Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Last Blog

This will be my last blog as Director General of the Commonwealth Business Council, and i am writing it with mixed feelings.

CBC was very much an initiative of the British Government at the Commonwealth Heads of Government in 1997, there was a feeling that the Commonwealth needed to be refocused to ensure that is was relevant for the future. Trade and Investment were chosen as a focus, i was honoured to be asked to lead on this work.

It has been a challenge, there was little data on Commonwealth Trade available in 1997 and when we looked into it there were many commonwealth Countries that received no foreign investment at all.

With humility and great satisfaction me and my staff are extremely proud to have had the opportunity to help make the Commonwealth a grouping of dynamic, market driven, socially responsible countries. I have had the great pleasure of working with Visionary Heads of Governments and many of the world’s most successful business leaders many of whom, i am proud to say, now see CBC as a key asset to help in developing their business and companies.

I would like to thank, all CBC’s members that have worked with us over the years and CBC’s Board Members that have contributed so much. I would like to thank the Commonwealth Heads of Government, Ministers, High Commissioners and Officials, The Commonwealth Secretary General and the Commonwealth organisations that we have worked with on many different projects. Lastly my staff, past and current and everyone that has attended CBC events or taken part in our programmes. I would also like to wish my successor, Sir Alan Collins, all the best and know you will support him and CBC as you have always done for me.

I will be in touch in a different capacity

Friday, 9 March 2012

East African Talks

Over the last couple of weeks i have had the pleasure of meeting with 2 of East Africa’s leaders. Both President Museveni of Uganda and President Nkurunziza of Burundi were in London for the British hosted Somali talks.

CBC hosted President Museveni for lunch where he Launched Uganda’s new tourism initiative and discussed the business and investment climate in Uganda. The President spoke with a great deal of authority on many issues affecting Uganda and made a strong impression on the business leaders gathered for the Lunch. His views and plans to ensure Uganda’s newly discovered natural resources are a boon for the whole of Ugandan society was particularly interesting.

The following day I held talks with President Nkurunziza of Burundi. I don’t know Burundi as well as the other EAC countries as it is not yet a Commonwealth Member. However I was pleased to hear from the President that his country has begun the office petitioning process to join the Commonwealth. In many ways echoing President Kagame before Rwanda joined, President Nkurunziza spoke of the importance of connecting his country’s businesses more fully with the English speaking world, and explained how he has already made English the main language in schools. I offered the President CBC’s services in helping link up Burundi with Commonwealth Investors and businesses.

Burundi joining the Commonwealth will make the EAC a Commonwealth Exclusive Club, this I feel will help bind the Union together and make in a strong investment and business destination.

CBC hopes to return to East Africa in early 2013 to hold its flagship Africa Event the Africa Investment Forum in Kampala Uganda; both Presidents were supportive of the plan.

Monday, 27 February 2012


I was delighted to return to Russia last week, the first time in many years and the first time during the Russian winter!

I was there to meet and sign an MOU with Valery A. Yazev President of the Russian Gas Society. We agreed to cooperate and market opportunities in the Russian energy sector to Commonwealth investors.

Russian Companies are looking to access finance via IPO and other means and the City of London is one of their key target and we have agreed to work together on a Russian Energy Forum early next year.

Enhancing links with Russia is part of CBC’s work to increase commonwealth trade with the wider economy and we are looking forward to receiving Russian business delegations at CBC’s investment events around the Commonwealth. This MOU follows a similar one signed in China last year.

It was a pleasure to be back in Russia, particularly in the winter – Moscow under snow is a site not to be missed.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Banking and the Wider Economy

The UK is currently in the midst of banking bonus season, there are legitimate concerns regarding the size of bankers bonuses, wider society is hurting in this time of austerity while the banking sector is seen to be doing business as usual. There seems to be a real disconnect between the financial services and the rest of the economy.

While the Government needs to reflect public sentiment and explore ways of tackling overly large bonuses and ensuring that they are linked to success and never reward failure, it must always act in ways that preserves London’s pre-eminence as the world’s leading financial sector. This leaves the lion’s share of responsibility to tackle bonus and repairing the relationship with the wider economy in the hands of the banks themselves and they need to take this seriously.

Much has been said of the importance of the City of London to the UK economy but little about the City’s responsibility to the rest of the world. London is the developing world’s finical centre of choice to raise finance, there are more African companies listed in London than anywhere else in the world except Johannesburg. 40 of the FTSE 100 have at least 25% of their revenues from emerging markets (predominantly Commonwealth countries) many have substantially more.

