In the first in a new series of blogs we map the Commonwealth organisations that are leading on business, entrepreneurship and trade. Each month our ‘Commonwealth Signpost’ series will profile what the Commonwealth is doing to address the biggest issues facing the world, and introduce you to the organisations leading the charge.
The advantages of doing business and trade between Commonwealth countries are well documented. Research by the Commonwealth Secretariat found that bilateral trade costs between Commonwealth partners are on average 19 per cent lower compared with those for other country pairs. There is a ‘Commonwealth effect’ – a common language, similar institutions, and a familiar legal environment – that makes doing business in the Commonwealth easier.
The role of the Secretariat’s Trade, Oceans and Natural Resources Directorate is to facilitate this Commonwealth effect, with the trade programme assisting member countries in improving their trade competitiveness in global markets. Success stories include a feasibility study for a new dry docking facility on behalf of the government of Jamaica, who are now seeking international finance for the initiative. The Secretariat trade team is also facilitating a new network of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) from across the Commonwealth to connect them to the Indian supply chain. Meanwhile, the team has also produced a series of reports outlining opportunities for Jamaica, India and Kenya to make the most of ‘post-Brexit’ trade possibilities.
Promoting Commonwealth prosperity through the power of entrepreneurship and SMEs is a big focus for other Commonwealth organisations. Made up of government and business members, the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council (CWEIC) has launched its Commonwealth First initiative with the support of the Royal Mail. This exciting programme supports Commonwealth Export Champions in getting their products to Commonwealth markets. Currently recruiting its fourth cohort, the ambition is to expand to include SMEs from across the Commonwealth. CWEIC also runs the Commonwealth Business Forum, one of four forums that take place alongside Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings every two years. The 2015 Forum in Malta saw a 1300 strong attendance by delegates from 75 countries, and was addressed by no less than 15 Heads of Government and 180 leaders from the Government and private sector. In 2018 the Forum will be hosted by the City of London and will cover everything from technological innovation to market access and green business.
Focal points for supporting business from the Commonwealth also happen across regional networks. The Birmingham Commonwealth Association (part of The Royal Commonwealth’s Society’s network of branches and associated organisations) will host its own trade conference in November. This initiative will provide insights for UK businesses in the Midlands wishing to increase business links with key Commonwealth partners like India, Malta and Jamaica. The Conference will represent a huge diversity of industries, from creative and digital entertainment, to electric vehicles, aviation support and higher education. Tickets are still available on the website for businesses who may be interested.
The Commonwealth is also home to four regional Commonwealth Alliances of Young Entrepreneurs. One of the most active is The Commonwealth Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs - Asia (CAYE- Asia), an enthusiastic network of young business leaders who are committed to promoting Young Entrepreneurship in the eight Asian Commonwealth countries, plus Nepal. Only established in 2011, CAYE-Asia is already engaging with governments, the private sector, the media and other stakeholders to champion the cause of young entrepreneurship from a local level all the way up to the international stage. Meanwhile, The Commonwealth Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs – Southern Africa recently co-hosted the 'I am an Entrepreneur' event in Malawi. The conference aimed to build legal and market knowledge among small and medium-scale business owners and prospective entrepreneurs in the region.
Empowering women in business is another key area supported by Commonwealth organisations. The Commonwealth Business Women’s Network (CBWN) is a membership organisation working to encourage, enable and embed women in leadership and women’s economic empowerment through trade, talent and training (the ‘3Ts’). It is currently working on an e-platform for connecting, collaborating and encouraging commerce for women in business and is collaborating on an international, gender sensitive MBA with the Commonwealth of Learning. The CBWN also champions successful women in business and female entrepreneurs through its awards programme with winners announced on the side of the Commonwealth Heads’ of Government Meeting.
This blog is not exhaustive. If we have missed out an organisation feel free to leave us a comment below. You can read the next post in the series on sustainability and climate change here.