NZMEBC CHAIRPERSON’S REPORT 2021
Kia Ora no tatou, nau mai haere mai o nga iwi o Aotearoa, Marhaba, Ae Salaa’ma Alekum. Welcome to the 2021 Annual General Meeting of the Middle East Business Council.
Who would have thought after the report I presented at last year’s AGM that I would again be discussing lockdowns and the impact a global pandemic continues to have on us all. This time last year we were out of any lockdown and feeling very happy with the freedoms we were enjoying in comparison to the rest of the world and importantly the GCC. But what another twelve months of challenges we have faced with continued lockdowns across the world and the acknowledgement that the world is now facing the challenge of living with COVID as opposed to eliminating it.
This afternoon I wish to reflect on what continues to be a challenging period for the Council albeit we have a better financial position to report to this AGM than 2020. Let us acknowledge the difficulties on several levels for our organisation and our overseas markets. COVID 19 continues to impact on the lives of New Zealanders and many businesses who are trying to survive let alone our members who are trying to navigate a new normal with exporting to the GCC. It has affected small medium enterprises to large corporates and members of the executive council directly.
However, it was fantastic to see Dubai ExPo 2020 finally underway last week. Watching the ExPo 2020 opening ceremony I was inspired by the optimism that was evident there and must be regarded as an example of what is possible. This should inspire us all that out of this global pandemic the world is still full of amazing opportunities. Hearing Ellie Goulding sing from within the ExPo dome “anything can happen” and Andra Day sing “We will rise up” should fill us with joy and excitement. We as an organisation wishes to act on this and drives the possibility that things are going to get better and we can overcome this! This council intends to deliver on its mission statement:
“The NZMEBC is an experienced, trusted, respected and knowledgeable connector for business. We deliver relevant, timely information and connections which make it easier for members to explore the opportunity to do capture business in the Middle East”.
For the region is opening to the world and we need to support our members to act now. We can overcome the reality that despite the issues facing our members and NZ business in the region we must continue to pursue engagement and encourage business connections.
Our achievements are not many, but we know they have benefitted members. The quality of information in our quarterly and in some cases bi-monthly newsletters, members have felt informed and up-to-date with a range of developments across the Middle East. Our seminars ranging from COVID updates, Sea Freight Developments, Conducting Business in the Middle East, joint initiatives with ExPo, Regional updates with Dubai Counsel General of Dubai, new updates from in the region has supported members awareness and understanding of the risks and successes the region still has to provide NZ business.
In addition, we have strengthened our ties with the UAE, Israeli, Saudi Arabian and Qatar Embassies in New Zealand. Meetings with members of the executive council have been regularly held with the ambassadors of the UAE and Israel. Fruitful discussions and future opportunities will be launched towards the end of this year and into 2022 with these ambassadors making themselves available to present and meet members to discuss opportunities.
This opportunity to meet in a slightly different forums over the past twelve months encapsulates the direction, innovation and agility of the Council as we continue provide advice, guidance and service to our members. I would like to now mention and recognise the constructive contribution our Council receives from the two Government agencies involved in our work – MFAT and NZTE. In recent years these relationships have become stronger with great benefit to the Council and to the companies, organisations and individuals that we serve. I want to make special mention of Tara Morton and Ardi Barnard from MFAT and Rachael McGuckian from NZTE who ex-officio members of our Executive Committee and whose input we value highly.
I also want to acknowledge the support we have had through our Middle East based team. Andrew Perrier (former Chair of MEBC) remains a key component of our Council as our co- opted Middle East based member on the Executive. His extensive experience, knowledge, skills and detail in reporting to the Executive has been well welcomed in 2019-2020. Evelyn McNally (NZTE), Kevin McKenna (Dubai Consul General of Dubai), Matt Hawkins (UAE ambassador), Clayton Kimpton (New Zealand Commissioner-General to Expo 2020) have all been part of our meetings and contributed to the council this year. We have appreciated their support.
The inevitable churn we get every year as member companies move in and out of the Council is a constant focus for the Council. This year has been particularly difficult with the continued events of COVID-19 pandemic. The fact that our funding is entirely by membership means our operational capability is constantly under pressure. We are extremely grateful for the ongoing support from Emirates, our sponsor and airline partner albeit reduced as they to struggle to regain their operational duties. We acknowledge the very difficult times the airline is going through and their continued support for this council is fantastic.
We encourage when travel opens up again to utilise our major sponsor but engage with them now in the freight of any products to the region.
