Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Copenhagen, and the future

The conclusion of the Climate Change Talks in Copenhagen has left us with a lot of lessons to be learned. The management of the talks left a lot to be desired both in terms of the Agenda and in the range of involvement. Developing countries do not like to be left out in the cold; they want to be fully involved in the talks that will have so much impact on their future development. I’m am glad to see the UN Secretary General has recognised this and will work to improve the negotiation process before the next round of talks

I must admit to a feeling of déjà vu watching the talks progress. Before Doha, it would have often been the G8 countries coming together, making decisions and then letting everyone else know what had been decided. While on this occasion the range of countries involved was much wider (almost the G20) it still excluded some of the countries that will be the worst affected by climate change.

One good thing is immediately apparent coming out of the talks, the high emission countries, the US, EU, China, India, Japan, etc are now fully involved in finding a solution to climate change and its causes. While the agreement is not legally binding, by publically committing to the accord the countries are recognising the problem and have agreed to work to keep global temperature rises below 2oc – this is progress.

One of the foreseeable outcomes of the agreement as it moves to implementation is the cost of development in developing countries increasing; this will change the future path of development. While the agreement makes previsions to increased Aid to the developing world, $30 Billion over the next 3 years, and $100 billion by 2020, this is not likely to be new money - the state of the finances in the developed countries makes that improbable.

The cost of development and the way it takes place will have to be reviewed, with less government money going to traditional development projects there may well be greater competition between developing nations to attract private sector support. Also the private sectors involvement, from the very beginning, in the roll out of carbon trading and the use clean technologies to the developing world is absolutely essential.

lets hope 2010 will be bring a new commitment from governments and the private sector to work for cleaner technology and lower emissions.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Commonwealth Business Forum

It was a new and interesting experience holding an event the size of the Commonwealth Business Forum on a cruise ship. The Forum was instrumental in building new partnerships that represent the new global alliances coming out of the changes to the global economy caused by the financial crisis of the past year.

The Forum has become a key mechanism for developing south-south relationships and increasing investment to small states and developing countries. Examples of the real business done at the Forum include:

1) Agreements on Oil and Gas partnerships between Trinidad & Tobago and West African States

2) Agreement between British Companies to invest in Grenada on Agriculture

3) Agreement between Canadian Companies and the Government of Grenada to work together on Healthcare

4) Agreement between Malaysian Companies to work with the Caribbean on Tourism and Telecommunications

5) Agreement between Indian Companies and Trinidad and Tobago to work together on ICT projects

6) Agreement Between an American company and Trinidad and Tobago to work together on Clean Technology

7) Agreement Between a Dutch company and African States to work together on Clean Technology solutions

8) And many more…..

I am delighted to see such solid outcomes from the Business Forum and am certain there will be a lasting impact on the economies in the region over the coming years.

Aside from the business done, the Forum has become a key private sector event, where business can forge a strong dialogue with Governments on trade and investment issues. 10 Heads of Government, sharing a stage with over 100 business leaders, spoke passionately and informatively on topics such as climate change, the impacts of the financial crisis and ways of improving the business climate. The Forums findings were submitted to CHOGM for the Heads consideration and can be read here.

The 2009 Business Forum was the largest event the CBC has ever held it brought together over 1100 investors and interested parties for debated and discussion in 10 Plenary and 40 Breakout sessions. I look forward to carrying this success forward to all CBC will undertake in the New Year.

Monday, 30 November 2009

The Commonwealth at 60 and the Commonwealth Factor

The role and significance of the Commonwealth is a perennial topic alongside every Heads’ meeting. As CEO of the Commonwealth’s business association, which links hundreds of vibrant companies across the 53 countries I find that the Commonwealth is often both undervalued and underappreciated. My concern is not that the association will wither into obscurity, but we need to always need to keep the association relevant for today. What is its greatest strength?

The Commonwealth’s unique selling point or usp is not in its institutions but in its networks, values and the more elusive, but potent, ‘Commonwealth Factor’. This derives from of a common historical experience reflected in the similar administrative, legal, financial and business practices that members share, as well as the use of the English language. The Commonwealth Factor when leveraged, as CBC does to promote trade and investment, with Commonwealth values of multi party democracy, human rights, the rule of law, good governance, free press, and socially responsible market orientated policies, is when real results are seen.

