The U.K.-Africa Investment Summit started off the year 2020, in January, with a loud bang and was set to change the tempo of UK-Africa business relations, especially with the commencement of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) which was due to kick off on 1 July 2020, until the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
Involving over 800 delegates which comprised U.K. parliamentarians, African entrepreneurs, leaders of business and international institutions, representatives from finance, business, and development and 21 African Heads of State including Presidents Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, Abdel Fatah el-Sisi of Egypt, Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, and Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana, the summit included hundreds of meetings, and scores of side events and sessions on sustainable finance and infrastructure, trade and investment, African growth opportunities, and clean energy transformation.
The high-level meeting was the result of a unique partnership between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the Department for International Development (DFID) and the Department for International Trade (DIT).
It was also the first ever U.K.-Africa Investment Summit and the latest of high-level geo-strategic engagements with Africa signaling what many have described as a new scramble for Africa.
Themed “Partners for Prosperity”, the UK’s strategic intent for the summit was to fill the gap or the loss that may result from it leaving the European Union at the end of January and as such, the summit focused on the U.K.’s post-Brexit trade and investment relationship with African countries.
The U.K. government’s approach to the event was indicative that as the U.K. goes through the Brexit process, the country intends to remake trade agreements it had been party to, under the European Union and it noted that from 2021, U.K.-Africa trade will no longer be governed by European Union trade rules and the U.K. will become free to offer much more generous terms and lower barriers to entry for African producers to the U.K. market.
In light of this, several investment deals were announced on the sidelines of the summit. Private sector deals included a $411 million deal by Savannah Petroleum to buy oil and gas assets in Nigeria and the CDC Group also declared about $400 million worth of new investments to support solar power and other renewable technologies as well as the growth of Small and Medium-sized enterprises.
Discussions about private sector development and new mechanisms for financing projects were had, and concluded with the DFID’s International Development Infrastructure Commission Secretary, Mr. Alok Sharma, announcing the establishment of a project development facility, to see how the U.K. can get private sector money into infrastructure.
The project aims to generate billions of pounds of private sector investment for sustainable energy, transport and telecommunications projects in African countries.
The Start-Up Night Africa, a side event of the Summit, hosted by the Lionesses of Africa and the U.K. Government, helped to amplify the presence of Africa’s female entrepreneurs at the summit while the Sustainable Investment session focused heavily on the SDGs.
The commitment of the CDC Group, funded by the U.K. government’s development finance institution, to invest £2 billion in African businesses over the next two years was one of the biggest announcements of the day.
All things considered, the UK-Africa Investment Summit created a space for foreign aid, trade, investment and diplomacy to complement one other.
And as transnational economic activities resume, following the disruption that came with the outbreak of the pandemic, it is hoped that the objective to create partnerships of equals for mutual prosperity, which the summit sought to achieve, will be realized sooner than later.