Major Corporations

Major corporations in the Commonwealth

The private sector in Commonwealth countries is shaped immensely by the growth of powerful home-grown corporations and expansion of transnational corporations (TNCs). TNCs play an important role in the socio-economic wellbeing of many countries by investing in infrastructure and creating employment. Large home-grown companies, on the other hand, have been essential to many economies in not only contributing the same way as TNCs, but also importantly, in enabling countries to compete internationally and retain capital.

Transnational enterprise has a long history in the Commonwealth. In fact, the early stages of TNCs in the modern world can be traced to the conquests of the British Empire, in particular the formation of the British East India Company in the 18th century. The company had vast operations in India and other Asian where it owned large tracts of land and considerable private enterprise. Similar roles have been played by the Hudson Bay Company in North America, the British South Africa Company, and the Royal African Company. Today three of the four* largest natural resources companies in the world – Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and Anglo-American– are uniquely Commonwealth in terms of their origins and where they mostly operate. Similarly in banking and financial services many in the Commonwealth are familiar with names such as Barclays, Standard Chartered, Standard Bank (Stanbic) and ScotiaBank. Notable publishing houses Macmillan, Pearson (or Longman) and Oxford University Press have operations throughout the Commonwealth. For a long time oil and gas enterprises, BP and Shell dominated downstream services, essentially the retail and marketing of petroleum products, throughout most countries of the Commonwealth but today most of their focus has shifted to upstream operations in several oil-producing member states. In telecommunications, Cable and Wireless had a long-held monopoly in the English-speaking Caribbean but now shares the market with new participants to the sector.

Home-grown corporations, many of which matured into the large companies that they are today post-independence, can be found in all sectors of business including manufacturing (Dangote Group in Nigeria), oil and gas (Petronas in Malaysia), banking and financial services (National Australia Bank), media and broadcasting (Naspers in South Africa – popularly known through its trading arms M-Net and DStv), and conglomerates (Reliance Industries, India). Many such companies have expanded within their respective regions.

*The other company is Brazilian company Vale

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