The Commonwealth Secretariat, the inter-governmental organisation of the Commonwealth, can’t be a leading development organisation, its budget is too small, a fraction of the larger NGOs. However, in my 25 years of experience with the Commonwealth it has been through more assessments than the UN and many other international organisations, all of which are very many times larger than the Secretariat. Unfortunately the Secretariat is undervalued, underfunded and over-assessed, and nothing much will be achieved by yet another assessment exercise.

Nurturing, leveraging and promoting the ideals and the values at the core of the Commonwealth, is the key to CBC’s success and has lead to greater investment opportunities in Commonwealth countries. Commonwealth member states are increasingly being seen as ideal locations for doing business, thanks in a large part to this ‘Commonwealth factor’. Intra-Commonwealth trade has increased from $2 trillion to $3 Trillion over the last 10 years, Investment flows have reached over US$180 billion and Commonwealth trade and investment accounts for over 20 per cent of the world total. The Commonwealth Factor, we believe, can decrease the cost of doing business by anything up to 15%. The Commonwealth is the home to some of the most dynamic and successful new global companies in fields critical to development – ICT, technology and energy, finance, and agriculture. Increasingly the modern Commonwealth is defined by the emerging economies – for example India, Nigeria, South Africa, Malaysia, Trinidad and Tobago – these are new economic centres of excellence growing in importance alongside the UK, Australia and Canada. The association is certainly not lacking in innovation and success.

Another aspect of the Commonwealth Association which is valued greatly across by member countries is skills development and education. I am disappointed by the NGO’s who are ‘so called’ advocates of the Commonwealth but dwell on the association’s past and are not looking to its future. The Commonwealth could obviously use greater resources, but of even greater import is sustained commitment to and recognition of the Commonwealth factor and networks, that can be leveraged to enhance the lives of so many across the association.

The future of the Commonwealth must focus on enhancing the characteristics I have mentioned, its values and networks so that more and more of Commonwealth Citizens can take advantage of their shared heritage.

Friday, 13 November 2009

India, Prudence and FDI

The Indian Prime Minister’s, Manmohan Singh, recent announcements about new economic reforms, particularly the 10% divestment of public sector companies, is movement in the right direction.

India is satisfied that it has avoided the worst of the global financial crisis, its conservative banking system and high capital ratio have protected it from the worst of the global turmoil. However, this conservatism works both ways, yes it reduces risk, but it also limits access. In India, this means millions of potential entrepreneurs are excluded from the financial systems that they can use to prosper. Prudence is good, but too great a level can limit growth and exclude too many members of society. To accelerate the rate of growth India should, perhaps, be a little less prudent.

Relatively low levels of FDI in India, only $121 billion over the last 8 years, are a mystery to me. India represents a fantastic investment opportunity and the levels should be higher. Recent Figures have shown a 9.1% increase in industrial production from last year, and the Government’s commitment to $500 Billion in infrastructure investment, a figure that will be far higher when including the Private Sector contribution. The IFC, the World Bank’s private sector arm, decision to increase India’s exposure from the $3.4 Billion or 10% of its portfolio last year, are all signs of confidence in India’s policy and growth. As one of the few countries where economic activity is near levels hit before the economic crisis, India will prove to be one of the most attractive investment destinations over the coming years.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Indian Infrastructure

I had the pleasure of attending an event with President Patil of India last week. The President was in the UK to promote UK India relations and strengthen business ties between the 2 countries. Last week was very much an ‘India week’ in London, demonstrating the importance of the relationship to the 2 countries the President’s trip coincided with the return of the Lord Mayor of London from India where he was leading a business delegation from the City.

I feel, that while there have been successful experiences for UK Infrastructure companies in India, CBC members Arup and Mott MacDonald to name a couple, the experience has not always been as rewarding. Due in part to the Strength of the Home Grown construction sector that is better connected than International companies can hope to be. The lesson for UK construction companies in India is to find the right local partner, one who shares the same business goals and has the capacity to deliver. While there are challenges to finding the right partner in India the arguments in favour of entering the market allied with an Indian company are overwhelming.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Not to Award Africa Governance Prize – A Mistake

Not to award the Africa Governance Prize is a mistake and the wrong decision. The Prize is awarded by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation to leaders that have ‘ruled wisely’ and ‘handed over power to elected successors’. All 3 Presidents, Thabo Mbeki, Olusegun Obasanjo and John Kufuor, with some blips, have brought their countries forward and have been succeed by democratic means. I have known all 3 Presidents personally and worked with them over the years, they have worked in difficult times and circumstances to the benefits of their respective countries. Even recognising their faults and flaws, if Leaders such as these 3 aren’t eligible, President Mugabe must be having a good laugh!

