Rwanda: Commonwealth Business Forum – What is on Agenda?

The Commonwealth Business Forum (CBF) is around the corner. As the public and private sector gears up to leverage the opportunities it presents, here is what you need to know about what is on the agenda.

The CBF is one of four special forums that will be held during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), slated to take place in Kigali from June 21 to 23.

It will bring together government leaders, captains of industry and business executives, leaders 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 to attend the three-day forum at the Kigali Conference & Exhibition Village (KCEV) at Camp Kigali.

Being the first and largest in-person gathering for governments and businesses across the Commonwealth 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 range of high-profile speakers are expected to grace the forum, including government leaders such as; H.E. Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda and Incoming Chair-in-Office of the Commonwealth, Rt. Hon. Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Rt. Hon. Mia Amor Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, H.E. Hakainde Hichilema, President of the Republic of Zambia, Rt. Hon. Gaston Browne Prime Minister of Antigua & Barbuda and Rt. Hon. Philip Davis Prime Minister of the Bahamas.

Discussions and initiatives will address the theme: “Delivering a Common Future: Connecting, Innovating, and Transforming.”

As such, the CBF is expected to address key topics like connecting the Commonwealth in terms of trade and regional integration, bridging the digital divide, and improving ecosystems and global value chains.

The participants will explore topics such as financing future growth, trade and regional integration, and the future of work.

The forum will have 14 plenaries and breakout sessions with discussions that shape agendas, generate insights and share best practice knowledge on strategies businesses in the Commonwealth can apply as they build back post-pandemic.

Additionally, there will be three Thought Leadership Think Tanks, with meetings led by experts who will explore challenges and discuss ideas to propose pathways to research, advocate and design frameworks to implement solutions for the Commonwealth member states.

Forum delegates will also conduct three exploration site visits on priority sectors such as Innovation, Healthcare, 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, noted:

“We can do more when we unite as the banking sector across the Commonwealth and together accelerate business towards sustainable models.”

Odhiambo believes businesses can be empowered to connect with more regional and global markets through the forum.

Soraya Hakuziyaremye, Deputy Governor of the National Bank of Rwanda, said the forum is timely as countries within the Commonwealth seek to increase trade with each other and presents an opportunity for the private sector to strike more deals in person than virtually.

“When we look at the caliber of speakers, especially at heads of government level, it will be very interesting for our industry leaders from sectors like tourism and hospitality to learn from what speakers from tourism-led economies like the Caribbean, Barbados and Jamaica will share,” she highlighted.

As the central bank, Hakuziyaremye said, they look forward to exchanging with countries on regulatory frameworks that do not stifle technological innovations but keep the financial sector’s stability in check.

The forum’s last day will host a Heads of Government and CEOs Roundtable.

The forum will also feature Partner Exhibition and Networking Zones and a VIP Networking Lounge that will host bilateral meetings, offer spaces for meetings arranged during the forum and allow informal networking.

Business actors in Rwanda and the region are upbeat about networking and prospective market expansion opportunities, especially when the world is grappling with the economic impact of the pandemic and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.

Leaders hope to come up with consolidated efforts to address global issues such as food security crisis, inflation, economic recovery, and climate change impacts.

The Commonwealth community presents potential economic opportunities given that intra-Commonwealth exports are projected to grow steadily over the next five years and surpass US$1 trillion by 2026. Global exports of goods and services from member countries were worth US$4.3 trillion in 2021.

Leaders are also looking forward to cementing south-south cooperation in trade, investment, and politics.

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