‘Nigeria, others can leverage Commonwealth advantage for strategic relationships’
Mrs. Rosie Glazebrook is the Chief Executive of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council (CWEIC). In this interview, she talks about efforts to connect businesses in Nigeria and other Commonwealth countries to global opportunities while sustaining sectoral linkages. She spoke to FEMI ADEKOYA
You were appointed the chief executive of the CWEIC just this month. So, what will partners be expecting from you?
Maybe I can start with a little bit of background about the Commonwealth Enterprise Investment Council (CWEIC), which gives the context about how we work with our Strategic Partners. We are an industry body that exists to connect businesses and governments across the 54 Commonwealth countries. We reach out to a huge population across the world. We see a great advantage, which we call the Commonwealth advantage through our shared language and shared legal system and history, and longstanding links together.
In total, we have about 100 Strategic Partners of which we have more numbers in Nigeria, which is one of the purposes of my visit here. This time we have 15 in Nigeria. And also I want to mention that we have 10 hubs around the world, including here in Nigeria where we have representatives, and across the world from the United Kingdom, Australia, India, Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Malta, Gibraltar, Ghana, etc. So, we have a wide network of hubs that is available for our Strategic Partners to work closely with.
The purpose of my visit this time is to meet the Strategic Partners we have in Nigeria. I am very pleased to be meeting many of our Strategic Partners and also potential Strategic Partners. There are a number of businesses being invited to join our network as Strategic Partners in the several meetings I have had since arriving in Nigeria to understand our priorities.
The other activities that are helping to achieve these are to raise awareness of the Commonwealth Business Forum (CBF 2022) and also to bring some of my understanding to the Nigerian market by listening to some of the needs of our Strategic Partners who are here. We also have a Nigerian International Advisory Council which consists of all our Strategic Partners in Nigeria and I will also be co-chairing the council meeting with our Nigerian Chair, Mr. Olasupo Shasore of African Law Practice NG & Company.
How will the CWEIC help Nigeria to improve its Ease of Doing Business?
The first thing to say is that the CWEIC is an enabler and makes the introductions where there are obstacles that may have to do with policy issues or challenges of having visibility at the right place, we are able to use our hub network and access to different organisations at very senior levels, for example, the Commonwealth Business Forum, to really facilitate that. This will help Nigerian companies have their voices heard in an international context. We have the Commonwealth Law Network (CLN), which has multiple members of law professional firms in the CWEIC Strategic Partnership that have Nigerian representatives on it. So we bring together people with common aims and also provide visibility and access to key decision-makers in government and other businesses.
Is Nigeria still attractive to the Commonwealth for investments given the country’s rising economic relation with China?
There are great investment opportunities in Nigeria from a CWEIC perspective. We see huge opportunities here. We have talked about energy transition and that is certainly a key area for opportunities for us to do more work with Nigeria. And having meetings with some of our Strategic Partners, their desire to expand their connections in an international context that we can help. And that is bringing opportunities back into Nigeria. I met with some leaders in the chambers of commerce and we were discussing how we can work together to bring knowledge to Nigeria. In answer to your question, yes we see opportunities here. But I cannot comment on Nigeria’s relationship with China. But from the CWEIC perspective, we will prioritise our relationship with Nigeria. This is my first overseas visit and we see fantastic opportunities to build our relationship together. The first thing I did when I joined CWEIC was to look at where we have great opportunities and that is why I have come here.
Why did you choose Nigeria as your first overseas destination?
It is because we have very strong relationships with our Strategic Partners here. We have the potential to grow our relationship with future Strategic Partners, and that is why we have had the whole series of meetings over my short time here. We really want to encourage trade and investment opportunities between different Commonwealth countries. And Nigeria is very well placed in Africa for me to see how we can do that. My background is in interfacing businesses and governments. But I am also interested in my meetings in Nigeria around professional services and standards. That is something that I will like to understand more about how we can work together across the Commonwealth to build some further links. There is also the Commonwealth Standard network and I am also involved in the British Standards institutions. So, that seems to be an area that I am interested in.
