Former Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Gibraltar, Lieutenant General Edward Davis CB CBE has been appointed Chair of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council (CWEIC) which opened its Gibraltar-based office in Casemates Barracks in June this year with Jared Peralta as CWEIC Gibraltar Country Director.
Insight talks to Lieutenant General Davis about his new role.
“The architect behind CWEIC was Lord Marland who is the Chair of the overarching organisation which is headquartered in London in the Guildhall,” Lieutenant General Davis explains.
“Lord Luce, the first Chancellor of the University of Gibraltar, recommended me to Lord Marland who then approached me and asked if I would be interested to take on the role of Chair because of my Gibraltar connections and my desire to stay connected with Gibraltar and to help in any way which is useful going forward, and this seemed to be a good way of doing that,” he says.
CWEIC was set up in 2014 as a private non-profit Commonwealth affiliated business and government networking organisation with the remit of providing business to business, government to government, sometimes government to business contacts for commercial entities across the Commonwealth to better understand where business opportunities are, to get into those markets, develop detailed business plans and then deliver competitive services or goods.
“With Gibraltar the focus is mostly on services, but there are still goods that Gibraltar might want to market, whether that is a vehicle or gin, there are places interested in such products,” Lieutenant General Davis states.
“We have set up two fora under the auspices of Gibraltar’s CWEIC Office – one is the Commonwealth Advisory Forum and that consists of the Government of Gibraltar, a variety of the professional business organisations and other affiliated Commonwealth organisations such as the Gibraltar Royal Commonwealth Society, with the idea being to bring all of those organisations and government departments together that are Commonwealth facing so we can gain a common understanding of what everybody is doing in order to synchronise collective efforts.”
He goes on to say that this enables the CWEIC’s Gibraltar Office to understand where Gibraltar’s business ecosystem is and thus best support the second forum, the Strategic Partners Delivery Group in developing and delivering their business objectives in the Commonwealth market place.
“A Strategic Partner from our perspective is a partner who values this office’s ability to effectively contribute to the business’s reputation, its market access and ultimately its business growth.” The CWEIC Gibraltar Office will be able to access business opportunity across 30 of the 54 Commonwealth Nations and associated overseas territories. “At this point there are members of the network that aren’t actually Commonwealth countries but they are part of the Commonwealth’s wider global business ecosystem, for example there is a similar office to this one in Dubai.”
The CEWIC Gibraltar office will support their strategic partners by helping them to establish, develop and sustain productive relationships across the Commonwealth’s business ecosystem to enable sustainable business growth. Lieutenant General Davis explains that they will do that by leveraging the CWEIC’s connecting power, its convening power, and its curating power to inform, facilitate and promote Gibraltarian businesses. At the moment there are six members of the Strategic Partners Group, three of them governmental and three from the business sector. “The Department and Office of Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia is a member because the Deputy Chief Minister takes the overarching HM Government of Gibraltar lead on Commonwealth engagement,” he comments. “Visit Gibraltar from the tourism side and the Gibraltar’s Finance Centre are also partners.” The other three strategic partners are the Bassadone Automotive Group, the car distributors Capurro and Hassans Law Firm. “We aim to grow the number of strategic partners incrementally – not only in numbers but importantly across sectors – whether that is from the online sports betting and gaming industry, insurance, banking, or funds and investment, and we have also been talking to the Chamber of Commerce and the Gibraltar Federation of Small Businesses.”
Ideally, Lieutenant General Davis says, they want to have a cross-section of businesses in respect of goods and services that are a holistic and complete representation of Gibraltar’s business ecosystem. “My view is that Gibraltarian companies will join the CWEIC network for specific business objectives that we can help them to deliver.”
“Gibraltar has got an assured market back into the UK which we know has already been agreed and formally mandated, we remain to see what comes of the relationship with the EU through the ongoing negotiations regarding the agreement that is being brokered through the EU Commission for the future relationship between Gibraltar and Spain. At the same time, and complementary to that, is the Commonwealth marketplace of 2.4 billion people, an economy of about 10 trillion which offers a great deal of opportunity for Gibraltarian businesses to partner with Commonwealth businesses.” Whether that is bringing Commonwealth businesses into Gibraltar, whether it is Gibraltarian businesses setting up in Commonwealth countries or, indeed, a combination of both of these for mutually-beneficial joint venture development. “There is a great market place out there from which I think Gibraltar businesses, carefully considered, carefully targeted and carefully enabled can realise considerable business growth for the economy of Gibraltar.”
Earlier this year CWEIC took part in a focused webinar on the Port & Shipping sectors, featuring Minister Daryanani as a key panellist. In previous webinars, CWEIC has hosted keynote speakers ranging from Nobel Prize winners to former UK Prime Ministers covering a plethora of topics and issues. Next year the plan, Covid permitting, is to create a Gibraltar Plc team to represent Gibraltar at the Commonwealth Business Forum (CBF) in Rwanda and to wave the flag on the Commonwealth stage.
“I think that this is all about Global Gibraltar developing business opportunity alongside Global Britain. Given Gibraltar’s ambition to have an increasing global business footprint, then the Commonwealth has to be a good place to develop this global business footprint,” he comments.
Asked if the Commonwealth is still an important entity, Lieutenant General Davis states that: “It is as important today as it was yesterday and I think it will be even more important in the future.”