I wonder at the Jury’s intentions by not awarding, are they trying to raise the bar for African leaders in the future? If so, it seems unlikely that the Foundation will award a prize in the next few years. If these criteria were used globally, would the jury be able to pick a winner?

Perhaps, if the prize was awarded to the Presidents who are still serving their first term; it could have a more direct impact and improve the performance of an incumbent government, providing an incentive to govern well and a democratic transfer of power.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Solar Technology and the Commonwealth

Solar Technology has the potential to supply all the worlds energy requirements, 6000times the worlds electrical needs constantly shines on the earth. Many Commonwealth countries are well placed to make use of solar technology for energy production; high levels of Sunlight and wide opened space make them ideal locations for the technology.

Proven projects across the world show the impact the technology can have. Germany, surprisingly given its relatively low levels of sunlight, is leading the way with Spain not far behind and the new administration in the US has placed a greater emphasis on increasing their solar output and combating climate change.

There is still work to be done on the technology, issues surrounding night time storage and efficiency, but work continues to make the technology more economical viable. I was in Kenya last week to look at a potential solar project site and meet with partners, one of CBC’s aims is to use and share technologies that can help with development and improve the lives of people across the commonwealth, and solar is a technology that could have a huge impact.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Health Tourism and Infrastructure

Last week while travelling in the Caribbean the potential importance of healthcare to some of the island economies became more and more apparent. The global financial crisis has driven down the number of tourists travelling for traditional Caribbean holidays, so the governments and tourist promotion agencies are looking for new ways of attracting visitors to their shores.

Aside from the more mainstream efforts to promote business tourism and the like, there is a good opportunity to become a destination of choice for medical tourism. A similar desire was espoused by the Prime Minister of Grenada while at a Lunch I hosted in the UK a couple of months back, however he made it clear that there is a large infrastructure gap to filled in this sector.

This is a good example of where government and the private sector can work together to create an affordable, highly advanced and comfortable medical environment that is suitable for more elderly patients. The Caribbean is an ideal location for this industry, with its experience in delivering a 5 star tourist experiences and its proximity to the Large US market.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Ugandan Infrastructure and FDI

I was very pleased to have the opportunity to meet with HE Yoweri Museveni the President of Uganda last weekend while he was passing though the UK on the way to New York. President Museveni hosted CHOGM and Commonwealth Business Forum in 2007, it was good to catch up and talk.

A couple of Points he raised were of particular interest;

Firstly, Uganda is re-prioritising reducing the Infrastructure gap as quickly as possible. A renewed focus on building and renovating, roads, rail, ports and especially power generation and delivery will remove one of the largest hurdles to development and growth.

The Second point was perhaps the more pertinent; President Museveni made it clear that while he will more than welcome Foreign Direct Investment, the Ugandan Government was prepared to pursue large Infrastructure projects alone. The Financial crisis has made accessing traditional sources of funding harder than ever before, and with the discovery of oil in the Lake Alberta region earlier this year; Uganda now has a greater confidence that it can find its own solutions to its infrastructure issues.

The government is continuously increasing its allocation for infrastructure projects in annual budgets, this is good news. Uganda and other African countries are becoming more confident in shaping their future, similar sentiments were expressed by the Presidents of Ghana and Rwanda when I met them recently.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

The G20 and Global Trade

The G20’s agenda has radically changed over the last year; discussion now centres on the financial crisis and the future management of the global banking system. I am saddened to see Global trade had slipped off the G20s radar, with the Doha Round looking increasing unlikely to be revived this year further talks on this important topic are needed.

Despite the current economic turmoil the Global Trade is growing and increasing, particularly Intra-Asian Trade, the Asian Development Bank recently stated that “the region would grow more strongly than expected this year and in 2010…Despite [difficult] conditions in the global economic environment, developing Asia is poised to lead the recovery from the worldwide slowdown”.

Asia’s continued growth is despite the decline in Trade with the traditional western markets, growth has benefited from strong Intra-Asian trade. Intra-Asian trade has helped maintain growth while the largest export markets have dramatically reduced their spending. CBC feels that Intra Africa trade can follow the same model; we have been working with governments and the private sector over the last 10 years to enhance this. We have seen impressive increases and look forward to working with partners to push this even further.

