The first ever trade and business mission for the Birmingham Commonwealth Association’s mission to Jamaica was a great success with several trade and business deals completed, higher education collaboration undertaken and further engagement between Birmingham and Kingston Councils agreed.
The delegation comprised of 12 people, with representation from Birmingham City Council, Birmingham City University and enterprises such as Cleone Foods, Diamond Travel and Medical Devices Technology International (MDTI).
The 5 day programme comprised of meetings with the Prime Minister, Health Minister, British High Commissioner, Mayor and Chief Executive of Kingston Council, representatives of the University of West Indies and the Technical University, Princess Margaret Hospital, the Kingston Royal Commonwealth Society and Kingston College. In addition the delegation attended the JAMPRO Business Expo.
The mission was instrumental in the agreement of several trade deals. Martin Levermore, Chairman of the Birmingham Commonwealth Associations Trade and Business Focus Group and Chief Executive of MDTI, the award-winning company which produces innovative medical devices, progressed an agreement with the Jamaican government to provide mobile clinics around the country. This will result in employment and training for local people, as well as creating new business and export opportunities for West Midlands companies. MDTI also donated medical equipment to Princess Margaret hospital.
Similarly, Cleone Foods, established by managing director Wade Lyn in 1988 to produce and distribute Jamaican patties under the Island Delight trademark, signed a distribution agreement with a Jamaican food producer to repackage and distribute products into the UK and Europe. Cleone has invested £250,000 in new machinery to produce and export additional food products with new jobs being created.
“Valuable import-export orders were secured at the event, which featured 300 exhibitors – and what the partnership with the Birmingham Commonwealth Association achieved in Jamaica we will now be looking to replicate in other Commonwealth countries such as South Africa, “said UKTI international trade adviser Pete West, “It also enabled us with the opportunity to share ‘best practice’ and discuss the possibility of student exchanges.”
In the education sector, Birmingham City University, represented in the mission by Professor Louise Toner, had discussions with the University of the West Indies and Technical University around long-term collaboration over the training of healthcare staff and potentially future school teachers.
As a result of the mission Birmingham and Kingston Councils will be sharing good practice around city management, local economic development, youth employment, youth and community engagement, community cohesion as well as music and culture; with some potential exchanges of interns.
As far as Birmingham City Council was concerned, one of the objectives of the mission – lauded as an ‘undoubted success’ – was to promote mutually beneficial practical linkages between the heritage communities and local authorities of Birmingham and Kingston – an initiative forming part of larger engagement with Jamaica’s business, government, education and cultural sectors.
Council representatives, in discussions with Kingston officials, including the mayor, Dr Angela Brown Burke, agreed a joint work programme. Activities will include a programme of short-term internships around aspects of city management, local economic development and engagement, the exchange of school staff and student teachers and the creation of placements in businesses to gain experience, upskilling and personal development.