Inaugural USA Pavilion @ Expo 2020 Fellows Program Results in Work Benefitting Thousands of People

Inaugural USA Pavilion @ Expo 2020 Fellows Program 
Results in Work Benefitting Thousands of People

Young Leaders from Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia Tackled Socioeconomic Issues, Now Become Part of U.S. Department of State Exchange Program Alumni Network 

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, Wednesday, 23 March, 2022 — PepsiCo and its philanthropic arm, The PepsiCo Foundation, alongside the USA Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai, are proud to announce the conclusion of the USA Pavilion @ Expo 2020 Fellows Program. Cumulating with a five-day in-person development session at Expo 2020 Dubai and the presentation of group projects March 14-18, 2022, the Fellows Program focused on empowering and educating young global leaders who are tackling the world’s most pressing socioeconomic issues by helping them hone their leadership and problem-solving skills. More than 2,000 people are estimated to benefit from the work carried out in this program.

Funded by a $500,000 (1,836,600 AED) grant from the PepsiCo Foundation, the Fellows Program brought together 40 young women and men from 19 countries across the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia (MENASA) region for a seven-month virtual and in-person program. Representing an eclectic and inclusive group from multiple disciplines across academia, business, media, government, civil society, and policy, the Fellows Program focused on global issues explored at Expo 2020 Dubai — including trade, sustainability, and future cities.

“The PepsiCo Foundation is committed to feeding potential around the world and developing a system where diverse voices are heard, seen, and valued. The challenges we face as a society require new ideas and novel solutions, and I’m excited by the boundless solutions the Fellows envisioned to enact societal change at home and abroad,” C.D. Glin, Vice President, The PepsiCo Foundation and Global Head of Philanthropy said. “Our vision is for this experience to serve as a launching pad for exchanging and inspiring new perspectives, helping these young leaders achieve their full potential and goals, and inspire generations to come. I believe the Fellows possess insights and influence to create the better and brighter tomorrow we all wish to see.”

Fellows were nominated by U.S. diplomatic missions from participating countries and selected through a competitive application process run by Observer Research Foundation America (ORF America) and Observer Research Foundation (ORF). The final 40 were chosen through a competitive application and selection process. The Fellowship involved virtual sessions in August and September 2021, a week of in-person programming at AstroLabs in Dubai in October 2021, and the cumulating week-long development session March 2022 held at AstroLabs and at the PepsiCo Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai. There were a series of virtual interactions as part of a fellowship-at-home over the intervening period.

“The USA Pavilion @ Expo 2020 Fellows Program was designed to enable young leaders to experience entrepreneurship firsthand, challenging them to think big while remaining grounded to practical impact,” Christina Andreassen, Director of Programs for AstroLabs, said. “The entrepreneurial ventures and ideas generated by the Fellows during this program demonstrates the positive impact of convening innovative minds on a mission to make a difference.”

With the completion of the program, participants now become part of the U.S. Department of State exchange program alumni network. This community allows Fellows to engage with others who can provide guidance as they explore ways to be agents of change in their communities. Through their involvement in this distinguished program, Fellows will also be integrated into larger ORF communities, including the Raisina Young Fellows Programme, also known as the Asian Forum on Global Governance, and have the opportunity to build multiple communities in and outside of the MENASA region. 

“The Fellows Program fills an important need in our world today,’” Dhruva Jaishankar, Executive Director of ORF America, said. “This new, dynamic network of young professionals from across a pivotal region of the world helps bridge policy divides between the developed and developing worlds and builds deep connections across communities.”

The winning project came from the Fellows team “Veggies R Us” and focused on the development of a smart hydroponic food tower that manages and automates real-time production of affordable and healthy fruits and vegetables. Team members include:

  • Nadia Ali, Tunisia
  • Zarak Khan, Pakistan
  • Rijve Arefin, Bangladesh

Serving as judges for final presentations were:

  • Robert “Bob” Clark, Commissioner General, USA Pavilion Expo 2020 Dubai
  • Wael Ismail, Vice President, Corporate Affairs MENA and Pakistan, PepsiCo 
  • Muhammed Mekki, Founding Partner, AstroLabs 
  • Samir Saran, President, Observer Research Foundation

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About PepsiCo

PepsiCo products are enjoyed by consumers more than one billion times a day in more than 200 countries and territories around the world. PepsiCo generated more than $79 billion in net revenue in 2021, driven by a complementary beverage and convenient foods portfolio that includes Lay’s, Doritos, Cheetos, Gatorade, Pepsi-Cola, Mountain Dew, Quaker, and SodaStream. PepsiCo’s product portfolio includes a wide range of enjoyable foods and beverages, including many iconic brands that generate more than $1 billion each in estimated annual retail sales.

Guiding PepsiCo is our vision to Be the Global Leader in Beverages and Convenient Foods by Winning with PepsiCo Positive (pep+). pep+ is our strategic end-to-end transformation that puts sustainability at the center of how we will create value and growth by operating within planetary boundaries and inspiring positive change for planet and people. For more information, visit

About The PepsiCo Foundation

Established in 1962, The PepsiCo Foundation, the philanthropic arm of PepsiCo, invests in the essential elements of a sustainable food system with a mission to support thriving communities. Working with non-profits and experts around the globe, we’re focused on helping communities obtain access to food security, safe water and economic resilience. We strive for tangible impact in the places where we live and work—collaborating with industry peers, local and international organizations, and our employees to affect large-scale change on the issues that matter to us and are of global importance. Learn more at

About USA Pavilion

The USA Pavilion at Expo 2020 celebrates the theme, “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of the Future.” Exhibits showcase the freedoms and opportunities that pave the way for American innovation and prosperity.  Expo 2020 Dubai runs from October 1, 2021, to March 31, 2022.  For more information, please visit    

About ORF America

ORF America was established in 2020 as an independent, non-partisan public policy institute based in Washington DC. It is an overseas affiliate of the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), India’s premier non-government think tank. Its objectives are to provide impactful research and commentary on issues of global relevance; strengthen cooperation between the developed and developing worlds; bridge diverse policy communities; and develop policy networks based on shared values. For more information, please visit

About ORF

Based in New Delhi, the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) is one of Asia’s most influential think tanks driving policy discussions across India, Asia, and now globally. ORF seeks to lead and aid policy thinking towards building a strong and prosperous India in a fair and equitable world. For more information, please visit

About AstroLabs

Established in 2013, AstroLabs is dedicated to driving digital growth in companies and people. Offerings include classes in digital and tech through AstroLabs Academy, custom-designed startup programs for large corporates and governments, and collaborative coworking communities in Dubai and Riyadh. AstroLabs also seeks to spur growth by helping organizations rapidly recruit superstars for their digital teams through AstroLabs Talent, and expand into the UAE and KSA through local company setup and soft-landing offices. For more, visit