On Thursday, UK Secretary of State for International Trade, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, introduced two new measures related to the UK-Africa trade partnership in a speech on the UK’s trade relationship with Africa at Invest Africa’s Africa Debate in London.
First, the Department for International Trade has confirmed plans to launch their Developing Countries Trading Scheme.
This scheme is intended to introduce less bureaucratic trading rules aimed at reducing tariffs and simplifying rules of origin requirements for developing nations.
Second is the launch of the UK’s Platinum Partnerships Programme.
This initiative, launched in celebration of the Queen’s 70-year reign, is designed to build closer trading ties between the UK and commonwealth countries, further strengthening ties between the UK and the 19 commonwealth nations on the African continent.
Prior to this announcement, the UK’s integration with Africa has already been strong.
UK investment in the African continent, valued at £49 billion, is more than any other nation, according to the United Nations Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
Even with the impact of COVID-19 and the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, these investments from the UK to Africa continued, with a particular focus on the green energy sector.
Over the last year, DIT supported more renewable energy projects than any other African industry.
These investments come amid strong growth projections for Africa.
According to DIT analysis, Africa’s import markets are forecast to expand more than five-fold from nearly $700 billion in 2019 to $3.9 trillion by 2050.
“This translates into extraordinary opportunities and we want to be able to position our businesses to seize those,” Trevelyan said.
“Clearly, to achieve this and to reduce costs for consumers and businesses in African countries, we need to remove trade barriers.”
The UK’s motives, however, are not solely self-interested, it also wants to help drive international trade in Africa where it will make the most difference: amongst African nations themselves.
In 2019, only 15% of the continent’s trade was conducted between African nations.
Trevelyn believes that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) – a single market agreement between 44 African countries under which trading began in January 2021 – will have an enormous impact on bolstering intra-African trade.
“We see it as a game-changer and possibly the most exciting trade initiative globally,” Trevelyan added.
In all, 1.3 billion people and economies from across Africa are connected by the free trade area, which is expected to boost intra-African trade by over 50% and lift 100 million people out of poverty.
Trevelyan concluded her address by saying: “Before us, there is a new opportunity – for the UK and Africa to build an extraordinary new trading partnership for the 21st century.”