The first virtual trade mission to the Gulf region – United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Oman – took place from 22 March to 1 April and it led to many positive discussions on the topics of water, energy and food. In total, more than 500 delegates from the UAE, Oman and the Netherlands actively participated in the virtual mission. With more than 30 water track participants from the Netherlands and 85 from the Gulf region, the water track gathered together a diverse group of experts.
At the opening session, Dutch Minister Sigrid Kaag and business mission leaders Ingrid Thijssen of VNO-NCW and Jacco Vonhof of MKB-NL emphasised that the Gulf region is a priority market for the Netherlands and offers many economic opportunities.
Bianca Nijhof, water track mission leader and Managing Director of the Netherlands Water Partnership (NWP), says that “With the Taskforce Water in Oman and the Dubai Expo coming up this year, the relationships between the Netherlands and the UAE and Oman have intensified. The integrated approach and innovative solutions of the Dutch water sector are important in solving water challenges in the region. At the same time, thinking about the droughts we experienced since 2018, we, the Dutch partners, are learning about solutions when less water is available.”
Packed water track
During the two weeks of exchanging knowledge and ideas, there were more than 300 matchmaking sessions and 20 successful sessions on all three sectors. The water programme, coordinated by NWP, included several webinars and sessions in which entrepreneurs and experts discussed topics such as climate-proof infrastructure and water technology for the Gulf region.
Many high-level speakers contributed to the virtual mission. During the kick-off meeting on 23 March, International Director of Witteveen+Bos, Stephan van der Biezen, spoke about corporate social responsibility, the increasing awareness and importance of renewable energy, and the impact of climate change causing water scarcity, land degradation and sea level rise. Further, in a panel discussion, experts from the Gulf spoke about the dos and don’ts of doing business in the region.
Climate-proof water infrastructure
As is the case almost everywhere else, water resources in the Gulf are limited and desalination plants are the region’s main source of drinking water. This is a challenge given the region’s increasing population. There is thus a need to find new ways to make water consumption in cities more efficient to help secure its availability for future generations. Connecting minds and creating future solutions for these intricate challenges is crucial. Solutions need to be practical, efficient, sustainable and cost-effective. The world’s water supply has entered a new era and needs to change from a linear supply chain to a circular one based on reduction, reuse and recycling of this precious resource.
Leading water technologies for climate-proof and water resilient cities in the Gulf region were discussed at this flagship webinar. This very insightful discussion on expanding options and tackling vulnerabilities was led by Nijhof and attended by Henk Ovink, Dutch Special Envoy for International Water Affairs; Ahmed Elkadi, PhD and CEng of Deltares; Ahmed Aboutaleb, Mayor of Rotterdam; and representatives from the Gulf region, including Eng. Abdulaziz Al Shidhani representing DIAM in Oman and Nauman Rashid in the UAE.
In-depth water technology session
The in-depth session on water technology for the Gulf highlighted wastewater solutions from Landustrie, KWR, Colubris, Bluecon and others, and led to enlightening discussions.
On 1 April, the mission concluded with an Expo talk that looked ahead to Expo 2020 in Dubai, the first world exhibition in the Gulf region that has been postponed to October 2021 due to Covid-19. This session highlighted the many opportunities that the Expo offers to companies and knowledge institutions. Recordings of the Expo talk can be watched below.
The Netherlands will participate in the Expo Dubai and will present itself for six months in this dynamic region under the motto: 'Uniting water, energy and food'. In a unique Netherlands Pavilion, the country will be portrayed as an open, innovative and inclusive partner for the Gulf region and the rest of the world. The Expo will be the perfect opportunity to follow up on this virtual trade mission. More information about the Dutch participation in the Dubai Expo on the Dutch Dubai website.
NWP is coordinating the water programme for Dutch Dubai. For more information on the programme and the Netherlands Pavilion, contact NWP Project Manager for Expo Dubai, Roy Agterbos, or NWP Project Manager MENA Region, Sabrina Kraaijenbrink-Doetjes.