Shirley Yuen is CEO of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce
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As the official economic statistics for the summer months start to appear, no-one will be surprised that they make for very gloomy reading.
The drop-off in visitor arrivals in particular has already had an impact, and we have heard reports of staff being asked to take unpaid leave, and even of some business closures. We sincerely hope that this worrying trend does not gain momentum, as the effects on people’s lives, as well as the broader business impact, would be devastating.
But underneath the turmoil, we can take some comfort in the fact that our fundamentals are as strong as ever. From our free economy, robust banking network and the rule of law to our geographical location and skilled professionals, the attributes that have made the city such a success remain solid.
These fundamentals have been built on Hong Kong’s role as a global hub and as the gateway to China for businesses from around the world. As the city where East meets West, we have long acted as a bridge between different countries and cultures. These skills and expertise can also play in Hong Kong’s favour as the Belt and Road Initiative grows and evolves.
The BRI presents new markets that are seeking investment or are in need of the sort of skills and expertise that we have here in Hong Kong, and many companies are looking further afield for growth.
However, BRI investment is not without its challenges. Because it is such a huge initiative, it is not easy to see where the opportunities are. Many of the BRI destinations with potential for investment are also in developing economies or unexplored territory that is not easy to access.
Our BRI Working Group is tasked with helping members, especially SMEs, explore these relatively unchartered waters. In addition to tapping into our very broad membership with expertise from all corners of the world, we also meet officials and businesspeople from overseas, and lead missions abroad to find new opportunities.
On this topic, we will be running our business mission to Ghana and Morocco in December. Both countries are dynamic economies and increasingly important in Africa’s BRI aspirations. The visit will give participants the opportunity to meet senior officials and visit businesses on the ground. Africa’s favourable demographics offer potential consumer markets as well as an alternative manufacturing base, and the BRI is providing a reason to explore such markets further. We look forward to hearing all the details from the participants when they return from this exciting trip, and sharing their findings with all of our members.