Governments should encourage sustainable finance: Franco Atassi

Mohamed Samir
8 Min Read

Dubai –Expo 2020 Dubai has concluded after a stellar six months that brought together over 190 nations, including multilateral organisations and academic institutions. At the Expo site, Siemens was reshaping the future of urban living by creating a blueprint for future smart cities by integrating the company’s technologies across all buildings of Expo.


“Through our collaboration with Expo 2020 Dubai, we have learned lots of valuable lessons that we can use to help any other entity that we will cooperate with in the future,” says Franco Atassi, CEO of Smart Infrastructure for Siemens, Middle East.


Daily News Egypt spoke with Atassi on the sidelines of Expo 2020 Dubai, to find out about the technologies introduced by the company at Expo, and the company’s plans in Egypt and the MENA region.



Can you elaborate on the scale of cooperation between Siemens and the Egyptian government?


We are cooperating with Egypt in different sectors, high-speed rail, energy, and many others.

We have a roadmap that we developed with the Egyptian government that we are implementing at the moment. The latest of which was the high-speed railway.


Is Siemens taking part in the New Administrative Capital and New Alamein City?


We are working on these two mega projects with several contractors. We are targeting to have a presence there through our smart infrastructure division. However, we are not currently in negotiations with the government to directly take part. We are talking with the competent authorities to understand their needs and expectations so we can respond accordingly.


Egypt will host COP 27 this year, how will Siemens assist in this regard?


We will present some proposals for sustainable projects. All of these were already planned, COP27 just accelerated them. Turning cities into smart ones is not just a one size fits all solution, it is a journey. It depends on the availability and the needs of every city. We would love to share the knowledge and experience that we got from Expo 2020 Dubai.


How can the Egyptian government boost investment into sustainability?


In all projects in every country the first thing that needs to be present is the will. Government role is to encourage such activities, which can be done through legislation and incentives. Expo 2020 Dubai was a unique experience, it was established to attract 25 million visitors in six months. It was built from scratch, in a country with vast resources and strong will to achieve so it was done in around 3-4 years. Any government that wants to do the same has to encourage developers, and competent parties to do so.



Is sustainability attractive for investments at the moment in terms of ROI?


Any transformation or disruption takes time and costs money. You pay today so you can reap the rewards in five or ten years. In Siemens we have a net-zero goal by 2030, as part of our corporate social responsibility. Many other companies are doing the same. What we are lacking today is funding. Governments can assist in that along with lenders to provide financing for sustainable and smart projects. Until now, lenders lack the knowledge to finance these projects, that’s why green financing has emerged. Governments can encourage banks to develop models to fund sustainable projects.



What are the latest technologies that Siemens has introduced in Expo?


In Expo there are more than 130 buildings that are linked together digitally. We monitor and benchmark all of these buildings to understand their consumption of energy, water, etc. All of these digital infrastructures were provided by Siemens. Before we implemented it in Expo we have created a digital twin to test. It means that we have built a digital version of Expo 2020 Dubai before it was built on the ground. The MindSphere Smart City App is designed to digitally optimize Expo 2020 Dubai, enhancing the visitor experience and reducing energy and water use during the six-month event. Initially operating across two domains – environmental monitoring and irrigation – the app will collect, monitor, correlate and analyze data from the site, and visualize it to allow real-time monitoring and control of infrastructure from static and mobile devices. We have also installed networks that connect the mind sphere and IoT applications. These applications were based on use cases. Through our collaboration with Expo 2020 Dubai, we have learned lots of valuable lessons that we can use to help any other entity that we will cooperate with in the future. However, we work through co-creation, to produce different versions of these technologies that are tailored to the different needs, environment etc.


What tops Siemens smart infrastructure projects’ agenda at the moment?


Our research and development is focusing on the Grid Edge technology, enabling buildings, infrastructures and industries to optimize their energy efficiency. When you generate electricity from renewable energy, the main challenge is how can you store and use it efficiently and manage it with the microgrid. We are working on IoT devices that solve these challenges, through interplay between production and consumption – and to increase the energy system’s flexibility and reliability.



As Expo 2020 Dubai concludes, what will happen to all of these buildings?


Around 80% of what you see now will stay, and it will be turned into a smart city called District 2020. It will feature administrative buildings and housing units. It will be a fully digital and sustainable city. This is the vision of the Dubai government, and we are helping them achieve their goals.


Will you continue to play an active role in District 2020?

I think yes, we have put the infrastructure in place, and we can build upon it. Siemens has been playing a major role in helping the government of the UAE towards reaching their digital and sustainable goals.  We do so through raising efficiency and reducing waste.


In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges that face the region?


Personally I admire this region, when you think that we are now one of the top oil-exporters, and you see that they are focused on sustainability. The UAE in particular has set targets to become a pioneer in sustainability. In Egypt, you have plenty of ambitious projects and it is going in the right direction. Egypt is a leader in sustainable and smart cities. 

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Mohamed Samir Khedr is an economic and political journalist, analyst, and editor specializing in geopolitical conflicts in the Middle East, Africa, and the Eastern Mediterranean. For the past decade, he has covered Egypt's and the MENA region's financial, business, and geopolitical updates. Currently, he is the Executive Editor of the Daily News Egypt, where he leads a team of journalists in producing high-quality, in-depth reporting and analysis on the region's most pressing issues. His work has been featured in leading international publications. Samir is a highly respected expert on the Middle East and Africa, and his insights are regularly sought by policymakers, academics, and business leaders. He is a passionate advocate for independent journalism and a strong believer in the power of storytelling to inform and inspire. Twitter: LinkedIn: