On the 29th March, the PEI held an Africa Breakfast Club meeting, which focused on the UK-Africa Trade Relationship, post-Brexit. Featuring a keynote presentation from the Rt Hon Greg Hands, Minister of State for Trade and Investment, our guests included African Heads of Mission, senior diplomats, and high-level representatives from the private sector and UK government.
The Rt Hon Greg Hands provided an overview of the UK’s current approach to international trade, especially in Africa. Firstly, he emphasised the centrality of trade to the UK government. The Minister also outlined the role of the Department of International Trade (DIT), which was established after last year’s referendum, and is responsible for promoting British trading relationships around the world. He stressed that DIT has three priorities: promoting UK exports, maintaining the UK’s status as a leading destination for overseas investment, and preparing the UK for a free trade future outside the European Union.
The Minister stressed that the DIT, as well as the wider UK government, is firmly committed to facilitating trade and development in Africa. He highlighted DIT’s close working relationship with the Department for International Development, which views trade as a vital engine of economic development and poverty reduction. The Minister also affirmed that the UK is committed to expanding export finance, which provides financing for projects that may not ordinarily have access to funding. In the context of sub-Saharan Africa, so far UK export finance has funded the construction of the third terminal at the Dar es Salaam airport in Tanzania, as well as several district hospitals in Ghana. In addition, the UK is committed to expanding Outwards Direct Investment (ODI), with six pilot programmes across the world, including in South Africa and Ethiopia. Finally, the Minister noted that while the UK’s future commitments to trade are difficult to predict in the light of Brexit, it hopes to take advantage of being outside the European Union and pursuing more flexible trading relationships. It will have its own seat at the World Trade Organisation, and will work to assist developing countries to implement the recently ratified WTO agreement on trade facilitation.
The presentation sparked a lively discussion among attendees whose comments focused on fostering intra-African trade, skills development, and job creation among other issues. We were delighted to welcome a wide range of African High Commissions in London, including distinguished representatives from Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Rwanda, Ghana, China, Germany, Russia and Ethiopia. Furthermore, the PEI was grateful for the attendance of representatives from businesses including INTL FCStone and Inmarsat, the Department of International Trade, and the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAENG).
Thank you to the distinguished guests who attended, and, especially, the members of the PEI Partners Forum whose support make these events possible.