As the 689th Lord Mayor of the City of London, I act as an ambassador for the UK’s financial and professional services sector, and am here in Zambia this week to meet with senior business and government officials to discuss how we can build closer business ties between our two countries. During my year in office visiting both established and emerging markets was a key priority for me, and I look forward to discussing how we can ensure Britain remains a vital partner for businesses across Zambia.
London is the world’s leading financial centre, boasting an unparalleled clustering of expertise, and the UK’s regional centres of excellence such as Leeds, Edinburgh and Bristol complement London’s exceptional global offer. One of the UK’s key strengths is our leadership in the field of financial innovation, with London a key global centre for both Green Finance and Islamic Finance. I would encourage Zambian companies to explore these two financial products as possible alternative financing routes for investing in future growth and prosperity.
In London we are also looking to the future, with the rapid growth of FinTech rapidly becoming one of the City’s crown jewels. More people are employed in this sector in the UK than in New York. I see real possibilities for British FinTech firms to collaborate with Zambian firms to help people across the African continent access banking and financial services in a way that is not currently facilitated by physical banking infrastructure.
The UK and Zambia already benefit from strong trade links - in 2015 alone, the UK exported £64 million in services to Zambia. Our trade in financial services has been growing at a steady rate in recent years too, rising by 45% between 2007 and 2015. I hope to see this figure grow by leaps and bounds in the coming years.
I am pleased by the great strides that Zambia’s financial sector is making to diversify its services offering and increase trade with other countries. Zambian financial institutions are continuing to strengthen their traditional banking service offers such as lending to customers and businesses, but are also exploring ways to offer more specialised financial products, such as investment banking, portfolio financial packages, and issuance of corporate bonds. Improvements made to strengthen the economy and wider financial sector across Zambia have not gone unnoticed, with global credit rating service Standard & Poor’s recently revising up its grading just last month.
As part of my trip to Lusaka, I will attend a number of meetings with business leaders from the financial and professional services sector, and I’m looking forward to discussing with them the main opportunities and concerns of firms based in the region, and see how the UK might assist. In particular I look forward to attending a meeting with the Governor of Bank of Zambia, where I hope to hear how macro-economic policies are supporting economic growth across the country. I’m also looking forward to meeting a number of big UK firms based in the capital - such as Standard Chartered, Barclays and Prudential - to discuss the opportunities they are exploring in this steadily-developing market.
As the UK prepares to leave the European Union, we are actively looking at how we can deepen our relationships with existing international partners. We have been clear that we remain committed to the EU, but I am personally looking forward to seeing how we can increase trade, boost collaboration and share even greater business intelligence with our partners across Africa, particularly here in Zambia.
The financial sector, in particular, with its well-established trading relationships with international partners will look to cement its ties with its partners across the world. With some of the most promising emerging markets in the world, the UK’s relationship with African nations will become ever more important.
In recent years, the City of London Corporation has been proactively looking at ways to strengthen ties with partners across the Commonwealth. My visit to Lusaka as a representative for the UK’s financial and professional services industries this week marks a significant occasion, and represents this increasing international outlook to the UK’s financial sector.
The Commonwealth of Nations is a collection of 52 member states united by shared values of democracy, free speech, human rights, and the rule of law. These basic principles encourage business prosperity, and are consistent across all Commonwealth nations, meaning it is only right that we look to strengthen the economic ties that bind us.
The Commonwealth has a population in excess of 2.3 billion people spread across all of the world’s inhabited continents. While it is right that we recognise that our relationships within the Commonwealth have not always been easy, I know there is a strong universal desire to develop Commonwealth trade. We can and should do more. In 2013, intra-Commonwealth trade in goods and services stood at nearly $600 billion dollars. It has grown at almost 10% a year since 1995. The aspiration is to hit $1 trillion dollars in trade by 2020.
London is the hub of the Commonwealth, and puts us in prime position to spread the City’s world-leading skills in financial and professional services to the rest of the Commonwealth. With London’s support I hope to see a new era of strong international growth based on cooperation between our family states.
With the great collaboration that the UK and Zambia has already benefitted from, I am confident that this trip marks a positive step toward our mutual commitment to continue to build upon this relationship. The UK is entering an unprecedented phase, but that does not mean we are reticent in our ambitions to grow. The City, London and the whole of the UK remain open for business, and I look forward to discussing how we can shape a prosperous future for both Zambia and the UK.