Theresa May Pledges Africa Investment Boost After Brexit

0
197

Theresa May has announced plans to boost Britain’s investment in Africa after Brexit, during her first trip to the continent as prime minister.

In a speech in Cape Town, she pledged £4bn in support for African economies, to create jobs for young people.

She also pledged a “fundamental shift” in aid spending to focus on long-term economic and security challenges rather than short-term poverty reduction.

She will also visit Nigeria and Kenya during the three-day trade mission.

On her way to South Africa, the prime minister played down warnings from the chancellor about the economic damage a no-deal Brexit could cause.

Talking to journalists on board RAF Voyager on Tuesday morning, Mrs May reiterated that she believed a no-deal Brexit was still better than a bad deal – adding no-deal “wouldn’t be the end of the world”.

Last week Chancellor Philip Hammond warned in a letter that a no-deal Brexit could damage the economy.

Mrs May’s trip – which will see her meet the presidents of all three countries – aims to deepen economic and trade ties with growing African economies ahead of Britain leaving the EU in 2019.

Arriving in South Africa on Tuesday morning, Mrs May said she wanted the UK to overtake the US to become the G7’s biggest investor in Africa by 2022.

Arriving in South Africa on Tuesday morning, Mrs May said she wanted the UK to overtake the US to become the G7’s biggest investor in Africa by 2022.

UK direct investment in Africa was £42.7bn in 2016, compared with £44.3bn from the US, £38bn from France and £31bn from China, according to data from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

The UK’s historical relationship with many African countries still counts for something, but, as Prime Minister Theresa May will find on her trip to the continent, the UK now vies for attention with larger economies offering greater riches.

The continent’s leaders need to decide who to prioritise: an ambitious but friendly China, the huge European Union bloc, the potential riches of the United States, or the historically-linked United Kingdom.

The prime minister’s trip comes a week before the huge Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Beijing. Dozens of African heads of state are expected there and China may offer new trade and finance deals.

Mrs May’s trip seems rather low key in comparison.

Tunji Andrews, an economist based in Nigeria’s commercial hub Lagos, says the UK has lost its once dominant place in Africa’s largest economy.

“While Britain remains a viable trade partner, it just doesn’t hold the same value to Africa as China and to a lesser extent, the US.”

Mrs May said national self-interest and global co-operation were not in conflict and the UK could play a key role in harnessing the “innovation and creativity” of young people in Africa, 60% of whose population is under the age of 25.

“The challenges facing Africa are not Africa’s alone,” she said. “It is the world’s interest to see these jobs created.”

BBC political correspondent Ben Wright said like other European leaders the PM saw “huge economic potential to tap” in Africa and was keen to support economic stability in the region in order to “stem the flow of migration”.

Sharon Constancon, chair of the South African Chamber of Commerce in London, said the UK’s aims were ambitious given that it currently ranked seventh and eighth respectively in terms of exports and imports to South Africa, the continent’s largest economy.

“It is going to be quite a challenge to beat the US and China into that space,” she told BBC News, adding that Brexit – unlike other factors such as language and the rule of law – was not a “natural advantage” for the UK.

Security issues will also feature on the PM’s agenda and she is expected to discuss the threat of Boko Haram in Nigeria, and the role of British troops based in Kenya who are helping countries fight al-Shabab militants in Somalia.

The visit is the first by a British leader to Sub-Saharan Africa since David Cameron attended Nelson Mandela’s memorial service in 2013.

Mrs May’s visit to Nairobi will mark the first by a UK prime minister to Kenya since Margaret Thatcher in 1988.

During her time in South Africa, Mrs May also presented a World War One relic – linked to one of the worst maritime disasters in English waters – to South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.

BBC

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here