UK looks to fast-growing Africa for trade ties after Brexit

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson touted the United Kingdom (UK) as an ideal business partner for Africa yesterday as the UK prepares for post-Brexit dealings with the world.

But Britain faces tough challenges as it seeks to assert itself on a continent with several of the world’s fastest-growing economies and whose youthful 1.2 billion population is set to double by 2050.

Far fewer of Africa’s 54 heads of state or government are attending the first UK-Africa Investment Summit than the dozens who attended the first Russia-Africa summit last year or the gatherings China regularly holds.

The UK’s Department for International Trade said two-way trade with Africa in the year ending in the second quarter of 2019 was USD46 billion. Meanwhile, Africa’s two-way trade with China, the continent’s top trading partner, was USD208 billion in 2019.

Johnson told attendees that the conference “is long overdue”. He acknowledged that British officials and companies needed to work to convince African nations to do business with the UK.

“We have no divine right to that business,” he said. “This is a competitive world. You have may suitors” — especially China and Russia.

Britain is due to leave the European Union (EU) on January 31, and Johnson said the UK would become a free-trading “global Britain after Brexit”.

He pledged that the post-Brexit immigration system would “put people before passports”, acknowledging a common frustration across Africa.

Britain said 16 African leaders attended yesterday’s summit in London, including the leaders of Nigeria, Congo, Kenya, Egypt, Ghana and Rwanda.

Aside from the sluggishness of its top two economies, South Africa and Nigeria, Africa is showing economic momentum as the recently launched African Continental Free Trade Area gathers steam.

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson shakes hands with President of Rwanda Paul Kagame at the UK Africa Investment Summit in London yesterday. PHOTO: AP