African Business Chamber (AfBC) hosted the Annual Midlands – Africa Business Forum 2022 in Birmingham to coincide with the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games under the theme “Accelerating Economic, Trade, Investment, Tourism and Cultural Relationships to Unlock and Drive Sustainable Growth”
Speakers in attendance included Nathi Mthethwa – Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture, Government of South Africa, Jeremy Lefroy – Board Member, Eastern Africa Association (EEA), Former Member of Parliament for Stafford, Prime Minister trade envoy for Ethiopia, champion of the Kenya – UK Healthcare Partnership; Manoah Esipisu – Kenyan High Commissioner to the UK; John L Mugerwa – Ambassador/Deputy High Commissioner, Uganda High Commission; David Grady – CFO at Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games Organising Committee; Opeyemi Abebe – Adviser & Head, Trade Competitiveness Section, Trade, Oceans and Natural Resources Directorate, The Commonwealth Secretariat; Paul Forrest – Director, West Midlands Economic Forum; Stephen Cartwright – Head, Trade & Developing Markets, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO); Agnes Gitau – Managing Partner, GBS Africa; Pumela Salela – UK Country Head, Brand South Africa; Papa Kow Bartels – Head, Trade and Investment, Ghana High Commission; Dr Thomas Domboka – Head of Business Department and Associate Professor, Birmingham City Business School; Jeff Madzingo – CEO, Diaspora Insurance Dr Abdi Rahman, Director for Midlands College of Commerce.
Eugene Nizeyimana, Chief Executive, African Business Chamber stated at the opening of the forum: “The Commonwealth Games is a golden opportunity and unique moment to strengthen existing Midlands Africa relationships, open new links and build legacy. The AfBC Forum aims to drive and increase Midlands’s commercial connectivity and strengthen economic ties, boost trade and investment relations. In addition, drive innovation and cross border entrepreneurship. It will also support to jump start tourism and travel economy, cultural and diaspora linkages with African countries during the games and beyond”. “We are seeing the benefits of the Games already. Kora, the Nigerian FinTech payment startup headquartered in Canada has announced its partnership with the Birmingham City Council to launch its fully operational UK office in the region”.
Nathi Mthethwa graced the forum and highlighted the importance of leveraging global sports and cultural events such as The Commonwealth Games to drive long-term economic benefits for sustainable growth and development. Discussed Ekhaya concept, objectives and successes of previous Centres hosted across the World to promote South Africa to the world as a sport, cultural and tourism destination including the upcoming 2023 Netball World Cup (NWC2023).
Furthermore, supporting to unlock creativity and innovation by supporting artists such as Nene Mahlangu, Thato Kokwana, ‘Ntate’ Vusi Mahlasela, Asanda, Qadasi and Maqhinga (Maskandi Multi cultural duo music), The Joy Acapella Music and Ensemble and Msaki (Pop Music Vocalist). Finally, thanked all South African athletes who has kept the flag flying high. Their achievements dominated by women athletes in this women’s Month continues in the footsteps of Banyana-Banyana by putting smiles in the faces of South Africans.
Jeremy Lefroy, Board Member, Eastern Africa Association (EEA), shared his experience living and working in Tanzania and being the PM trade envoy for Ethiopia. Jeremy has founded and runs Equity for Africa which seeks to alleviate poverty in a self-sustaining way by creating jobs through investing in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Africa.
The discussions and presentations covered various topical areas including: Ways to enhance UK – Africa relations through sports and culture. Establishing stronger Commonwealth Games legacy to accelerate economic, trade competitiveness, investment flow, tourism, travel economy and cultural relationships to unlock and drive sustainable growth. Increasing import and export through Africa Growth Gateway programme.
Unlocking new economic and market growth opportunities for businesses and investors in countries such as South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria and Uganda. Doing business in Africa and navigating the economic environment. Further discussion explored ways to strengthen education partnerships, knowledge transfer, innovation and entrepreneurship between the Midlands and African Universities. Final presentation, looked on solving diaspora challenges through entrepreneurship.
The forum was attended by diverse stakeholders, business leaders, government officials, academia, entrepreneurs, and investors who appreciated the discussions as being informative and in line with current economic trends and growing interests of the UK companies to do business with Africa.
The forum was supported by key partners including Brand South Africa, Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, Department for International Trade (DIT), UK, West Midland Growth Company, West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), Visit Birmingham, Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Birmingham Commonwealth Association (BCA), African High Commissions and sponsors including Diaspora Insurance .