UK 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.
At an oversubscribed opening ceremony for the 2020 UK-Africa Investment Summit, Monday, attended by dignitaries and delegates from 16 African countries, including President Yoweri Museveni and El Sisi of Egypt, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson made the case for bigger investments in Africa and called for increased and renewed partnership between the UK and Africa.
Referring to Africa as a booming continent with “staggering levels of growth,” Prime Minister 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.”
Speaking at the conference, Museveni said Uganda is “ready to receive British investors, given the immense business opportunities in the Pearl of Africa.”
Museveni further said Uganda has “greatly upgraded our infrastructure to support investment,” adding, “We have sufficient electricity, a skilled workforce, fair tariffs, good roads, etc. Opportunities exist in agriculture, services, tourism, dairy sector, ICT, among others.”
On his part, Boris indicated that Uganda’s “products, including Uganda’s beef, would find its way onto the dining tables of post-Brexit Britain.”
In response, Museveni said Uganda’s position “has always been balanced trade that benefits all parties.”
According to Uganda Investment Authority (UIA), Uganda’s beef is ranked 5th best in the world because of its yellow fat that does not contain cholesterol mainly because the cows are naturally grazed.
An estimated 90% of the national cattle herd is kept under pastoral and mixed small holder farming systems.
Commercial beef ranching is limited accounting for less than 10% of the national herd. Lean meat is preferred as a beef product by consumers.
The UK-Africa Investment Summit, the first of its kind hosted by the UK Government, was attended by the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, the international development secretary, Alok Sharma, and Prince Harry.
The President of Ghana, Nana Akufo Addo, of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, of Mauritania, Mohamed Ould Cheikh el Ghazouani, African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina, and Secretary of State for International Development, MP Alok Sharma, 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.”
African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina announced a new $80 million Bank-DFID infrastructure financing partnership.
According to 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 percent is invested in Africa.”
The Bank president 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.
President Mohamed Ould Cheikh el Ghazouani of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, shared 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,” he noted.
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.
UK Secretary of State for International Development, MP Alok 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, Prime Minister Boris 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. President Adesina announced last year at the UN General Assembly that the Bank was moving away from investing in coal.