We hope that global trade will soon be back on the agenda for G20 meetings.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

A socially relevant banking system

It is clear that the G20 meetings of Heads of Government and Finance Ministers are becoming a useful forum for tackling the banking crisis. Sharing ideas and experience is essential for the development of a new legal framework for the banking industry. The framework must walk a narrow line of preventing the kind of extreme risk taking that caused the financial crisis, without stifling the banking sectors ability to innovate.

What is clear is that banks can no longer be seen as an offset part of society, answerable to no one. If banks are so important to a Country that they cannot be allowed to fail, it is essential that they are not seen to be performing ‘Socially useless activities’ as Lord Turner, Head of the FSA put it.

It is a good sign for the Banking Industry and for all of us, that those who work in the Sector have been soul searching and are beginning to see the need for a socially relevant industry. Speaking in the FT over the weekend the Chief Executive of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, japans largest bank, said “if we blindly pursue profits to an excessive degree, it results in many things going wrong”. He argues, quite rightly I think, that a banks role should be “as a lubricant for economic activity” and that financial innovation is fine “as long as it leads to greater social welfare”.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Should History Limit the Commonwealth?

Members of the Commonwealth are predominantly linked by their history with the British Empire, but should this be the limit of the Commonwealth? Should other countries that sign up to the association's beliefs be welcomed into the club?

The Commonwealth’s focus on multi party democracy, human rights, the rule of law, good governance, free press, and socially responsible market orientated policies give it a strong legitimacy in today’s world and allows for the association to become an even stronger force for good.

The shared use of the English language is one of the Commonwealths strongest features. Alongside similar administrative, legal and financial practices it makes doing business in the commonwealth easy. The Shared language makes for the easy and equitable transfer of knowledge around the associations nations.

I see no reason why the Commonwealth should not expand to encompass all nations that share similar views and follow similar practices. Perhaps commonwealth expansion should be one of the topics in the Royal Commonwealth Societies ‘Commonwealth Conversation’ after all a bigger commonwealth would be good for business.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Ghana - Power, Agriculture and AIF 2010

While visiting Ghana for the first time in several years I was fortunate to have the opportunity to call on the President, HE John Atta Mills. It was good to continue our conversation started when CBC hosted him and his team for the Ghana Investment Forum back in May in London.

During my meetings with the President and several Ministers two main themes running through the government’s programme became apparent.

Managing the proceeds of the newly discovered petroleum and gas reserves for growth and development. The President is inviting international investors to work with his government to develop the infrastructure that will make growth happen.

One of the Key restraints on Ghana’s growth and development is access to power. The county’s current capacity is around 2000 Megawatts, Ghana needs to produce around 5000 a year to match the demand. The Government is looking for investors and technology to help produce power from the country’s gas, petroleum and other sources including renewable, and in its delivery to the public.

The second theme of government policy is on agriculture. The Government is determined to enhance production and encourage commercial farming practices, to take Ghana from a net importer of food to an exporter in the shortest time possible.

Ghana, having built on the solid base of democratic principles and an open economy, is fast becoming the model of a modern African economy. I am glad to see Ghana aiming high; to achieve its goal of becoming a middle income country by 2015 the country will have to achieve growth of between 8 and 10% a year and attract international investors to help bridge the infrastructure gap.

My advice to investors everywhere is to use Ghana as the window to Africa, and join us at our Africa Investment Forum in February next year as we hold it in Ghana for the first time.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

African agriculture solution to future food shortages

In recent comments from DEFRA about Food Security in the UK, it was suggested that global food production would have to double by 2050 to feed the growing global population. The Report went on to highlight the Role Genetically Modified crops are likely to play in increasing production as higher yield crops are needed to bring production up to the required level.

While GM will have a role play in the coming years, greater emphasis should be put on Africa as a potential global supplier.

The Current state of much of the agricultural production on the continent is still subsistence based, where families or small communities produce, in many cases, barely enough to live on, let alone a surplus to export.

Africa's potential to become the food basket of the world and supply a large percentage of the Global requirement is enormous, and CBC is working with private sector partners and governments to help increase investment into agriculture across the continent. An upturn in Production has the added benefits of increasing food security, reducing the threat of famine, creating jobs and wealth and driving up the general standard of living across Africa.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Commonwealth Conversation and the Commonwealth Factor

I was very pleased to note that the Foreign Secretary the Rt Hon David Miliband has initiated the dialogue on the future role of the Commonwealth, in this 60th year of operation.

