overall, suppliers from outside the UAE were sourced from 94 countries.
"Our commitment to SMEs has been embedded into our planning since the very beginning of our world Expo journey," Mukhtar Safi, chief financial officer and deputy chief executive of Expo 2020 Dubai, said.
"The integration of SMEs into the delivery of what has been a truly exceptional world Expo will be an important part of Expo’s legacy for the UAE and wider region, stimulating employment, strengthening existing industries, enhancing SME competitiveness and ultimately contributing to sustainable economic growth."
The SME sector represents more than 94 per cent of the total companies in the UAE and employs more than 86 per cent of the private sector workforce, a Dubai Chamber report released in November 2020 showed.
The UAE ranked first worldwide in the latest Global Entrepreneurship Index, outperforming major global economies such as the US, the UK, Japan, Canada, South Korea and some EU countries. Last year, the Emirates was placed fourth in the GEI rankings, which are compiled by London-based researcher Global Entrepreneurship Monitor.
From construction firms to event organisers, retail stores to food and beverage outlets, SMEs played a vital role in the success of Expo 2020 Dubai, which awarded Dh1.06bn to UAE-based SMEs in 2021 alone, the statement said.
Of this, Dh161.7 million in contracts were awarded to Dubai SMEs, as part of the Dubai government procurement programme. The initiative requires UAE entities where the government holds equity of 25 per cent or more to allocate 10 per cent of their purchasing to Emirati firms that are members of Dubai SME — part of the Department of Economic Development.
Expo 2020 Dubai, which ran for six months, closed on March 31. Work is now under way to transform it into District 2020, which will welcome the first of 85 start-up companies from October as part of legacy plans.