If the damage to the City’s reputation is not tackled and London loses its status as a world leading financial centre them impact will go far beyond just the UK economy.

Tuesday, 31 January 2012


When I return to India I am always amazed at just how much is happening. There is no such thing as a slow news day, being in India is always exciting.

Right now India is growing and is going to continue growing at about 7%. The RBI Governor is equally confident that inflation will slow over the course of the year. But it is the businesses that are driving India’s growth, new and young Entrepreneurs, IPOs and numerous mergers and acquisitions are keeping the Economy moving. However, big business continues to worry about the cost of borrowing and likely power shortages and the delays in policy decisions that can make this worse. On a separate note, one of the things Indian business can be proud of is the number of women in high level positions, particularly in the Banking and financial services sector, many other countries are still striving to accomplish this.

In my view there are 2 issues haunting India, poverty and the lack of a perceived solution.

India is blessed with many self motivated individuals that are willing to dedicate their time and money to changing the lives of the poorest in society. However despite successful grass route initiatives a large scale political solution to poverty seems a long way off. There is lots of political and social debate but the state of politics at the moment is not helping with quick decision making or long term solutions.

Similarly in the field of Anti-Corruption, there is a strong civil society lead campaign to make democracy more participatory and to help reduce corruption by attracting more able candidates. Again this is being driven by successful individuals including NRIs rather than the political classes.

My final observation, the more I travel in India the more impressed I am at how unimportant caste and religion are becoming across society. They no longer play a role in most of the interactions you have in both the Cities and rural areas. However in political discussions and across the media there is a huge amount of time dedicated to it. I do wonder if this energy was spent on the wider poverty issue there might be more progress.

None the less, India is still a truly vibrant and emerging nation that is a beacon for democracy and economic growth.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Commonwealth Growth and the UK

2012 has started with the same economic uncertainty that 2011 ended with and the UK needs to look for Partners around the world that are growing fast that can supplement the UKs existing relationships in Europe and US. The Commonwealth’s emerging markets are the obvious choice, our pre-existing relationships make doing business together easier and similar institutions and business methods can bring the cost of doing business down by up to 20%. Most Commonwealth Countries will grow at over 5% this year and all represent colossal opportunities for British companies.

Historically, Britain used to count countries such as New Zealand, India, Australia, Singapore and Canada among its leading trading partners.

Since joining the European single market, Germany, France, Holland and Belgium have assumed far greater importance to us while only five Commonwealth countries struggle to make it onto the list of top 25 export destinations.

However times could be changing. The latest overseas trade statistics show the biggest increase in exports are to our Commonwealth partners and if trends continue they are set to play a far more important part in our economic life.

In the 12 months up to the end of September our exports to India – roaring ahead with 9% growth – increased by a whopping 33.5% compared with the same period a year earlier.

Exports to Canada jumped 18.3% in the same period and those to Australia were up 30% while those to South Africa rose by 31%.

These are good improvements but there is massive potential in the Commonwealth and Britain should be at the forefront taking advantage of it.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011


2011 was a unique year for CBC; we started with year with a renewed focus in Infrastructure, particularly Power which is critical for most of the Commonwealth’s countries.

In February we held the first Commonwealth Ministerial Power Summit that build on our work with the Nigerian Government on the Power sector privatisation plans and brought together stakeholders in the Power Sector from India, the Caribbean and Africa.

We have held Country Investment Forum’s in Namibia and Zambia hosted by the respective Heads of Government and Regional Forums focusing on Infrastructure in SADC, EAC and the Caribbean. However the highlight of the year was the Commonwealth Business Forum held in Perth alongside CHOGM. The Forum was the biggest we have ever held, bringing together 16 Heads of Government and 1400 business leaders from 70 countries across the Commonwealth and beyond.

We are proud of what we have achieved over the last year; we have seen considerable investment in Infrastructure particularly power and Transport. Additionally, this year has seen large investments in the Mining sectors of Nigeria, Namibia, and Mozambique. In Oil and Gas, investment into Nigeria, Uganda and Trinidad and Tobago, interestingly there have been high levels of south-south investment in this sector.

The Commonwealth Business Forum alone resulted in nearly $10 billion invested in Africa from Australian Companies. But a true highlight of the year, and a real indication of how much the world has changed over the last decade that CBC has been operating, was introducing a Tanzanian businessman to the Prime Minister of Australia as the latest investor in her countries Mining Industry.

I'll also take the chance to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year