The Commonwealth Business Forum (CBF) is fast approaching. As the public and private sectors prepare to capitalize on the opportunities they present, here’s what you need to know about what’s on the agenda.
The CBF is one of four special forums to be held during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), scheduled to take place in Kigali from June 21-23.
It will bring together heads of government, captains of industry and business executives, heads of global and regional development institutions, young entrepreneurs and representatives of trade and investment organizations from across the Commonwealth.
Over 1,000 delegates are expected at the three-day forum at the Kigali Conference & Exhibition Village (KCEV) at Camp Kigali.
Being the first and largest in-person gathering for Commonwealth governments and businesses since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the forum experience has been designed to provide different ways to create meaningful connections, exchange knowledge, contribute to impactful dialogue and consume information. A series of high-level speakers are expected to grace the forum, including heads of government such as; HE Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda and new current President of the Commonwealth, Rt. Hon. Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Rt. Hon. Mia Amor Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, HE Hakainde Hichilema, President of the Republic of Zambia, Rt. Hon. Gaston Browne Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda and Rt. Hon. Philip Davis Prime Minister of the Bahamas.
The discussions and initiatives will focus on the theme: “Delivering a common future: connect, innovate and transform”.
As such, the CBF is expected to address key topics such as connecting the Commonwealth in terms of trade and regional integration, bridging the digital divide and improving ecosystems and global value chains.
Participants will explore topics such as financing future growth, trade and regional integration, and the future of work.
The forum will feature 14 plenary and breakout sessions with discussions that shape agendas, generate ideas and share best practice on strategies Commonwealth businesses can apply to rebuild after the pandemic.
Additionally, there will be three Thought Leadership Think Tanks, with expert-led meetings that will explore challenges and discuss ideas for proposing avenues of research, advocacy, and designing frameworks to implement solutions for Commonwealth member states.
Forum delegates will also conduct three site exploration visits on priority sectors such as innovation, health and agribusiness.
Commenting on his expectations from the forum, George Odhiambo, Managing Director of BPR Bank Rwanda Plc and one of the speakers at the forum, said:
“We can do more when we unite as the banking industry across the Commonwealth and together accelerate business towards sustainable models.”
Odhiambo believes businesses can be empowered to connect to more regional and global markets through the forum.
Soraya Hakuziyaremye, Deputy Governor of the National Bank of Rwanda, said the forum is timely as Commonwealth countries seek to increase trade with each other and provide an opportunity for the private sector to strike more deals in person than virtually. .
“As we look at the caliber of speakers, particularly at the level of government leaders, it will be very interesting for our industry leaders from sectors like tourism and hospitality to learn from what speakers from tourism like the Caribbean, Barbados and Jamaica will share,” she pointed out.
As the central bank, Hakuziyaremye, said, they are eager to engage with countries on regulatory frameworks that do not stifle technological innovations but keep financial sector stability in check.
The final day of the forum will host a roundtable of government leaders and CEOs.
The forum will also include exhibit and partner networking areas and a VIP networking lounge that will host bilateral meetings, provide spaces for meetings held during the forum and allow for informal networking.
Business players in Rwanda and the region are optimistic about networking and opportunities for market expansion, especially as the world grapples with the economic impact of the pandemic and the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian war.
The leaders hope to propose consolidated efforts to address global issues such as the food security crisis, inflation, economic recovery and the impacts of climate change.
The Commonwealth community presents potential economic opportunities as intra-Commonwealth exports are expected to grow steadily over the next five years and exceed US$1 trillion by 2026. Global exports of goods and services from member countries s amounted to US$4.3 trillion in 2021.
The leaders are also looking forward to cementing South-South cooperation in trade, investment and politics.