Having brokered about $4.5 billion in investments and business deals over the past nine months, the high-powered Commonwealth Business Council is spearheading a push by Australian miners into Africa channeling investments in the resource sectors of Nigeria and Mozambique.
The CBC has set an ambitious target of $10bn worth of new deals before the end of this year flowing from last year’s landmark Commonwealth Business Forum in Perth – staged before the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) last October – and plans to stage investment forums in Zambia, Nigeria and Mozambique in the next three months to open investment opportunities in the African region for Australian firms.
Corrs Chambers Westgarth partner and chief executive John Denton, who was appointed co-chair of the Commonwealth Business Council earlier this year, said the new Mining Network forum established in Perth had continued to grow and was starting to develop functional co-operation between Commonwealth countries and businesses. Mr Denton co-chairs the council with Mohan Kaul, the council’s founding director-general.
Australia is the chair of the Commonwealth for the next 18 months and while the CBC has previously been criticised by some for being a mere talkfest, Mr Denton said he was determined to drive outcomes from the forum. “What I have been trying to do is to make sure the whole show make sense in a broader strategic context rather than just putting on conferences. How do you get focus on investment in some of these important countries? There is a very big Africa focus of this forum,” Mr Denton told The Australian.
“These countries do get a lot of Chinese investment but they are looking for a hedge against that and they see the Commonwealth as providing that. We are trying to help develop the private sector in a socially responsible way. They are seeing the Commonwealth Business Council as a critical lever in creating more sustainable investment.”
Mr Denton said he was trying to get the federal government and its bureaucracy to realize the ability of the CBC to help build bridges between the private sector and governments to facilitate investment.
The CBC is developing a Commonwealth program in collaboration with the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry to support export-ready SMEs. A trial program has been proposed for key markets, including Australia, Canada, Kenya, India, Nigeria, Singapore and Britain. And enterprise development was a key theme of the CBC’s Diamond Jubilee Commonwealth Economic Forum staged in London in early June, attended by a number of senior executives, including Rio Tinto chief Tom Albanese.