UAE: Sharjah’s icon of success

The imposing expo centre

SHARJAH — Expo Centre, Sharjah, the first trade exhibition centre in the UAE, is fast turning into the centrepiece of a planned Expo City in the emirate. Set up in April 1977 with the aim of achieving a global reach and outlook, the centre is now a regional leader in the exhibitions industry.

Saif Mohammed Al Midfa, Director-General Expo Centre, Sharjah, said the idea of an expo was floated once the oil money started pouring into the country’s coffers and the need for infrastructure and business development arose in 1977.

“Expo Centre, Sharjah was registered as the first trade exhibition centre in the country in April 1977. Development works started in the early 1970s, resulting in the rapid expansion of the Emirate. We will be in the forefront of the development march of the Emirate.”

According to him, the expo centre, hosted its first show, Expo International, in November 1977. Since Sharjah was the only commercial hub then, it was well attended. Being the first established exhibition company, the centre became a geographical as well as financial landmark for the Emirate quite fast.

“Today, it plays a key role in promoting Sharjah’s industrial sector, with the local manufacturing sector accounting for almost half of the UAE’s industrial GDP,” Al Midfa said.

The expo centre is the member of several key international organisations, and has tie-ups with regional and international exhibition centres and associations.

“This helps in extending its reach to a wider audience and at the same time place Sharjah prominently on the global exhibitions map.

Certain events have catapulted the centre to what it is today of which a few are the SteelFab, National Career Exhibition, Mideast Watch and Jewellery Show, Ramadan Fair, International Education Show, International Automobile Show, Chinese Commodities Fair and Gulf Maritime.

This year, the expo centre has organised and hosted over 15 trade and consumer shows, including the launch edition of Plastivision Arabia and ArabiaMold and some of its established shows. Together, they saw the participation of nearly 1,400 exhibitors and attracted over 300,000 visitors.

“We are on track for another good year. In 2011, we saw 29 per cent rise in the number of exhibitors in comparison to the previous year, while registering a double-digit rise in the number of visitors and exhibition space sold. The going has been good so far and with Halal Food Middle East and Halal Congress Middle East and the Russia-GCC Business Forum slated for the last quarter of 2012, we expect to better last year’s exhibitor and visitor figures,” said Midfa said.

“Sharjah is among the top 10 business cities in the Gulf region, and the UAE’s leading industrial and manufacturing capital with 19 industrial subdivisions,” says Al Midfa. Its industrial areas have been developed in specified locations and Sharjah has two world-class free zones that even make Expo Centre Sharjah significant.”

He points out that the UAE remained the top Arab country in terms of commercial exchange in 2011, accounting for nearly a quarter of the region’s trade.

Exports and imports by the UAE totalled around $490.5 billion in 2011. Halal Food Middle East and Halal Congress Middle East will be a big-ticket event that Expo Centre Sharjah will roll out in December.

the Russia-GCC Business Forum, will be an effective platform that aims to bring together leading institutional investors, private financiers, government officials, and business owners from across the GCC states and Russia.

“We would like to make these new shows landmark events for the industry in the region,” said Al Midfa.