For the past year and a half leading up to Expo 2020 Dubai, we have had the help and guidance of Belgium's three regions. The names of the three regional institutions are borrowed from the name of the territory they represent. So we refer to (from north to south) the Flemish Region, the Brussels-Capital Region and the Walloon Region.
Today we introduce AWEX and Wallonie-Bruxelles International (WBI), who represent the Walloon/Brussels region in Belgium but also in the UAE and many other countries in the world.
What are AWEX & WBI, and what do the organizations do exactly?
AWEX and WBI are two distinct and complementary entities.
The Wallonia Export & Investment Agency (AWEX) is in charge of the development and management of Wallonia’s domestic and international economic relations. Its mission is to help Walloon companies, regardless of their size, sector or target market, with every step of their international endeavours. This includes exports, technological partnerships, and development in foreign markets. AWEX is also in charge of promoting Wallonia abroad with a view to attracting foreign investments.
Wallonia-Brussels International (WBI) is a public service and is responsible for the international relations of the Walloon Region and the Wallonia-Brussels Federation.
As mentioned above, the Wallonia Export & Investment Agency (AWEX) is in charge of trade promotion and attracting foreign investments.
With regard to trade promotion, we help our companies with their prospecting by carrying out market research, preparing B2B meetings and organising collective actions through Belgian pavilions at the main trade shows, and by organising economic missions all over the world. AWEX also provides financial assistance to Walloon companies through a range of subsidies, including coaching, help with travel costs, fees for participation in trade shows, help with communication, etc.
In terms of investments, our primary mission is to promote all the assets that Wallonia offers to foreign investors, such as a strategic position in Europe, various financial advantages and a highly skilled workforce. Once an investor is interested in setting up a project in our region, AWEX actively assists them with the various steps to make this possible. With our guidance, we make sure that potential investors are in touch with the right people at the right time! This way, investors can more easily achieve their project, which also means the creation of jobs!
As a public administration, Wallonia-Brussels International supports operators in the French-speaking region of Belgium. WBI’s mission is to increase the impact, influence and reputation of the Wallonia-Brussels area and its representatives (creators, artists, students, higher education institutions, researchers, etc).
These activities take the form of actions carried out in the areas of development cooperation, human rights, culture, health and social affairs, the environment, exchanges for young people, education and training, higher education, and research and innovation.
Through its representations abroad, WBI provides operators in Wallonia-Brussels with support and advice through activities tailored to their needs and to the specific features of the countries in their jurisdiction.
Can you give a short description of the team and their functions?
In Belgium, the AWEX team for Expo 2020 is essentially made up of Marie Ledru and Mégane Danneels from the AWEX Communication Department. Dubai is the third Universal Exhibition for Marie.
We also have a team in Belgium entirely dedicated to the economic mission that will be organised during Wallonia-Brussels Week, with Dominique Delattre and Quentin Ladrière.
And for WBI, there is Marie Beheyt, Project Manager in the Research & Innovation Department, and Laurence Degoudenne, in charge of "major events" for the WBI Culture Department. Dubai is Laurence's fourth World Expo experience.
In the Emirates, the team is composed entirely of women. It consists of Anja, CEC Chief, who is the Trade and Investment Counsellor for the Wallonia and Brussels regions of Belgium. She is responsible for the promotion of trade and investment between Walloon and Brussels companies and the UAE.
The team was expanded a few months ago for the 2020 exhibition and there are now five Foreign Trade Officers: Anne, Violaine, Francesca, Ghada and Valériane.
Why is your organization important for Belgium in general and more specifically for Wallonia and Brussels?
Our mission is to support all economic, scientific and cultural stakeholders in their international development. We, therefore, try to ensure the growth of our operators’ activities all over the world, which at the same time has a positive influence on their activities in Belgium. Moreover, our mission is to attract new projects and partnerships here and stimulate activity on our territory.
Although we help Walloon and/or French-speaking operators, we always promote them under the Belgian banner. In this way, we positively increase the economic and cultural reputation of our country at the international level!
In the same spirit, Expo 2020 will be a wonderful showcase. Belgium, with its magnificent pavilion, allows the three Belgian Regions (Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels) to present their know-how and culture to the entire world. Wallonia is proud to collaborate in the visibility of Belgium, a beautiful small, creative and dynamic country and seat of the capital of Europe.
