There are billions of dollars up for grabs in trading opportunities at the upcoming Commonwealth Business Forum, slated for next week in Sri Lanka, just days from the Heads of Government meetings.
And Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean have been told they need to “be at the table” to benefit.
The advice came from advisor to the Commonwealth Business Council, Arif Zaman, who told Barbados TODAY that the last business forum of Commonwealth states in Australia saw some $14 billion in business being done, but the problem was the countries of this region were largely absent.
“We need strong participation and representation from Barbados in the business forum. The business forum is not just about networking and presentations, we do business there. The last time we did this in Australia two years ago, the amount of business we did in 72
hours was $14 billion. There were very few people from Barbados in the room when those deals were being done, there were very few people from the Caribbean in the room when those deals were being done.
“There is no reason at all why people from Barbados shouldn’t get on a flight, register for the event and participate in the business forum. We are pushing very hard to give space to the Caribbean. You have three Heads of State from the Caribbean who are coming to the business forum [this year in Sri Lanka]. How powerful would it be to have powerful and effective businesspeople, men and women, from the Caribbean
at the business forum? So we need that strong participation from the Caribbean at the business forum to actually bring home opportunities for
business in Barbados and elsewhere,” said Zaman in a recent interview.
The Commonwealth Business Forum is scheduled for November 12 to 14 in Colombo, with the Heads of Government Meeting following immediately from November 15 to 17. Zaman said the leaders of Barbados, St Kitts and Nevis and Trinidad and Tobago are expected to attend the meetings.
Zaman, also chair of the Commonwealth Business Women’s Network, said women as well needed to be part of the process.
Access to finance and skills, access to global supply chains and women’s representation on boards and in senior decision- making roles, he said, had been identified as the three key areas of concern for women.
“So one of the other things we are doing at the business forum is bringing businesswomen from around the world together at the Commonwealth to identify pilot programmes and pilot initiatives in these three areas, and we need Barbados to be in the room so when those decisions are taken, Barbados and the region are able to benefit from those pilot programmes.” Additionally, Zaman advised that Barbados needed to assess what its future business model was going to be.
“We need to help people connect with the fast growing markets tomorrow. What is the future business model for Barbados, what will drive Barbados’ growth in the next five, 10, 20 years in terms? I would suggest strongly that the answer will not come from the UK or Canada or any of the traditional markets, but increasingly from developing countries in Asia, Africa and elsewhere. To enable Barbados to benefit, we will need Barbados to be looking at that right now.” (LB)