Commonwealth Advantage helps nations build back better after Birmingham 2022

The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games was the biggest investment that the UK has made in a sporting event since London 2012, and it certainly went big on its promises.

Row of flags of Commonwealth seated near Westminster and street Whitehall Place in London
This article is included in the Autumn issue of Think Global People magazine (5831k) .

Alongside the sporting achievements, medals and rivalry, it has been the largest, most inclusive, most sustainable Commonwealth Games to date. Now the cheers have died down, the real triumph lies in the lasting economic benefits and global connections that the Games bring.
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Major sporting events are renowned for being good for trade, good for business, and good for increasing investment within a region – just look at the halo effect of economic benefits from the London Olympics.These games are no different: the potential is huge. The strength of the Commonwealth, however, means more than just the host region of the West Midlands stand to benefit from the new partnerships and connections made. Over 5,000 athletes from 72 nations came together for 11 days of sport, 1,500 businesses and governments from across the Commonwealth convened at UK House – the Commonwealth Business Hub in Centenary Square, Birmingham, to connect and to discover opportunities for sustainable growth.Part of a wider Business and Tourism Programme, the first event of its kind to run alongside a Commonwealth Games, UK House included a Commonwealth Business Forum and championed solutions across eight areas of strategic importance to the UK and our trading partners.Hosted by the Department for International Trade, UK House built on the cooperative spirit of the Games and the UK’s climate leadership at COP26. It’s precisely this kind of supportive, collaborative environment we need post-pandemic. With economic recovery a key priority at the moment, we need positive solutions that enable us to build back better.

Embracing the benefits of shared histories

A tried and tested route for the UK and our overseas partners to move towards healthier, more sustainable economies, is through international trade. The Commonwealth gives us a true advantage and our trade deals with 33 Commonwealth members are already making this easier.The Commonwealth comprises 54 countries, encompassing a third of humanity. That’s a lot of people, cultures, and beliefs. However, alongside our differences lies shared history, values, and language, as well as legal, institutional and government ties. Together, these ‘invisible threads’ make for a mutually collaborative, beneficial community.The so-called ‘Commonwealth Advantage’ sees traders and investors benefiting from this familiarity in legal systems, business practices and legislative procedures.Throughout the disruption of recent economic shocks, trade between Commonwealth member states has remained strong. The pandemic may have caused economic difficulties, but trading costs between members are 21% lower. Investment has fared well too, with the advantage between members nearly tripling to 27% since 2015. That growth is set to continue with the launch of major trade and investment initiatives designed to create jobs, growth and shared prosperity across this unique group of nations.One lesson learned from the pandemic is the importance of sharing knowledge, expertise and technology between nations for the benefit of all. From the rapid development of coronavirus vaccines and the 3D printing of medical equipment and devices to online professional services and edtech, we’ve seen significant leaps forward in technology that have the potential to positively impact every part of our lives.It’s no coincidence that the West Midlands offers world-class expertise in these areas and UK House provided the ideal platform for businesses, universities and public sector organisations in the region to share these capabilities and innovations with our global trading partners.

Platforms for cross-sectoral success

Digital technology: The latest Commonwealth Trade Review highlights how the transition to digital technologies accelerated by the pandemic has the potential to unlock growth and prosperity across the Commonwealth. From Industry 4.0 to AR and VR gaming, Birmingham and the West Midlands is the largest emerging technology cluster outside London, with an average of 7.6% growth each year (between 2014 and 2019). It is also the UK’s first multi-city 5G testbed.Data-driven healthcare: Healthcare challenges transcend nations and pay no heed to preconceptions of developed and developing systems. The West Midlands healthcare proposition is built around four areas of opportunity: digital, data, diagnostics and devices. With unparalleled access to clinical and genomic data, it has the capabilities to pioneer, test and implement new healthcare interventions and interventions unlike any other region.Edtech: Education is key to economic development and the UK’s edtech industry played a vital part in keeping the world learning throughout the pandemic. With growth of 72% in 2020 (one of the fastest rates in Europe), the UK edtech sector is now valued at around £3.4 billion, home to more than 1,000 companies providing educational platforms and a thriving research and development scene. These innovations are now poised to help transform education systems across the globe.

Building on the Commonwealth Advantage

Of course, there’s more to the Commonwealth Advantage than just economic growth. It needs to be clean growth – economic expansion that is sustainable and puts the planet first. Think green jobs, renewable energy, and strong, ethical regional and local supply chains. Across the Commonwealth, the UK has recently announced major green investments, from £162 million invested in hydropower in Africa to a £36 million boost to sustainable growth in Small Island Developing States’ maritime economies. During the games, we welcomed business and Commonwealth trading partners to UK House in Birmingham, establishing new connections and opportunities for sustainable growth in the years to come.We also announced investments into the West Midlands made as a result of the Commonwealth Games Business and Tourism Programme, including Firstsource, a global process management provider headquartered in Mumbai, India. Other foreign direct investment (FDI) projects included The Disposal Company, India’s first plastic credit platform and Canada-based pan-African fintech company, Kora. Each of these companies is making the most of the Commonwealth advantage to expand their business and foster innovation that will benefit society in the long term.When you’re looking for ways to build back better, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

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