This morning all four forums of the Commonwealth Summit met for a joint plenary session on the theme of this year’s meeting: Towards a Common Future.
Former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates, now focussing on his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, spoke of the importance of collaboration and sharing during his keynote address.
“One of the ways to make progress, if you want to do something better, is find out who is already doing it better than anyone else in the word and adopt what they are doing to your own challenges. The Commonwealth is ideal for this. You meet regularly to learn from one another,” he told participants of the youth, business, women and peoples forums.
Mr Gates addressed the fact that 60 per cent of Commonwealth citizens are aged 29 or under by saying: “Today the entrepreneurs driving start-ups from Johannesburg and Nairobi to New Delhi are young in age and outlook. The thousands of businesses they are creating are already remaking the future.”
He urged private enterprise to invest more in developing areas of the world, saying: “Time and time again, when we see the private sector look for opportunities to have a positive impact on people’s lives, it can make development faster, cheaper and better.”
Earlier, Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland welcomed delegates and speakers that included UK Prime Minister Theresa May and Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness.
Prime Minister May warned of increasing global trade protectionism, saying: “Let’s make this a more prosperous Commonwealth. As Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo has said, free and fair trade is one of the keys to unlocking sustainable economic growth and prosperity. Over the years, it has done much to lift marginalised and vulnerable people out of poverty.
“Yet as we meet today, the World’s economy is increasingly threatened by a prevalence of protectionist trade measures, a surge in anti-trade rhetoric and fragile global growth.
“It's also an opportunity for the Commonwealth to demonstrate its ability to respond to these challenges and set the shape and pace of global trade policy. To show the world that cooperation, not protectionism, is where the answers lie.”