By Lord Dolar Popat, Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Rwanda and Uganda
It was a pleasure to speak at the recent African Leadership Magazine Summit to discuss the ramifications of Covid-19 in Africa, amongst so many astute speakers. Collectively we all discussed one thing – the pathway to Africa’s economic recovery and growth after this pandemic.
In this new world that we are living in, this exceptional crisis requires exceptional responses across the world, particularly in Africa. Africa will not and should not be the same after the end of this pandemic. This is a crucial moment of change and renewal for us all.
For Africa to jump-start its economic recovery, it must redesign itself and harness the economic opportunities it has available both post-Brexit and post Covid-19. To be part of this, we want the UK to be the investment partner of choice for all African nations.
Prior to Covid-19, Africa was developing at an unbelievably fast rate. By 2050, over 2 billion people will live in Africa and 1 in 4 global consumers will be African. These thriving, young, innovative and rapidly growing populations provide new, exciting opportunities for the UK and African businesses to trade and invest. In thirty years’ time, over 2 billion people will live in Africa and 1 in 4 global consumers will be African.
Africa’s economic potential is, therefore, at risk and must be saved. To do this, we must allow and encourage African companies to access foreign capital at lower rates and encourage world-class companies to invest in the continent. In addition to this, we must strengthen Africa’s manufacturing sector to ensure that it is self-sufficient, from PPE to mobile phones, which Uganda and Rwanda are now proudly doing.
The second thing which Africa must do is improve the ease of doing business on the continent and strive to achieve is a friendly business and strong regulatory environment. Therefore, Africa must behave like a business.
Africa needs a transparent democracy. Decades later, Africa’s public enemy remains corruption, and it holds back every aspect of economic and civil life. We must improve Africa’s image and remove the band-aid lens, which the west sees the continent.
Thirdly, Africa must strengthen intra-regional trade. Whilst there is an East African Community on paper – in practice, it doesn’t work. We need free movement of labour, goods and services.
Finally, Africa will need more international trade agreements to support its growing but still fragile export sectors. I am pleased that our new African Minister James Duddridge, who was also born in Africa, is keen to see Africa grow and to ensure that we are a part of your future.
We want Africa to succeed. There is an African proverb: that in order to plan for the future, you have to start today. Post Covid-19 African people are putting the future into their own hands, while post-Brexit, the UK is also in a position to work closely with the continent.
As we recover from Covid-19, we must remember that the future of Africa is up to Africa. So, where are Africa’s future market and trading opportunities? As the old saying states, “crisis is also an opportunity.” This time is no exception.