Those of us who work in the Commonwealth recognise its importance, but are disappointed by the lack of recognition the association receives. The Commonwealth is underutilized and I hope this ‘commonwealth conversation’ can help to remedy this.

I was delighted to see that the CBC was identified as one of the key organisations within the commonwealth family alongside the Secretariat and the Commonwealth Foundation, in the Foreign Secretary’s paper ‘Two Billion Voices’.

I believe that member countries benefit most from the commonwealth when they leverage the ‘commonwealth factor’, such as similar administrative, legal, financial and business practices to help enhance trade and investment in their countries. These shared features make trade easy and cheap, and CBC is delighted to have made some small contribution to the increase in Commonwealth Trade from 2 trillion to 3 trillion dollars since its inception in 1997.

The Commonwealth can become an even stronger force for good, promoting, multi party democracy, human rights, the rule of law, good governance and socially responsible market orientated economic policies. Another key factor that binds the commonwealth is the use of the English language, which is a key asset for the economic development of member countries.

Countries that subscribe to these beliefs should be welcomed into the Commonwealth Club and join in its success.

Friday, 24 July 2009

India UK Merger and Acquisitions

Between 2000 and 2008 over 1000 Merger and Acquisitions took place between British and Indian Companies, these deals were worth over 75 billion Dollars. The total number of deals is expected to drop in 2009, due to the financial crisis and less easy access to credit, but the value of those that do go through is expected to remain high.

India and the UK's shared heritage make them ideal business partners and in recent years the quantities of money involved have been impressive, but mainly made up by one or two 'headline' multi-million dollar deals a year.

The next step is to promote the greater interaction between small and medium size companies in both India and the UK, as these are by far the largest employers and would have the greatest impact on the general economy.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Presidents Optimistic about African Future

Over the Weekend I was pleased to catch President Obama’s speech to the Ghanaian Parliament. The US President focused on many issues that I and CBC believe are important for the future prosperity of the African Continent.

President Obama spoke of Africa’s future being in African hands, “aid is not an end in itself. The purpose of foreign assistance must be creating the conditions where it is no longer needed”. He went on to talk of a Continent not only rich in natural resources, but also entrepreneurs where “cell phone entrepreneurs to small farmers, have shown the capacity and commitment to create their own opportunities”
This optimistic view of Africa is shared by HE Paul Kagame who I met last week while he was in the UK to speak at our Africa Business Forum. He commented that the only thing holding Africa back now was the lack of a vibrant business-public sector relationship. “We have the people, we have the recourses and we have proven that investing in Africa gives you the highest possible returns available anywhere in the world”.

I believe that Africa is well positioned to emerge from the recession stronger than ever, and am glad to see that there is a general consensus around the world, after all the continent is still displaying growth rates above the global average. There is a new confidence both within and outside the continent in the African future.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Grenada, the financial crisis and tourism

During this time of financial crisis smaller states need to work hard to find new ways of attracting foreign capital. CBC recently hosted a lunch for the PM of Grenada, Hon. Tillman Thomas; I was interested to hear how he plans to tackle this problem in his own county.

With the reduced numbers of people travelling for the traditional holiday, countries that rely on tourism for a large percentage of their income need to broaden there appeal and try to attract different visitors in addition to the traditional holiday maker. The Prime Minister described how his country was diversifying into, Eco Tourism and Health Tourism. He also talked of making the country self sufficient in terms of Agriculture – he wants the majority of what tourists consume to be produced locally, there should much fewer agricultural products imported for tourists.

I was also glad to hear the Prime Minister talk so passionately about a home grown chocolate bar that has now found a market in Europe.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Mr Sanusi appointed Nigerian Central Bank Governor

Last week I was in Nigeria to attend a Business Breakfast organised by Mr Pascal Dozie, one of CBC’s Board members, and was pleased to catch the Senate Confirmation Hearings of Mr Sanusi Lamido Sansui as the Governor of the Nigerian Central Bank on TV.