NZ Business Council - Dubai
The Council held its first AGM in 2020 and has developed a strong executive. Mark Trotter, the chairman is focussed on driving their membership base and has our total support. The NZ Business Council and its members continue to act as an important liaison with the NZMEBC in the Middle East market.
The Executive Committee members give generously of their time to help run our organisation. Chris Paykel as Vice Chairperson, Edwin Lim as Secretary and Honorary Legal Adviser have provided great support to me as Chairman. To Simon Cartwright of Hesketh Henry, who has stepped in this year in the role of treasurer successfully negotiating his way through an increase in membership changes with our banking partners, changes to our systems and worked with the executive to support the improved financial position from 2020. Justine Arroll from who has led our seminar series development this year with several executive members including Tara Pradhan, the government and international relations and CEO Middle East at Greenstone TV, Tanya Foster of Tegal and Brad Wheeler of EY, all have successfully initiated worthwhile events for our members. Finally, to Darrin Brinsden who was elected to the Executive this year and I want to thank you for all the fabulous work you have done in coordinating our resource repository, giving NZMEBC a more prominent face on LinkedIn and other social media platforms and working with the entire team to ensure we are raising the profile of what we do and how we support NZ business’ looking to the Middle East as an export market.
As reported last year the council took a decision to move our interactions and administrative work into a cloud-based scenario. We appointed Karen Farr from the Executive office to support the work of the council which has been of tremendous help in securing and arranging online and face-to-face workshops, seminars, appointments with local and internal expertise to support the council’s vision. Thank you, Karen, for all your support of the executive in the past twelve months.
New Initiative for a CEO of the Council
Over the past twelve months, the NZMEBC has made good progress with internal changes making it more efficient and engagement with members is increasing. However, our executive team can often be affected with their day-to-day roles and are generally time poor and naturally focussed on their own businesses.
As part of this AGMs report I would like to announce that the Council is considering appointing a Chief Executive role that is remunerated to cover the current pressure points where the executive struggles to get continuity. Areas that we consider important that would feature in this role are;
Increasing membership engagement – direct link/s to individual members that keep them engaged and reduce membership churn. Use of our latest HubSpot updated with contacts will support this – a personal approach to business
Greater new member engagement – continue the engagement with membership opportunities as most recently evidenced with Randall Blackford, Open Country Dairy and shortly Rockit Apple who have joined this year
Maintaining a network of useful relationships to enhance members interests, tracked through our Hubspot platform
Utilise Hubspot and lead on ensuring this is updated with industry and countries of interest for each member so reports can be run identifying members when asked by interested parties, i.e., NZTE or similar
Connect and interact with onshore Embassies – we have growing engagement currently, and this is building but there needs to be continuity here to keep Embassies engaged
Review out MOU’s – the need to bring these back to life or in the case of the Albanian one signed in 2016 pass on to the Africa New Zealand Business Council with whom the NZMEBC has meet and more closely networked this year for joint benefit. This would also include their interest in Egypt. This role would be coordinating and taking the lead on this.
Management of relationships with MFAT/NZTE, relevant diplomatic representatives for continuity. This to support the Chairperson and others where they may not be able to respond in a timely fashion or indeed attend an event.
Management of inbound meeting requests from diplomatic representatives, businesses and government agencies and liaise with Executive Management and exec members as appropriate for delivery of same
Liaise with other business councils as appropriate
Review strategy as set last year and tracking to complete tasks and build these into future months
Administration leadership – whilst this is well handled by Karen and the Executive Office it will be beneficial for this role to have oversight of this from a member on the
council i.e., an executive officer
Managing invoicing, meeting notes, event management, accounts payable and other areas the Executive are currently managing
To conclude we are working through as a council to establish a role that will ensure continuity where the executive committee are time pressured. To bring all our new change systems up to date so they can be fully maximised. Between this role and Executive Management, the newsletter content can be compiled, taking some of the weight from those leading our digital strategy as an example. Monthly report of actions will be provided and required. It is too early to decide whether this role is needed mid to long term and will depend on the value that is seen once there is a better understanding of our membership, systems updated, MOU’s sorted, but it is the recommendation of this chairman that we proceed.
To the Executive Committee
This year five Executive Committee members are retired by rotation. Those who are retiring and who are Justine Arroll, Simon Cartwright, Tanya Foster, Brad Wheeler and myself. We have called for nominations and have received these from Justine Arroll, Simon Cartwright, Tanya Foster, Brad Wheeler and Andrew Short. Given that we have only five nominations for five vacant positions, all of those people are hereby elected to the Executive Committee.
Thank you for attending our AGM and I formally move my report.