UK investors urged to deepen economic ties with Africa

The 2020 UK-Africa Investment Summit was attended by Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Cheikh el Ghazouani and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
Thursday 23/01/2020
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (C) stands with African leaders and dignitaries at the UK-Africa Investment Summit, January 20.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (C) stands with African leaders and dignitaries at the UK-Africa Investment Summit, January 20.

LONDON – British companies must leap at the chance to deepen economic ties with Africa, a continent with unmatched investment opportunities, several African leaders said at a high-level panel.

An opening ceremony for the 2020 UK-Africa Investment Summit on Monday was attended by dignitaries and delegates from 16 African countries, including Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Cheikh el Ghazouani and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. 

Mauritania’s president highlighted the opportunities offered by the blue ocean economy and substantial reforms currently under way to attract foreign investors. “We have reinforced security along our coasts. Other measures include the establishment of a Council on Investment. These huge efforts are showing tremendous results and it is giving comfort to investors,” said Ghazouani.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson made the case for bigger investments in Africa and called for increased and renewed partnership between the United Kingdom and Africa. 

Referring to Africa as a booming continent with “staggering levels of growth,” Johnson said:  “Look around the world today and you will swiftly see that the UK is not only the obvious partner of choice, we’re also very much the partner of today, of tomorrow and decades to come.”

The UK-Africa Investment Summit, the first of its kind hosted by the UK government, was attended by the British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, International Development Secretary, Alok Sharma, and Prince Harry.

The president of Mauritania, Mohamed Ould Cheikh el Ghazouani; the president of Ghana, Nana Akufo Addo; president of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta; as well as  African  Development Bank President, Akinwumi Adesina, and Brittan’s Sharma, all addressed a plenary panel discussion on “Sustainable Finance and Infrastructure – Unlocking the City of London and UK financial services for growth in Africa.”

President Kenyatta who rang the opening bell at the London Stock Exchange (LSE) marking the launch of Kenya’s first green bond at the LSE, made the case for innovative and sustainable investments in energy infrastructure: “We all must think out of the box in terms of energy…to ensure we produce more green energy. This first-ever sovereign green bond of $41.45 million will be used to build environmentally-friendly student accommodation in Kenya.”

Responding to a question about UK-Ghana partnerships, President Nana Akufo-Addo said in a world where Africa’s wealth is undisputed, “the City of London can play a significant role in bridging Africa’s huge infrastructure gap… and LSE can be a pivot in the new relationship with the continent. Indeed, 1 in 4 consumers will live in Africa by 2030,” President Akufo-Addo said. 

According to the African Development Bank’s Adesina, the continent’s $68-$108 billion infrastructure investment gap per year is massive, but it depends on how you look at it. “Either the cup is half full or half empty. To us, that is a $68-$108 billion opportunity.”

Adesina added, “The issue of risk in Africa is exaggerated. The risk of loss is lower than Latin America. Yet, funds are not being channeled into Africa. There are $8 trillion of assets under management in London, but only 1%  is invested in Africa.” 

Adesina urged investors to look to Africa and recalled the achievements of the Africa Investment Forum - a game-changing initiative led by the African Development Bank and key partners, to accelerate investment in the continent. The unique multi-sector platform is designed to advance bankable deals to financial closure. At the 2019 Forum, which took place in Johannesburg, South Africa, deals valued at $40.1 billion secured investment interest. 

The African continent is home to eight of the 15 fastest-growing economies in the world. By 2030, 42% of the world’s youth will be African and will constitute an incredible workforce and potential consumers.

In his concluding remarks, Sharma expressed confidence in the continent: “Africa has a fabulous future.” Sharma announced five partnerships to mobilise private sector investment in quality infrastructure on the continent. “The City of London can play a role in mobilizing resources for Africa,” Sharma said.

Speaking earlier,Johnson made a major announcement on the UK’s policy on climate change.“From today, the British government will no longer provide any new direct development assistance for thermal coal mining or coal power plants overseas,” Johnson said. 

The declaration aligns with the African Development Bank’s green agenda aimed at increasing investment in renewable energy. The bank’s president announced last year at the UN General Assembly that the Bank was moving away from investing in coal.