I was glad to see Mr Sanusi, former CEO of First Bank, a CBC Member, appointed as the Governor of the Nigerian Central Bank though a true governance process; the senate questioned him in detail on topics of great importance to the banking system and the Nigerian Economy as a whole, including Regulation and Recovery. Coincidently, Mr Sanusi is the Second Central Bank Governor of the same name to move from CEO of First Bank to the Governorship.

In General the impression I got from the Business men and women I met in Lagos was extremely upbeat; there are tremendous opportunities for investors in Nigeria, especially within the Infrastructure sectors. Government and Infrastructure Companies are actively and determinedly seeking outside investors to help develop the infrastructure base, in Lagos and other regions.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Indian Elections

I would like to congratulate Manmohan Singh on his election as India’s Prime Minister, the workings of the world’s largest democracy are an impressive sight nearly 1 billion people have chosen their representatives.

This election marks a particular change in India’s politics; the congress party now has a working majority and can no longer be held to ransom by the smaller parties that were previously able to prevent governments from taking action. With the ruling party now longer beholden to minority interest progress can now be made on the Doha round as both the US and UK want and expect, leading to further economic reforms in the labour, legal and financial spheres.

Equally India has a major role to play in the response to the financial crisis; European and especially UK Business are looking to India as partners for ventures there and abroad with a high expectation of success. Finally with India looking to be one of the big winners in the proposed IMF reforms in terms of voting rights, India role in the global economy and the Institutions that govern it can only grow.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Dealing with Cuba the Commonwealth Way

I am extremely pleased to see the approach the new US President has taken towards Cuba during his first 100 days in office. Moves to lift some of the travel and trade restrictions could open a dialogue between the 2 countries that has been closed since President Kennedy isolated the Island in the 60s.

Engaging the countries that were previously given pariah status is a good step forward, talk that leads to understanding is always preferable to conflict. President Obama is using strategies similar to those we use in the Commonwealth in his dealings with Cuba, by lessening the restriction on Cuba a white house press spokesman reported that the president hopes “that creating independence, creating space for the Cuban people to operate freely from the regime is the kind of space they need to start the process toward a more democratic Cuba”

By engaging in direct dialogue change can be encouraged in good governance, human rights and economic development, this is the approach the Commonwealth has taken and now we are a community of 53 democracies.

Friday, 1 May 2009

South Africa's Elections

I would like to congratulate Jacob Zuma on his recent election as South Africa’s President, and wish him luck with all the challenges that await him, both economic and political. However, while South Africa celebrates his election, it is important not to forget the efforts of his predecessor, Thabo Mbeki.

While President Mbeki’s stance on Aids and Zimbabwe may have been regrettable, his impact on the South African economy cannot be overstated. South Africa’s sustained level of economic growth is the success the Mbeki’s presidency should be remembered for.

Consequently, I was delighted to read over the weekend that Trevor Manual, the South African Minister of Finance closely related to the Countries economic success, looks set to play major role in the Zuma Government. This should allay fears that the new government is not focused closely enough on the Economic side of rule.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Steady Eddie and the Commonwealth Education Fund

I was Saddened to learn that Edward George former Governor of the Bank of England whom I had the pleasure of briefly knowing had passed away.

Most people will know him as ‘Steady Eddie’ from his time at the Bank of England, but I came to know him better through his work at with the Commonwealth Education Fund (CEF). The Fund was set up by Prime Minister, Gordon Brown during his time as Chancellor to help the lower income countries of the Commonwealth achieve the ambitious education targets set out in 2000 in the Millennium Development Goals.

Eddie George Chaired the fund from its inception till its close in 2008 and was a passionate about ensuring children across the commonwealth had the best possible start in life. The CEF’s approach was innovative, by bringing together many different groups the fund aimed to make education a top political priority and matter of open public debate in each country in which it operated.

The CEF had a significant impact in the countries in which it worked, and Eddie will be missed by many in the UK and across the commonwealth.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Agriculture and Insurance in Africa

I am pleased to see that most African countries are moving agriculture to the top of their agenda. Through my interactions with the Heads of Governments in recent months, I have recognised a renewed interest in making Africa the food basket of the world.

This is the right time to take action on agriculture, if governments, the private sector and NGO’s work together a real impact can be made on the lives of those who merely ‘subsist’ across the whole African continent.

