THE Lesotho Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) is a business membership organisation entrusted with promoting and developing business activities of trade in goods and services.
It advocates for a conducive business environment within the borders of Lesotho, in the SADC region, Africa and internationally. The chamber is a non-partisan business association that supports, protects and advocates the interests of its members operating legal business in Lesotho and beyond its borders.
The 10th World Chambers Congress held in Australia Sydney is an event that is held after every two years in different continents. The theme for this year was: “Where business connects”.
In the pursuit and promotion of free trade and advocacy for preservation of open markets and a firm belief that chambers, the world over, depend on access to the global trading systems, Darling Harbour theatre hosted an amazing three-day congress that will go down in history as a phenomenal success. Chambers from all continents were represented and LCCI was among them.
Sessions were held concurrently because of the multitudes of delegates that had attended and time had to be managed effectively and efficiently, so that it was not possible that one could attend all the sessions.
The sessions I attended were; Sustainability, Tourism, Access to Finance, Leadership, Disruptive Business Models Innovations and 4th Industrial Revolution. Speakers of all these sessions came from all corners of the globe.
Sustainability: Business should lead the way in sustainability initiatives across all sessions. The manner in which the private sector responds to customers’ expectations should be such that both environmental and human development are equally prioritised within the public and private sector. The collaboration of public-private sectors in growing their economies. Any business reputation is driven by its brand loyalty through integrity, acting transparently and having a strong sense of responsibility to plough back to their respective communities. In order to achieve this, we need to place a strategic focus on innovation, technology and business models. The beauty of all these sessions was that over 70 percent of speakers were from various chambers of the world.
Tourism: Is a driver for economic growth. Instability in the regions hampers tourism and investment. The industry is adapting to changing demographics. Tourism as a business tool for economic development can attract investment and raise global trade levels. Disruptive technologies have given rise or emergence of ‘DIY’ travellers who plan, manage and book the travel itineraries online via smartphones and this accounts for 18 percent of the world population. We applaud this innovation as it has made life a lot easier for millions.
Access to finance: The Small Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) are now able to access finance and financial services. As growth increases the competition intensifies and low- income areas prosper. However, in time of crises, sources of funding quickly become none existent. The Private sector must lead the way in supporting a new economic model that is socially focused and inclusive.
Underdevelopment, research and design capacities and lack of access to markets were cited as barriers for SMME development and with access to finance, this situation would improve tremendously.
Leadership: The world is in an age of globalisation, disruption, innovation, connectivity, transparency and digitisation which changes drastically the role of leaders. Leadership skills need constant development and this can be achieved if we vigorously expose leaders to effective leadership strategies and ensure that they are implemented at all levels of our respective organisations and companies.
There needs to be a deliberate effort to look beyond the profit imperative. Responsible leaders should, where profits are realised, think of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) component-subject for another day.
Dealing with disruption: Business model innovation
It has been proven that businesses can now compete and defend themselves from disruptive business models by incorporating new technologies into their business strategies. Google, Airbnb and Uber have been cited as success examples. The speaker provided detailed case studies, interviews and industry-specific examples of businesses that have successfully re-invented themselves as incumbents amongst disruptors.
Fourth industrial revolution: There is what is called Industry 4.0 which is striking the economy at the speed of lightning across the globe. There needs to be an in-depth, sector-specific understanding of Industry 4.0 lest it be regarded with hesitation and scepticism. It is a systemic transformation which has a potential to disrupt all aspects of our lives, in the same vein has the potential to drastically improve the quality of life for populations around the world. It is imperative to revisit and rewrite the traditional industry rules as these accelerated technologies, increasing automation will affect job creation and economic growth.
It is at the same conference that we were informed that International Chambers of Commerce (ICC) has been given permanent observer status of the United Nations, which would suggests that perhaps in the future the business agenda may be included. I also feel that the private sector should take full advantage of the Sustainable Development Goals for job creation and the implementation approach must be business like. The next 11th World Chambers Congress will be held in Brazil in two years’ time.
In conclusion, I would like to thank LEAP and Lesotho Post Bank for making it possible for me to undertake this trip. The trip was worth my while as I will be able to pass on to my colleagues what I have learnt. The interaction with other members of the world chambers will bear fruit and I anticipate signing of a lot of MOUs that will be beneficial to our chamber. We may be landlocked as a country but not mind locked.
Mr Hakane is LCCI secretary-general.
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