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Prosperity in Africa

Volume 671: debated on Tuesday 4 February 2020

Increased trade and investment in Africa will improve African Government revenues, and support job creation and economic growth, which is beneficial for African states and the United Kingdom. On 20 January, the Government hosted the UK-Africa investment summit, where £6.5 billion-worth of commercial deals and £1.5 billion-worth of Government funding initiatives were announced. Commitments announced at the AIS will help to drive prosperity across the continent.

I congratulate my hon. Friend and everyone involved in the very successful Africa investment summit. Will there be another one and, if so, what would the African countries that were not invited to this one need to do to get an invite to the next one?

I start by paying tribute to my predecessor for the work that she did in the early preparations for the summit. The summit achieved its objectives of laying the foundations for a new, stronger relationship between the United Kingdom and Africa, based on mutually beneficial trade and investment. Following our departure from the European Union, the Government will build further on those foundations in a range of ways, and we are currently looking at the feedback from the summit.

I echo the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for West Worcestershire (Harriett Baldwin) on the Africa investment summit. Too often, Britain’s interests when it comes to Africa are piecemeal and we are not good enough when it comes to sustained engagement, so what plans does the Minister have to engage with the African Union on a regular basis?

Excellent. I very much welcome that question. The African Union is justifiably seen internationally as a strong and influential partner, able to bring African countries together. During the Africa investment summit, chairperson Faki met the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. To support the development of the African continental free trade area, the Secretary of State for International Trade announced a £200 million southern African regional trading connectivity programme and a £20 million trade connect programme at the summit, which will further and deepen our partnership with the African Union.

May I ask the Minister how much time during the UK- Africa investment summit last month was dedicated to discussing the elimination of corruption and the protection of human rights, as two of the key preconditions of any new trade deals, especially given the presence of a notorious human rights abuser such as Egypt’s President Sisi?

The subject of human rights was raised by the Foreign Secretary in every single one of his bilateral meetings. Corruption is a barrier to business and growth, which is why the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, through the prosperity fund, is investing in extensive anti-corruption projects in Africa, including legal reforms, policy reforms and transparency reforms, and operational work to recover the billions that have been stolen from the African people over the years.

As trade negotiations progress with Africa, there will be conflicting pressures with our trade negotiations with the US and South American states. What reassurance can the Minister give me that he will put pressure on the Department for International Trade to ensure that Africa is prioritised when it comes to trade deals, and does not lose out as a result of US or South American deals?

The very fact that we have hosted an Africa investment summit indicates the Government’s strategic priority towards Africa. We are opening five new missions in Africa, and are increasing the number of our staff—including Department for International Trade staff—across the continent by 400. Africa is a key trading partner, and UK-Africa trade increased by 7.5% last year to £36 billion.