The CBC is contributing to this effort, connecting businesses and governments to form the right partnerships for swift progress to be made. In a recent programme report co-authored by Swiss Re (a CBC member) we highlighted an element of agricultural development that’s importance is too often forgotten; insurance. The programme makes suggestions as to how PPPs can be used to enhance agricultural production, and investment in agriculture, buy reducing against volatility assuring more stable returns. To read the report please visit cbcglobal.org

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

The G20, the IMF and the Doha Round

The G20 meeting last week is being hailed as a success and in many respects I think it was, I hope it will be a helpful step on the road to recovery. The meeting represents the start of a new global process as both the developed and emerging economies come together to form a new Global Forum.

For the developing countries, one of the best outcomes was the larger commitments made to the IMF. According to the Closing statement the Organisations resources have been trebled to $750 Billion, consequently the IMF is going to become a much more important actor on the world stage. The next thing on its agenda must be reform and reorganisation to ensure it can match its new responsibilities in restoring the flows of trade and finance to the developing world.

I was, however, disappointed by how little progress was made on international trade. The requisite statements were made regarding resisting protectionism, but a stronger commitment to the Doha round would have been encouraging in this time of decreasing global growth.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Africa to buck recessionary trend

While visiting East Africa last week I had the opportunity to meet with both President Museveni of Uganda and President Kagame of Rwanda to discuss the global financial crisis. It is apparent that there is a lot of innovative thinking going on in Africa right now, around how to resist the severe impact of the Global crisis and maintain the flow of FDI.

A Recent article in Time Magazine ‘Africa a Business Destination’ demonstrated this, reporting that while ‘Africa, usually the poorest performing region in the world economy, is now likely to be among the best-performing’. A consequence of not venturing into the derivatives markets or subprime lending as the west did has left the continent relatively immune to the Global Crisis. While recent the latest estimates for global growth this year look bleak, the same article reports that Africa will ‘buck the recessionary trend’ and grow over 3% this year.

New ideas are emerging regarding investment in Africa in sectors such as Agriculture, Infrastructure and ICT. It is a new reliance on business as cash rich countries such as China and the Middle East look for new markets in which to invest, that will fuel this growth. Even the Investment funds in the UK, Europe and the US are beginning to take serious notice of Africa as an investment destination, practically the agriculture sector.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

The Caribbean and the Financial Crisis

I was in the Caribbean last week preparing for our Business Forum to be held in Trinidad alongside CHOGM later this year, so was meeting with government and business leaders, 2 main concerns seem to be affecting the islands’ leadership.

Firstly that the financial crisis is having a direct impact on the islands economy as the level of tourism drops off as potential visitors in the US and UK chose not to travel or to stay closer to home for their holidays. I hope that the various stimulus packages proposed around the world shorten the duration of the Recession and allow growth and prosperity to resume as soon as possible as a drop in the level of tourism is a serious threat to smaller states.

Secondly, there is an indirect consequence that may potential have a bigger impact on some of the island states. The current trend of viewing tax heavens as separate from the rest of the globalised economy and as singularly bad, the focus should be inclusive and on the greater involvement of small states as part of global competition and as useful elements of the global economy.

Friday, 27 February 2009

The threat to the Burgeoning Bourgeoisie

In the last edition of the economist there was an article, the ‘burgeoning bourgeoisie’ that said ‘for the first time in history more than half the world is middle class’. It also highlighted that while the increase India and China has been, as expected; massive the middle class has increased dramatically across all emerging markets. There are for example 80 million more middle class Sub Saharan Africans today than in 1990.

This growth in prosperity is something I have been working for throughout my career, but it is fragile and millions of lives now rest on the decisions that will be taken in the developed world over the coming months. The banking crisis has left millions of the world’s population in real peril and the longer the crisis continues the more of this new middle class will slip back into poverty.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

From G7 to G20 - The Financial Crisis

The G7 finance ministers meeting on the 13th passed almost un-noticed there were the requisite statements on coordinating the response to the financial crisis, resisting the pull of protectionism, and the importance of free trade, but no progress on an international trade deal, or a global response to the crisis.

The real priority is to shore up the banking system. Governments should take action together to remove toxic assets from banks’ balance sheets through insurance schemes, and reopen the flow of credit. Im surprised that Governments are mainly taking advice from bankers in this restructuring, when input should come from as wide as possible, including other sectors of the economy.

Attention is now focused on the G20 meeting in London in April, with many hoping that it will become the starting point for recovery, for a new global financial and governance structure.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Trade Talks and the Financial Crisis

The current state of the world economy and the financial crisis makes the successful conclusion of the Doha Round of trade talks all the more unlikely.

