What the rest of the world thinks about Brexit

Three global bosses share their thoughts on Britain's future.

by MT Staff
Last Updated: 15 Sep 2016

This follows yesterday's article, What Europe's business leaders think about Brexit

Kai Peters, Canadian, chief academic officer at Hult International Business School

The responsibility of a good leader is to make sense of what is going on in the world on the one hand, and then responsibly lead change on the other. Making sense of the world means considering both positive and negative potential scenarios and is something that good leaders do. The Brexit crowd clearly, and to their shame, did not.

For leaders today, thinking about Brexit means really thinking. What downsides are there? What potential upsides are there? What exposure does one have to currency fluctuations, interest rate changes, and returning inflation? How does this affect corporate pensions? What will customers do - nationally and internationally?

In my opinion, running a large company is like managing an investment portfolio and the number one rule is not to have all of one's eggs in one basket. Games theory suggests that creating options is prudent. One does not have to execute all of the options - but having them ready seems the only logical thing to do now.

So I would consider my global location strategy and diversify not only for currency reasons, but also for talent reasons. The immigration 'tens of thousands' threat which seems permanently on the table is awful as it so flies in the face of a global war for talent. I would 'save for a rainy day' and hold back investment decisions. Until one knows what the new rules of the game are, playing one's cards now is the last thing I would do.

Bob Collymore, CEO of Safaricom, Nairobi, Kenya

Brexit could be good news for the Commonwealth in general, not just Kenya, because Britain will need to find some other friends. Britain has been hiding behind the EU - it doesn’t have that excuse any more.

You could easily find that Britain ends up with a brain drain, as the smart guys decide, 'I'm going to work for a company which is much more international. I'm going to work for Allianz in Munich.' So something that is closer to the Norwegian approach is going to be much better than the Canadian approach.

If I were Theresa May, I would drag my feet. The strategy of appointing a foreign minister who's clearly not the world's favourite is going to frustrate the process, which will give them more thinking time. Boris represents all of those things, which we sometimes tend to accuse African politicians of doing. We haven't stopped laughing yet.

Britain is in a bit of a crisis. Because I get paid in sterling my earnings declined by 17% overnight - and that's just me at an individual level. There will be a tendency to jump for short-term knee-jerk responses, but everybody needs to take a long, cold, hard look at things.

If you assume this is where the pound is roughly going to settle I think there are some big export opportunities, and businesses need to try and take advantage of that. A big weakness is financial services. Britain has the advantage of incumbency - and therefore it has everything to lose. I'm not sure language is that important any more. I was visiting a large German company and nobody spoke German, they spoke English.

A Brexit vote is symptomatic of something wider: a growing disparity between rich and poor, the disenfranchised feeling that they're not really gaining from the fourth industrial revolution. This isn't a problem solely of the making of politicians. Businesses need to focus on inclusive growth. If they don't, then the deficit of trust will get wider. This is not unique to Britain - if anything it will learn how to deal with it before the others do.

Amy Jadesimi, managing director of LADOL, Lagos, Nigeria

With Brexit underway, the UK has an opportunity to shake up its economic world view and pursue new relationships with regions further afield. The network of Commonwealth countries - 53 in total, spread across six continents and a combined population of over 2 billion - is a productive channel to start tapping to build trade partnerships in this new era.

Eighteen of those Commonwealth nations are in Africa - a continent that received just 3% of UK exports last year, according to data from World's Top Exports (compared to Europe's 53%, Asia's 22% and North America's 16%). These figures highlight that increasing the UK's trade volume with Africa is a significant opportunity, and the timing of Brexit could not be better from this perspective.

On the one hand, the EU has yet to finalise its Economic Partnership Agreements with some key African countries, and on the other there is growing dissatisfaction in Africa over the content of the existing and draft new agreements. Just as we can see playing out in the US election, Africans are also protesting against trade agreements, which ultimately do not create local jobs or benefit the local economy.

The UK is now uniquely well positioned to help grow key markets in Africa and create mutually beneficial trade relationships, both due to its understanding of many of these local markets and its need to overhaul its international trade strategies anyway. Leveraging the Commonwealth and embedding terms and conditions that support local market development, industrialisation and job creation is the best way forward for the UK. It is also one of the advantages of Brexit, as it is highly unlikely that such a forward-thinking approach would have been possible through the EU.

Here's what Europe's business leaders think about Brexit 


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