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UK Prime Minister visits West Africa

August 30, 2018

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UK Prime Minister Theresa May meets the Nigerian President

As Prime Minister May visits West Africa as the latest stop on her Africa tour, Deputy High Commissioner to Sierra Leone, Colin Crorkin, looks ahead to the future of the relationship between the UK and Africa.

Prime Minister May is the first British Prime Minister to visit Sub-Saharan Africa since 2013, and the first to go to Kenya for over 30 years. Africa is a young, vibrant and dynamic continent growing at an extraordinary rate, full of potential to play a transformative role in today’s global economy. As we move towards Brexit, a truly Global Britain is now making a new and distinctive offer to invest in and work alongside African nations for our mutual benefit.

Alongside this rapid growth there are threats and challenges including conflict, migration, climate change and organised crime, and we need to work more closely with our African partners to give the stability and space for prosperity to thrive.

Future generations both in Africa and the UK want us to forge deep, ambitious and dynamic partnerships that make the most of our common links and deliver a safer, healthier and more prosperous future for us all.

The continent of Africa is modernising and innovating at a pace never seen before. It is home to the world’s youngest population, and by 2050, 1 in 4 people on the planet will be African. That’s a quarter of the world’s workforce and a quarter of the world’s consumers. This energy, optimism and vibrancy present huge opportunities – as well as some challenges.

Africa’s long-term stability and success matter greatly to the UK, and we are determined not to be left behind. As we leave the European Union and look to strengthen our global influence, now is the time to deepen our partnerships with African nations.

The UK has a new and unique offer for Africa as a whole. Global Britain is a pioneer of investment and free trade, home to the City of London, cutting-edge science and technology industries, and world-class defence, diplomacy and development expertise. It is these distinctive qualities which the UK will share through partnerships that will deliver the results that African countries want, strengthening their own stability and boosting their prosperity and growth. At the heart of our modern Industrial Strategy is a commitment to global collaboration and partnership on the future-defining challenges and mutually beneficial opportunities that lay ahead.

Africa is home to some of the fastest emerging global powers in the world. The continent’s total GDP is expected to double between 2015 and 2030, and its economy is expected to be worth $5.6 trillion by 2025 – that’s just seven years away.

Trade has the power to help meet this demand by creating many of these jobs and stimulating the vital investment African countries want to make their economies more diverse, more agile and less dependent on aid. The UK is in pole position to build partnerships which remove barriers to doing business, promote international standards, and open up investment opportunities for everyone.

The City of London is a truly international gateway financial market, and African countries are already alive to the opportunities offered by this global hub of financial expertise. The UK is uniquely positioned to be Africa’s private investment partner of choice with game-changing partnerships to strengthen mutually beneficial commercial partnerships with UK centres of excellence, develop capital markets, build capacity to trade, and support fintech entrepreneurs doing great things with mobile money.

But, in order to deliver prosperity for all, we must also tackle the issues that threaten stability and security head on. It is in all our interests to work alongside our African partners in the fight against global threats that do not respect borders – terrorism, conflict, modern slavery, and serious and organised crime. Together, we also need to collaborate on managing migration so that we can keep people safe and provide alternative futures for those considering a dangerous path. This includes stepping up our commitment to a more stable Sahel so we can help tackle extremism and people trafficking.

Young minds across Africa hold the key to discovering brilliant, new solutions to the world’s challenges – including climate change – and to maximising exciting opportunities for both British and African young people. This is why the UK – a world leader and investor in science, innovation and research – is working with, and supporting the development of, the brightest research, academic and entrepreneurial talent from across Africa.

We know the needs and ambitions of modern African nations are changing and we are being innovative in our use of ODA – from supporting Africa’s brightest young technology entrepreneurs, to tackling illicit financial flows and inspiring young people across the continent to stop world-wide plastics pollution.

We are increasing the UK’s presence across the continent – bringing in trade deal experts, investment specialists, health and family planning policymakers, and cutting-edge climate researchers so we can work together to deliver on our shared interests and find solutions to the world’s biggest challenges.

African countries have the youngest populations in the world: future generations who have a thirst to take control of their country’s growth and find innovative solutions to their own problems. But this demographic dividend also presents a challenge. Without long-term employment, life-improving opportunities and access to a quality education – especially for girls – we risk economic stagnation, frustrated communities and social breakdown.

That is why the UK’s commitment made on this visit to Africa – of a partnership for prosperity with African nations – must focus on empowering young women with access to quality vocational training and greater choice over their lives, building skills and opportunities, and creating the millions of jobs needed for the growing numbers of young, optimistic, entrepreneurial people entering the job market every year.

It is the youth of Africa who will fuel the growth which will help African nations become our trading partners of the future, if they can access the opportunities they deserve in sectors such as manufacturing, technology and financial services.

We will also therefore build on the progress made at the Commonwealth Summit and its commitment to invest in our shared futures, making the most of our common interests and celebrating the fact that the UK is home to and enriched by, many African communities.

By supporting and strengthening African institutions to keep people safe, promoting the international rules-based system, triggering business growth and trade and empowering young people with skills and future opportunities, we will tackle the root causes of insecurity and allow shared prosperity the space to thrive.