The Modern Commonwealth

Dr Prem Sharma OBE, CBiol, FRSB Chairman, The Magna Carta Foundation Tuesday 15th June 2021 08:13 EDT

After Brexit, the Commonwealth provides an opportunity to leverage “Commonwealth” for global good for promoting strong economic and cultural linkages as well as the use of English as the most spoken language in the world.


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. The Commonwealth has shown a tremendous rise in Trade and investment flows in the last 20 years. 


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.


Yes, there are no common geographic borders or fronts between the UK and other Commonwealth countries. In Africa, however, there are common business practices, languages, agreements and treaties between them, which offer excellent opportunities to companies to succeed in their global trade. The corporates which have identified these synergies and explored them have excelled in the international arena. 


The Commonwealth also has some of the world’s largest economies as members, like India, Australia, Canada, South Africa, Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand, and Nigeria. 54 Commonwealth countries big and small are located in all continents of the world.


I foresee more joined up opportunities for businesses across the Commonwealth countries. The United Kingdom enjoys favourable business agreements with all Commonwealth nations and British companies are using India, Malaysia, South Africa and other Commonwealth countries as manufacturing bases, having taken advantage of similar practices and ease of doing business. .


While we all are aware of the fast economic growth of Asian countries like India, Malaysia and Singapore, Africa is also rising fast. I am pleased to say that several of the world's fastest growing economies are in Africa. In fact, as a firm believer in the growth potential of Africa, I have extensive experience of work in Nigeria. My advice to companies looking for expansion is to expand in Commonwealth countries, particularly in the African continent.


Also, when it comes to investing in Commonwealth developing countries, do not go in with the expectations of a quick profit, as these destinations work for your long-term investment plans, not short-term gains. Another factor which makes this common frontier special is the people, who have specific ties to a large number of British people. 


Indian, Asian and African companies are hungry for expansion and they see the UK as a financial hub where they can list on the LSE and AIM to raise their profile and IPO. In fact, I believe, the London Stock Exchange (LSE) is a favoured route for globally ambitious companies seeking capital to fund their growth. Moreover, such companies are raising capital in the UK (London) to invest in African and Commonwealth opportunities, increasingly in infrastructure.  


Though we are seeing more trade between Commonwealth countries, what large Commonwealth countries like UK, India, Australia, Canada and others should next look into is exploring closer links in academia and R&D. They should invest in technology transfers and collaborations for business growth and high returns. 


To sustain high growth Commonwealth countries need to focus on expanding trade and investment between each other to sustain their high growth rates and better infrastructure, better technology and better education. The UK with its strong R&D base, education & skills and financial centre status is an ideal partner in this common frontier.


Lastly, I would like to emphasise the role the Commonwealth can play in becoming the food basket for the world. The Commonwealth countries in Africa like Nigeria have a great potential of developing agriculture and food production for the world. This can be done with technology and investment partnerships with UK companies. 

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