Newly launched Chamber Connect Series highlights global chambers’ response to Covid-19


Hosted by Dubai Chamber, the virtual series brings together chamber leaders and members to share knowledge, best practices and solutions

Chambers of commerce around the world tackled new challenges created by Covid-19 by pivoting their services and offerings in line with the changing needs of their members, chamber leaders said at a recent virtual event kicking off the Chamber Connect Series, a new series launched by Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The inaugural event, titled Pivoting Your Services – Getting Your Offerings Right, was attended by 200 participants from 58 countries, including heads of chambers of commerce and representatives from member companies. Discussions during the event delved into the events of 2020, with the Covid-19 pandemic disrupting millions of businesses and organisations worldwide.

As economies reopen, chamber representatives agreed that the concept of “business as usual” – will no longer work for most business operations. They noted that businesses, especially SMEs,  turned to chambers of commerce for support, and described chambers as “advocacy ambassadors “championing to the needs of companies to governments, adding that cash-flow, human capital and digitalisation were key areas where members needed the most support. Participants were optimistic about the future, as long as chambers remain flexible and continue to adapt and evolve.

The series creates a platform for collaboration, knowledge sharing and constructive dialogue between chambers of commerce from around the world, drawing on the valuable expertise of chamber leaders needed to develop new solutions to shared challenges.

H.E. Hamad Buamim, President & CEO of Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Chairman of the ICC-World Chambers Federation said that despite the global challenges presented by Covid-19, the pandemic provided a learning curve and underlined the vital roles that chambers of commerce play in supporting their respective business communities with value-added services, expertise, digital transformation and advocacy.

H.E. Buamim highlighted the findings of the recent Chambers New Norm: Adapting Business Needs Report, conducted by Dubai Chamber with the support of the ICC-WCF, which identified chambers’ strengths and challenges as they dealt with the impact of Covid-19, as well as best practices and potential opportunities for collaboration. He noted that the report produced valuable insights that will be utilised to shape the agenda of the 12th World Chambers Congress in Dubai next year.

”Chambers need to have a more sustainable model allowing them to be more agile, resilient and competitive for the future. At the same time, they need to enhance this help they give to the SME community. A ‘new normal’ of remote working must also be embraced, while the era of digital transformation has never been so transparently highlighted and must be adopted as the way of the future,” said H.E. Buamim who stressed the importance of cross-border cooperation in bridging the knowledge gap and preparing chambers for potential future global crises.

In his role as the event moderator, Dr Adam Marshall, the Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, noted the resilience of chambers of commerce in shifting and realigning their resources and priorities to help the public and private sector overcome unprecedented challenges. Drawing on the steps the British Chambers of Commerce took in the wake of the pandemic, he said Covid-19 led the chamber to transition into an entirely digitally run operation in just 24 hours, restructure, and embrace advocacy to ensure business continuity.

Lai Thoe Chung of the Singapore Business Federation, a chamber that champions business interests in Singapore and internationally, said federation’s business model went through an instant overhaul – with digital transformation at its core.

“During this pandemic period, we [had] to – overnight – change our structure, rethink our events and rethink how we do our work,” she said.

Vincent Subilia, Director General of the Geneva Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Service, spoke about the initial priorities adopted by chamber following the Covid-19 outbreak such as ensuring the health and safety of workers and setting up a designated task team and a hotline that could immediately respond to the needs of businesses most impacted by the crisis.

Subilla said the pandemic was a “nudge” leading the chamber to fully embrace digital transformation – including the launch of a new app allowing its members to attain its goods and services.

For his part, Guido Cerrato of the Torino Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber immediately focused on offering digital support to help SMEs “navigate the pandemic into a new normal” by boosting its networking capability it could give to its members.

The panellists said there is still plenty of room for improvement and called on chambers of commerce to develop sustainable business models, new products or services that create added value for members and enhance the competitiveness of the private sector.

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