The Mission-Dubai organized by the Center for the Study of Economic and Social Reality (CERES) in the United Arab Emirates between Friday 18 and Saturday 27 was a success. Twenty Uruguayan businessmen from various fields – construction, health, food, dairy, transport, services, football and logistics, among others – arrived in Dubai with the aim of discovering a distant and prosperous market full of endless opportunities for doing business, exchanging knowledge and making investments.
The delegation I was part of was led by the Executive Director of CERES, Ec Ignacio Munyo. We were also accompanied by Leo Barizzoni who photographed the best moments of an incredible week-long journey through distant lands and customs.
It was like a walk into the future, literally. Other customs, another speed, another way of living and experiencing everyday life. Dubai is a leading city in the world. A metropolis built on the coast in the desert with its skyscrapers, islands and man-made peninsulas that sculpted the landscape by the hand of man, generated a visual environment more typical of a science fiction film than of the 21st century. But the problem is that it is real: there, among the buildings, the giant multicolored fountains, the highways, the skytrain and the canals, people live and work; there are restaurants, gyms, cinemas, offices, family homes, and Uber, taxis, vans, and buses pass by.
“No doubt a very different social model, not transferable, but on which we have a lot to think about,” said one of the members of the delegation, summarizing what it feels like to leave the United Arab Emirates.
CERES – Mission Dubai 4
Nearly nine million foreigners work on a piece-work basis in the UAE. Only one million are Emiratis. Dubai is not a city to waste time. Vertigo is the tonic of everyday life in the UAE’s second city. The first is Abu Dhabi where the political power and highest authority of the federation resides: Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahaya.
The mission organized by Ceres included a guided trip to the capital where they visited the Grand Mosque of Abu Dhabi, the Emirates Palace, one of the most luxurious hotels in the world and the Louvre Museum, on the port of Sayed in the Persian Gulf. .
“Discussing with so many local people, only one attitude was found: take advantage of the opportunity. A ‘multi-culti’ community where each culture lives its own life without disturbing, judging or being questioned by others. Respect for each individual, which (the Egyptian guide) Mustafá told us during the visit to Abu Dhabi, was one of the main values on which coexistence is built, I was able to verify this without exception,” said said one of the travellers.
The following days were marked by a visit to the largest universal exhibition in history: Expo-Dubai. One hour from the city center where a fairground has been built on a 500 hectare site which, when it closes, will have been visited by nearly 25 million people.
In this place dominated by a giant golden dome – the size of Plaza Independencia in Montevideo – more than 200 pavilions from different countries of the world offer their proposal and leave a feeling and a message. Visiting Expo-Dubai is an experience in itself. There aren’t enough weeks to go through everything, observe the details, the proposals and the shows that are on offer. There is, in one of the corners, the pavilion of Uruguay.
A very austere pavilion, with some typical elements such as matés, agates, leather bags, wines, replicas of the America’s Cup and the Football World Cup, and a giant screen showing some pretty well done videos.
The main attraction is a game that is projected onto a screen where the visitor virtually “cuts” a penalty against a Uruguayan goalkeeper, after being encouraged by national team player Federico Valverde. A kind of very primitive game with elementary software, which managed to arouse the attention of visitors who every day, with an average of ten thousand, came to see the Uruguayan proposal.
By way of reflection, it is impossible to do magic on a small budget. The Universal Fair like the one held in Dubai is a unique opportunity to present the values of a nation, its productive, touristic and cultural proposal. This is how most countries have taken it.
Alongside the pavilions betting on the Expo, that of Uruguay, as well represented as it was by the officials who defended it to the best of their ability, was far from the main pack. Osaka, Japan will host the next one and most countries are already competing to reserve the best seats on Japanese soil, designing their proposals. Let’s hope that, as a state policy, Uruguay can measure the enormous opportunity that these fairs represent and not let it pass.
“The best thing is that Uruguay has what it takes to build a state-of-the-art pavilion,” concluded several members of Mission-Dubai.
In addition to the proposals from each of the nations: even countries like Vanuatu or Nauru – which I confess I did not know existed – I was able to perceive – in general – a series of messages that were repeated: the importance of accept the richness of the different, the complementarity of science and art with technology, creativity and care for the environment, including above all respect for nature and water.
Who can be against these points? In theory, probably nobody, so the fact that countries in general are embracing these issues is at least a light on the direction the new generations want to take.
A separate mention should be made for the Ukrainian pavilion, which received support from the millions of visitors who took part in the Expo. Remember that the invasion of the Russian army happened in the middle of the fair. When we visited, there was no more budget, the two officials who were still at the door stamped symbolic passports and thanked the voices of solidarity and strength. People spontaneously started sticking messages of support and resistance on the walls, even wallpapering them.
CERES – Mission Dubai 4
US-AL Business Forum
The United States-Latin America Business Forum held in the following days was the occasion expected by businessmen. Top-level interviews with leaders, entrepreneurs and local governments in Latin America highlighted the enormous interest of the Emiratis and the countries that make up the Gulf Council to trade and invest in Latin America.
There, the president of the powerful Chamber of Commerce declared that “Dubai holds the key to economic growth in Latin America”. He highlighted the continent’s rapid economic recovery from the pandemic and underlined the importance of supporting “international cooperation and trade through Dubai’s foreign policy”.
He highlighted the sectors “infrastructure, tourism, retail, transport, food, digital market and logistics” as some of the areas of interest and highlighted the opportunity that opens up to access a market of two billion people. At the level of public interest, he stressed the importance of working together to improve “education, the natural quality of ecosystems, against inequalities and for access to health”.
“In just six days, we were able to get to know a different country, with a different culture, and it showed us that the combination of many resources, unity of command and a gigantic strategic vision of its future, allowed it to transform in 50 years what was a mere dune. With oil resources as a starting point, into a pole of development, immigration, growth and progress, for its citizens and residents of the world who have chosen Dubai for work and live,” explained a businessman who traveled with the delegation.
“The economics of well-being, where more is better than less, shows us once again that it exists. Uruguay has its own oil, it is agriculture and agro-industry, where by intensifying production we can generate countless resources, so that with our own path we can find a market without roof and without tariffs in this region of the world,” he concluded.
Leaving Dubai after almost a week generated a strange feeling among all members of the delegation. Uruguay had been engaged for several months in a bitter discussion on the 135 articles of an urgent review law, while the United Arab Emirates plans to celebrate its centenary (2071) by inaugurating a space station in orbit 600 km from Earth. In schools, children are preparing to live on Mars, if possible.
“You can’t miss these Uruguayan trains,” one of the businessmen in the delegation said aloud, after shipping his suitcase to Dubai airport.
We will have to go back.