The Heads of the G8 Countries are making all the right noises about resisting the draw of protectionism in a retracting market situation and with increasing unemployment at home, but for all this, the result is the same; the Round is not likely to be completed in the present climate and almost certainly not within the year.

While I congratulate Pascal Lamy for his continuous and seemingly untiring efforts to keep moving forward with the Round, I do not believe that either the upcoming G8 or G20 meetings will hasten the conclusion of the Doha talks.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Slumdog Millionaires….

While in Bombay last Month my wife and I along with some colleagues from the UK and Canada, saw Slumdog Millionaire, I thought it was an exceptional film, Danny Boyle should be extremely proud, particularly of the way he captured the image of India. I know the author personally, we met while he worked at the Indian High Commission in the UK, I had the pleasure of reading an early version of the book, it’s a great and inspirational story.

I was however disturbed to read, the allegations lodged against the films makers that the children who starred in the film were paid almost nothing and are still living in the same conditions as when they were discovered by the casting scouts.

I hope these allegations are not true, and that some of the films profits will reach the people who live in the slums, particularly the kids who starred in the film, as Danny Boyle has since said. There is a potential millionaire, born every day in all the Slums of India.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Scandals and Corporate Governance

During my recent trip to India, the papers were full of stories about corporate governance triggered by the recent Satyam Scandal. Satyam was one of India’s top 4 IT Companies and the 2008 winner of the coveted Golden Peacock Award for Corporate Governance under Risk Management and Compliance Issues, of which it has since been stripped.

The arrest of Satyam’s senior leaders including, Vadlamani Srinivas, Ramalinga Raju, and his brother Rama Raju on charges of false accounting and fraud in what has been described as India’s ‘Enron’, coupled with the Madoff scandal in the US, the largest investor fraud ever committed by a single person, clearly demonstrates the need for system of corporate governance based on values and transparency.

These 2 scandals highlight the danger of putting too much faith in a single person rather than an Organisations as a whole, the leading figures in both scandals took advantage of their positions and reputations to defraud large numbers of people who trusted and entrusted them with their money. While the majority of business leaders are upstanding and trustworthy, there should be no circumstances when a leader should be above their organisation.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

India and the emerging markets the solution to the Credit Crunch?

In the context of the recession and ‘credit crunch’ I think people would have been amazed had they been in Gujarat yesterday and the day before, nearly 20 000 people attended the opening of the Vibrant Gujarat Global Investor’s summit 2009. India’s captains of industry and its top business leaders were present for the summit as well as representatives from governments around the world.

In the session I chaired, ‘Infrastructure with a focus on Special Investment Regions’ there was a stampede to sign MOU’s, it was an amazing site, to see so much confidence in India’s particularly Gujarat’s growth. Companies from all round the world were falling on each other to sign, Japan, Germany, the US, the UK, China, Korea and South Africa among many others.

The PM of Kenya and the Vice President of Uganda along with the numerous ministers from many African and Asian countries who were present for the summit seemed almost dazed at first by the response from business were desperate to learn from the experience.

The summit is the perfect antidote to all the news floating around about investors to nervous to invest. It was a hugely encouraging experience, India; especially Gujarat is the place to be. I have no doubt the solution to the credit crunch lies in emerging markets like India where there is still growth and the opportunities for business, as demonstrated over the last couple of days, is huge.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Dubai, Singapore and Malaysia optimistic about global financial crisis

Before the Christmas break I had the pleasure of taking a whistle stop tour of Dubai, Singapore and Malaysia. It gave me the opportunity to see firsthand just how ‘global’ the current financial crisis is, reaching out from the west, and affecting the rest of the world.

In Dubai the construction industry, long a pillar of the countries growth, has ground to a virtual halt and the price of Real Estate has dropped dramatically, but there is none of the panic or pessimism that’s visible in the west.

Following meetings with several of the financial groups in Dubai the impression I received was one of optimism in the long term. There was the belief that this current crisis was inevitable, that the last few years growth had been unrealistic and un-sustainable, and that the current recession is a correction.

There is even less pessimism in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, the belief that the storm can be weathered is strongly rooted and that after a period of stock taking growth will resume, albeit with more realistic returns. This feeling of optimism is something that I and the CBC will tap into as we actively participate in both Dubai and Malaysia later in the coming year.