Without Covid-19 disruptions, business and government leaders from across the Commonwealth would have convened in Kigali, Rwanda this week for the 26th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).
The Lord Mayor of London and I were looking forward to participating in the Business Forum side events.
The theme for this year’s postponed Commonwealth gathering - “Delivering a Common Future: Connecting, Innovating, Transforming” - becomes even more relevant and essential given the health and economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.
With a powerful trade and investment agenda and 19 member states located in Africa, the vision and intent of the Commonwealth matters to me, in my role as Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioner for Africa.
I have written before about how increased Commonwealth collaboration on trade and investment can deliver shared prosperity and support inclusive and sustainable growth.
The key themes for the coming Summit, around innovation and transformation, go to the very heart of how we can choose to (re)build our world and our economies from the ravages of Covid-19 in ways that:
- Create greater resilience, to future pandemics and the impacts of climate change;
- Invest to generate meaningful jobs, including for the millions of young people coming into the workforce and the millions more who will need to re-skill to stay relevant;
- Support greater inclusion and equality in our economies, to enable the full talent of all our people to flourish; and
- Use technology to reduce the carbon emissions in products and processes, to create a cleaner, green global economy and also continue to grow and prosper.
All of this speaks to how we operate within our communities, organisations and associations to invest in our shared future, together.
We are working with UK companies across Africa to support the region’s ambitions on universal energy access and to strengthen further Africa’s renewable power and green energy production. We’re also working with UK businesses focused on reducing carbon emissions, including as part of the #RacetoZero campaign.
The UK Government is adapting some of its aid programmes to more directly address the impacts of the pandemic across Africa, in partnership with African leaders and regional institutions, including to strengthen healthcare systems.
We have seen some dramatic shifts over the last few months in the way we use technology to enable remote working and remote education; and there is so much technology already out there to enable greater access to healthcare, training and skills, off-grid renewable energy, food security and more besides.
Our shared challenge is in harnessing these innovations; and financing and scaling them to have the impact we want to see in our world.
When it comes to financing, there is no better place in the world to look than London.
As the 692nd Lord Mayor of the City of London, Alderman William Russell says himself: “With its depth of expertise and global reach, the Commonwealth is exceptionally well placed to play a leadership role in speeding the recovery worldwide after the Covid-19 Pandemic. I look forward to attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting when it is able to go ahead, to further strengthen the strong links between the Commonwealth and the City as we build back better. A priority for us all will be a green recovery. In the City we are looking at how institutional investors increase sustainable investment. London is a leader in the sustainable finance arena with numerous green tech firms that call the City home and London-based initiatives like the Green Finance Institute. As a centre for inclusive finance, we have the expertise and creative ecosystem to identify innovative banking solutions making London the best placed financial centre to support innovation across the Commonwealth.’’
In spite of and because of the dramatic impact of Covid-19, the UK remains committed to the Commonwealth and to the African continent. We continue to promote global free trade, including keeping supply chains open through the global lockdown.
And we are determined to rebuild our economies more resiliently and inclusively; cleaner and greener. The Commonwealth family remains an important part of this picture for us.
The writer is the UK Trade Commissioner for Africa.