What will you be doing at the Belgian Pavilion?
During Expo 2020 in Dubai, Belgium will present to the world its technological prowess in “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future”.
Durability was an essential criterion for the choice of the pavilion, which is a real architectural and engineering tour de force. And preserving the environment is at the heart of its design.
At the Walloon level, inland waterway mobility and the space sector will be highlighted mainly in the pavilion's scenography.
The exhibition route, the Belgian souvenir shops, the places for tasting our culinary specialities (including fries, of course), the business centre, and the gastronomic brasserie on the terrace will all be opportunities for our Walloon economic players to make a name for themselves.
What opportunities does Expo 2020 present for your organization?
Expo 2020 represents an exceptional showcase for Walloon and Brussels operators.
Some of them have been able to invest in the pavilion and demonstrate their know-how in its construction, or have been involved in the scenography that visitors will have the opportunity to experience.
Others will be highlighting Wallonia's cutting-edge sectors in the pavilion or selling their products in Dubai during Wallonia-Brussels week.
In short, this prestigious world exhibition setting is a unique opportunity to gain global visibility and renown, as well as to initiate professional contacts with our local hosts and the other nations represented.
Can you give us a sneak preview of what visitors can expect during the Walloon Week?
The Wallonia Export & Investment Agency (AWEX) and Wallonia-Brussels International (WBI) are in charge of Wallonia and the Wallonia-Brussels Federation’s participation at Expo Dubai. As such, AWEX and WBI will organise a week of Wallonia-Brussels visibility at the Belgian pavilion on the Expo site from November 6 to 12.
This event will take advantage of the exceptional showcase that is the 2020 Expo to present the know-how and excellence of Wallonia and the Wallonia-Brussels Federation to visitors from all over the world.
On the basis of the major themes of the Universal Exhibition and the needs of the United Arab Emirates, we will present certain important sectors for our region:
- diamond sector
- agri-Food sector
- fashion & design sector
- logistics sector
- equestrian sector
- tourism sector
- space sector
- multimedia and entertainment sector
These sectors will be highlighted in two ways during our week.
Firstly, through several activities that will take place directly at the pavilion, such as workshops, masterclasses, fun activities, etc., and that will be reserved for prospects invited in advance. During these activities, we will have the opportunity to show them Walloon expertise in these sectors.
Of course, as part of Wallonia Brussels week, there will be activities for the general public, including cultural activities selected by WBI and activities open only to a target audience (universities, companies, official delegations), which will take place in the pavilion's business centre. These activities will aim to bring together important contacts with a view to creating synergies with the Walloon participants.
Secondly, through an economic mission organised by AWEX in parallel with these activities. Walloon companies specialising in these sectors of activity will have the opportunity to meet prospects through networking activities and master-classes organised at the Belgian pavilion. They will also have the chance to meet their prospects “at home” by visiting their companies. We hope that in this way, many synergies will be created between our companies and their Emirati contacts!
What do you expect regarding Walloon business people visiting during Expo, knowing the world has changed due to Covid19.
With this unprecedented health crisis, some companies are already struggling to cope locally and do not even dare to think about exporting to distant markets.
We hope to be able to convince them that, despite the terrible situation the world is experiencing today, business opportunities still exist and are feasible at this time.
The UAE gained the upper hand over the virus very quickly with its massive vaccination campaign and has already resumed economic activities. Walloon entrepreneurs working in the sectors identified above have every chance of collaborating and we are here to help and convince them to participate in our week, in this exceptional and unique setting.
What projects do you have lined up for the future?
Whether it is economic operators for AWEX or scientific and cultural operators for WBI, we are always there to support their international ambitions. We will try, again and again, to encourage them to export around the world. We will continue to promote our beautiful Wallonia beyond its borders!
Will your offices be located at the Belgian Pavilion during Expo?
No, but AWEX and WBI have a permanent representation in Dubai throughout the year:
Belgian Economic and Commercial Centre Dubai World Trade Centre (14th floor)
Sheikh Zayed Road PO Box 9500
Please feel free to contact us if you would like more information on market opportunities in the UAE, on the World Expo or on our Wallonia-Brussels visibility week.