Alan Gemmell is the CEO of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council (CWE- IC) and a Director of the British Council in India and Minister (Cultural Affairs).
Leading an operation of 600 staff with 14 offices in 9 cities across India, Alan was responsible for the 2017 UK-India Year of Culture, announced by Prime Minister Modi in 2015, whose success was celebrated by the Prime Minister during his April 2018 visit to London for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.
Under him, the organisation diversified its income with significant growth in customers, new commercial partnerships and contracts with state governments across India. In his previous posting, he transformed the British Council’s activity in Israel, raising £7million and creating the UK’s first multi-lateral research programme to tackle water issues in the region.
In recognition of his excel- lent managerial skill, CWEIC Chairman Lord Marland, said “Alan has led the outstanding transformation of the British Council in India, as well as a host of social impact projects all over the world. With superb connections in the largest populated Commonwealth country, strong commercial experience, and extensive experience working with government entities, the CWEIC boss said he was thrilled he has agreed to join us and lead us in the exciting opportunities ahead”.
Alan Gemmell said “I’m de- lighted to join CWEIC and work with Lord Marland, the Board and the CWEIC team to deliver an ambitious agenda for our members; support increased trade across the Commonwealth; and build on the success of the London Commonwealth Busi- ness Forum.” He spoke to Daily Sun during his recent visit in Lagos.
What CWEIC done to promoting Nigeria’s products and investments
We are a business network for 53 countries that make up the Commonwealth and we are a place for public or private engagement across the Commonwealth. Indeed we are really excited that Nigeria is the hub of the work we are doing around the world under the leader- ship of our Country Director, Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council, Obinna Anyanwu. Our network in Nigeria has been growing and we have signed up seventeen new brilliant Nigerian business strategic partners over the course of last year.
The 17 Nigerian Strategic Partners include Africa Law Practice, Akwa Ibom State Government, Chimons Gas Ltd, Custodian Investment Plc, CZAR Projects Ltd (promoters of Periwinkle Life Style Estate), Famfa Oil Ltd, Genesis Group, LADOL, Lagos State Government, L. A. T Cleveson.
Mainstream Energy Solutions, Marine Platforms, Next International Nigeria Ltd, Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Pan African Capital Holdings, Starzs Investment Company Ltd and Zenith Bank Plc. Purpose of our visit
I am here on this visit to see how we can take our partnership with Nigeria, the government and Nigerian businesses to the next level. We have launched a new Advisory Council chaired by Olasupo Shashore, and we have just held our first meeting of International Advisory Council and we were delighted that the Governor-elect for Lagos state, presented to us and told us of the priorities he has got for investments and business and creating business opportunities in Lagos. I do hope that we will develop a new partnership with him to help deliver his ambitions for economic growth in Lagos.
We were also working with the Vice-President of Nigeria in Abuja and we held talks with him on how the Com- monwealth Network and the businesses we have brought together from countries across the Commonwealth and the network as well as the insight that we have shared looking out how it can support the ambitions that he has for Nigeria’s economic growth. We hope that this would mean that we continue to take brilliant businesses from Nigeria around the world. I also hope that the country will work more on attracting investors into Nigeria and into states like Lagos.
Commonwealth first program in Nigeria
I am hoping that we would launch a program to support Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) because we know that SMEs is a critical part of the Nigerian economy. We have an SME accelerator program called commonwealth first and we are keen to bring it here in partnership with the state government of Lagos, AkwIbom state government and with the Nigerian administration under the leadership of the Vice President.
Transaction cost of do- ing business
We along with the Commonwealth Secretary published some research about a year ago to look at the benefits of trading between the Common- wealth. countries We found out that because of a number of things, because of Common- wealth countries’ serial number of things, principally, a common law legal system, that is the rule of law, and also the use of English language in certain official context but also because Commonwealth countries have some cultural supporting connections and shared set of values, it is 19 per cent cheaper for Commonwealth countries to do business together and we call that the Commonwealth Advantage. This is important for our organisation as we are trying to build this network of businesses across the Commonwealth, hoping that it will lead to more business and more trade.
Benefits that abounds for Nigeria
We are here to be a platform for Nigeria’s export businesses and also the inward investments, opportunities and ambitions the government and businesses have here. Our Advisory Council has toured around Lagos and seen and talked about the opportunities for investments in Nigeria. We had a great presentation from the upcoming free trade zone looking at opportunities there for Nigerian businesses as well as others to take advantage of the free trade zone.
So we are trying to build a network where businesses understand the ambitions of politicians here and their appetite to attract investors. We hope that our Commonwealth members respond to that ambitions, appetite for being an attractive place for investments.
Our organisation is driven by its membership and what we are trying to do is create the more attractive platform for those businesses to know one another and trust one another. Our aim is to build an ambitious network of businesses accros the Commonwealth. We think that businesses that trust and know one another better will do more in terms of trade and that is what we can do to try and incentivize more economic activity.
Target in next one year
Our aim is to respond to the federal and state government we work with. This is why we met with the Vice President and the Governor-elect of Lagos and Akwa Ibom state as our partners. So post elections, we will be working very closely with the Federal and State governments to see how Commonwealth businesses, investments and our Commonwealth First programs can help to support the government’s economic growth ambition. Also, we will be building network of businesses that we have in Nigeria and it is great that we have 7 new members now and we want to see the current 17 Nigerian businesses grow and more businesses benefit from the relationship and network that we built around the commonwealth.
Impact of the hub
This hub has allowed us to put Nigeria at the heart of our network and to grow our relevance in one of the most important countries in the world. In addition, in that time, we have had a Commonwealth business forum in London and the President of Nigerian was in attendance with our Country Director leading a delegation of 300 business people. So this is really about us making sure that where there are opportunities for Nigeria to be in the Commonwealth, by the conversations that we create, Nigeria is at the front of all these.
Are you looking at any more initiatives for SMEs this year?
The number one thing for us is to get our Commonwealth First program because we think it is a great accelerator, we think it is a really nice product offering which can respond
to the ambitions of the state governments and in turn these state governments can support what the Federal Government and the Vice President have aligned.
Our job is to build a network of businesses that have common interest and that common interest is countries exporting or want to export to other Commonwealth countries. We therefore want more businesses from across the Commonwealth to think about investing in Nigeria and we want to work with businesses from Nigeria to help think about investing in other businesses environment as well.