It is very much about encouraging the Nigerian community to prioritise going to the business forum in Rwanda on June 21 and 23. The program will reflect the interest of businesses here and our Strategic Partners are part of that program.
What sectors are you targeting within the next 12 months?
That is a very good question. We talked a bit about energy security and I am sure that will certainly be one of them. Another area that we are looking at in our program is professional services. The other area is food security and how that will be impacted by the events in the world today. I think the other area for some of our members is tourism, particularly in the 32 smaller Commonwealth countries. The other key theme is around sustainability and climate change making sure that it is kept at the forefront. We are also looking at financial services and fintech and making sure that we listen to our Strategic Partners and picking areas that are particularly of interest to them and where we think that we can add the most value. We are really going to prioritise some of these.
Over the years we have seen an increased interest in the transition from fossil energy to cleaner energy sources. How will the CWEIC help Nigeria to accelerate its transition to cleaner energy?
I joined very recently. This is my first visit since I took on the job this month. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we put together a series of webinars and in particular those around energy security and other aspects with our Strategic Partners, and now we are able to work in person. It will be something we will be discussing in the next few months. And looking forward is how we can make sure that the voices of our Nigerian Strategic Partners and businesses are part of that conversation. And certainly, in my meetings, this issue of sustainability was a common theme among many of our Strategic Partners who are working in the energy sector. So, we will be looking to bring together different views and work with experts in the field to encourage sharing of information and best practice and knowledge. And that is one of the key themes we will be looking at.
What is your message of hope to Nigeria’s business community?
My message of hope to the Nigerian business community is that there are such opportunities coming out of the pandemic and being able to make these connections really work for businesses. My message of hope for Nigerian businesses is “please come to the Commonwealth Business Forum (CBF 2022) to have the maximum visibility and connections that we think that we can really help businesses here to have. We hope that we are doing really valuable work for the Nigerian business community and the list of our Strategic Partners is evidence of the importance they put on the success of our network.
Of what benefit is CWEIC to Nigerian businesses?
What CWEIC offers is a number of key things. The first is facilitating access to the top level of government. We are able to connect businesses at the top level of government. That gives you a flavor of how we support our Strategic Partners.
In June the Commonwealth Business Forum (CBF 2022) will be taking place in Kigali, Rwanda. What do you seek to achieve with the forum?
The Commonwealth Business Forum (CBF 2022) is organized by Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council (CWEIC) in partnership with the Government of Rwanda, the CBF 2022 will address the Commonwealth Head of Governments Meeting (CHOGM) Theme; Delivering a Common Future: Connecting, Innovating, Transforming with a focus on rebuilding and reinvigorating the global economy post-COVID, and the leadership role the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth private sector can play in accomplishing this. This is the first time the Commonwealth Head of Governments Meeting (CHOGM) will be returning to Africa after quite a long time and the business forum is for three days before the CHOGM meeting. We are delighted that His Excellency, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda will be opening the business forum while The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Mr. Boris Johnson, will be attending the CBF 2022 as well as The Prince of Wales. One of the key themes at the CBF is energy and energy security. It is a very big program of different events involving speakers and our Nigerian Strategic Partners will be sitting on panels and contributing at this event to a global audience of key leaders across the Commonwealth’s biggest businesses. It is a very important flagship event for all Commonwealth countries and His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, will also be attending the CHOGM. I think from the perspective of the CWEIC, we want to encourage as many businesses from Nigeria to bring delegations and to have their voice heard at this very important event. I am delighted that so many of them are planning to attend.
How can the CWEIC intervene to enhance the capacity of Nigerian youths?
One area where we are very interested also in prioritizing is skills in young people and we collaborate closely with the Association of Commonwealth Universities. One of the areas we will be looking into to do more is forming partnerships between academic partners, the universities, and the business sector. And that may take the form of internships and upscaling stuff within some of the industries here and elsewhere and that is another area that I am particularly interested in going. Nigeria has a very young workforce and education is very much prioritised here. So, I am hopeful that that might be an area that we look to do more on.
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