Happy New Year to you all, I hope that you have had some time to relax with family and friends and that I find you in good spirits as we head into 2017.
We look back on 2016 as another significant year for CWEIC having successfully widened and deepened our network across the Commonwealth. Occasions like our April visit from the Malaysian Prime Minister, the launch of our CommonwealthFirst programme with its hugely successful Indian trade mission and our end of year ‘Spotlight on Impact Investing’ event count amongst a few of the highlights that put CWEIC in a great position to rise to the opportunities of the new year ahead.
Foremost amongst these is the rapidly approaching inaugural Commonwealth Trade Ministers Meeting to be held in London on the 9th & 10th of March. With 22 ministers already confirmed from all regions of the Commonwealth, this is shaping up to be a tremendous chance for the network to promote the “Agenda for Growth” and our US$1 trillion intra-Commonwealth trade target. 6 Ministerial roundtables will focus on the themes of Financial Services, Ease of Doing Business, Technology and Innovation, Business and Sustainability, Creating an Export Economy and Attracting Investment in order to produce outcomes that can create a more prosperous Commonwealth.
We are also looking forward to Richard Burge joining us in April as our new CEO. Having spent 7 years as CEO of Wilton Park, an executive agency of the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office and one of the world’s premier forums for international strategic discussion, we are very fortunate to have someone of Richard’s calibre to lead the company into the Commonwealth Business Forum and Heads of Government Meeting in 2018.
I am pleased to announce that I will be travelling to Nigeria with Richard in February to call upon current members and further spread the word that the Commonwealth remains a key network for untapped trade and investment potential in a context of stagnant global growth. Indeed, regions like Lagos continue to exemplify the dynamism and capacity for innovation that I have come across so often in the Commonwealth and that will be so important if the world economy is to be reinvigorated.
Our second cohort of Commonwealth Export Champions have now been announced and I am delighted to say that it is another round of extremely exciting companies. In May, many of these will be taking their outstanding products and services to Malaysia and Singapore in a bid to internationalise their businesses and reach a new level of growth and development. Meanwhile we will continue to work on plans to initiate separate CommonwealthFirst schemes for Nigerian and Indian SME’s.
On top of all this, we will continue activities in our Maritime and Health programmes with plans to follow up on our new focus on Impact Investment later in the year.
In its first two and a half years CWEIC has grown and achieved more than we expected and I would like to extend my sincere thanks to all of our members and supporters for making that possible. There is still a distance to go to ensure that CWEIC is useful to, and represents the whole Commonwealth. But with your help, we can make further strides towards that goal and make 2017 another stellar year.
Lord Marland of Odstock
Chairman, Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council