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Trade with African Countries

Volume 712: debated on Thursday 21 April 2022

Overall UK-Africa trade stood at £32 billion last year. We will increase that and achieve our investment goals. By 2030, Africa will have 1.7 billion consumers, and our post-Brexit trade policy will enable those nations to grow their economies and create opportunities for UK businesses.

I thank the Minister for that response. In all my visits to Africa on trade missions, it has been clear that people there really do want to do business with British companies, perhaps in preference to doing business with the Chinese. Will we do everything we can to make British companies realise the opportunities that exist in Africa?

First, let me place on record our thanks for everything my hon. Friend has done to improve trade with the continent and with Ethiopia in particular. He is right to say that there are massive opportunities there, but our great businesses face tough competition, including from China’s growing influence and impact on the region, particularly through soft infrastructure at the moment. In recent months, we have strengthened our situational awareness of what China is doing and are actively supporting UK businesses to reach those opportunities early. We are doing that through providing competitive finance and support across the continent.

As many African countries depend in normal times on Ukraine, Belarus and Russia for almost 100% of their grain, we find ourselves in a situation where we are trading in the same commodities markets as African countries, pushing up the prices for some of the poorest people in the world. Will the Minister acknowledge that, look again at the Government’s cut in aid and put that back to where it was? Will she also perhaps consider that the best way we can deal with that situation is by backing British farming, so that we can feed ourselves and not be robbing the food that should be feeding the poorest in the world?

Let me put the aid budget in context. If we trebled the aid budget, it still would not be enough to deal with some of the situations that that continent is facing at the moment. A group in Whitehall is looking at all these issues, including food security, both in Africa and in Ukraine. Within that, there will be opportunities for other nations to start being able to supply, to step in and fill that gap. Obviously, we will want to ensure that Ukraine’s food security is looked after as well. A huge amount is going on in Whitehall, and if the hon. Gentleman would like some more information, I am sure we could supply him with the detail.