I`m guessing for most people if you mention the Commonwealth they think of the Commonwealth Games and little else. They may have a vague idea that it`s some kind of international forum with little relevance to their lives.
In fact for many people nothing could be further from the truth.
A recent newspaper article* makes the point very well ;
" While the Commonwealth Games are heading to the UK this summer, businesses in the East Midlands are heading to the Commonwealth."
The article goes on to look at the value of exports from the East Midlands to the Commonwealth during the period April 2013 - March 2014.
The bigger players are hardly surprising - exports from the region to South Africa were valued accounted for £147.1 million, and Australia accounted for a further £239.5 million.
Exports to Kenya came to £27.2 million , not too surprising perhaps as this is not so far different to the previous years` figure (an increase of around 12% as I recall).
Two Commonwealth countries had increassed their level of imports from the East Midlands quite dramatically ( in percentage terms ) - exports from the E Mids to Cameroon increased by 26.4% to £2.1 million and the figure for Pakistan was even higher - a 30% increase to £36.6 million.
Now that`s just the figure for the East Midlands, a relatively small part of the UK as a whole. You might argue that the figures will tend to be high for a region with a heavy manufacturing presence, and that other regions may produce rather different figures. It`s worth remembering though that the E Mids is quite diverse -Lincolnshire is very different to other parts of the region for instance.
Of course, The Commonwealth is not just about business, anymore than it is just about culture or just about sport and athletics.
Lists of Commonwealth-related organisations** contain an extraordinary array of different organisations and interest groups. With a range of interests that include boxing, architecture, paediatric gastroenterology and museum administration, there`s certainly quite a bit to go at !
Without wanting to re-tread old ground, here are a few Commonwealth-related links you might find interesting ;
Global (Global Briefing) - http://www.global-briefing.org
Commonwealth Foundation - http://commonwealthfoundation.com
Commonwealth Countries League - http://www.ccl-int.org/Index.aspx
Commonwealth Business Council - http://www.cbcglobal.org
Any grouping of nations is bound to be prone to the odd falling-out, and the Commonwealth has seen a few of these in its` time. However that may be its` pretty clear the ties that hold the Commonwealth together have proved pretty durable overall.
* Unsigned - Regions` Exports to the Commonwealth Soaring - Nottingham Evening Post 9 June 2014