Minister for Africa speech at Chatham House Conference on Infrastructure Delivery in Sub-Saharan Africa

James Duddridge speaks on infrastructure and prosperity in Africa

Good morning. Thank you Alex. I am delighted to be back at Chatham House. I have the best job, travelling to and from Africa. I am passionate about Africa and about the prosperity agenda.

Last year I spoke to you about why Africa matters to the UK Government, and to me, personally, as a long time resident of the continent.

Since then, as Minister for Africa, I have been lucky enough to revisit many of the African countries that are close to my heart. I have travelled across the continent, met people doing important work, and spoken at many events on the enormous economic potential and commercial opportunities that can be found right across Africa.

It is unwise to generalise in a continent as diverse as Africa. But despite the global economic slowdown, growth across the continent has remained generally positive this year. While the IMF’s latest predictions are for a reduction in growth in sub-Saharan Africa to 3.8%, this is still above the predicted global growth rate of 3.1%. This is rather good: George Osborne would be very pleased with 3.8%. In fact, except for one small blip in the 1990s, as a region Sub-Saharan Africa has experienced consistent growth year-on-year. It is a great place for long-term investment.

The situation is difficult for the few large oil producing economies, but experts believe that the majority of low income countries will continue to grow. Countries such as Cote D’Ivoire, where I’ll be in three weeks’ time, Mozambique and Tanzania, where I was last week, all High Level Prosperity Partners, hope to see growth of around 7% this year.

We need action to create enabling environments that support economic growth in Africa. Action that encourages innovation, and unleashes the entrepreneurial spirit of the young. Action to meet the aspirations of the continent’s growing youth population.

African governments have a crucial role to play, creating good governance mechanisms that encourage transparency and tackle corruption, regulatory frameworks that allow business to operate and invest responsibly, and strong and independent institutions that respect the rule of law.

Looking ahead, the UN estimates that Africa’s population will double to 2.5 billion people by 2050 .

The World Bank predicts that at least 600 million people will enter the job market in Africa in the next 15 years. That’s a massive opportunity.

Huge investment is required to create jobs and improve infrastructure in order to meet the demands of a rapidly growing population. Infrastructure that facilitates trade rather than hinders it. So that it no longer takes more time for a container to cross a couple of African borders than it does for the same container to be shipped from Hong Kong to Dar es Salaam.

Infrastructure is a pipeline for money. Airports, railways and roads are all pipelines for economic activity. This requires local knowledge and skills but also global expertise and help to get people and money moving.

So the partnership theme of this year’s conference is highly appropriate.

It is vital that we build partnerships between the private and public sector, working together in Africa; Working for the benefit of millions of Africans; Working to deliver the transformational change that the continent needs, to unlock growth and grow the taxation base.

Such partnerships will be essential to help grow Africa out of poverty. So too are the partnerships between the UK and countries across Africa.

The High Level Prosperity Partnerships forged between the UK and Angola, Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana, Mozambique and Tanzania emphasise that the UK wants to work more closely with these countries and to work with others across the continent.

The prosperity partnerships place the private sector in the driving seat of economic transformation.

Allowing the private sector to flourish creates jobs and generates taxes. Taxes fund vital services such as health and education. A better educated, healthier workforce will create the entrepreneurs and innovative business of tomorrow. This virtuous circle can sustain African growth and the UK is ready to play an important part.

UK companies have skills and expertise from project design, through planning and implementation. British architects, professional services, legal firms and capital markets are among the best in the world and stand ready to support infrastructure development on the continent. And of course the City of London is the place in the world to raise capital and a repository of a great deal of wisdom on how to deliver successful partnerships between the public and private sectors.

The UK’s extensive aid programme, part of our commitment to spending 0.7% of gross national income on overseas development, also recognises the importance of partnerships with the private sector to drive forward economic development.

We have a new Prosperity Fund of £1.3 billion over five years with the aim of fostering economic growth. Part of this fund will be used to help Africa grow out of poverty.

Just last week I was in Tanzania where I saw for myself how cities with weak infrastructure are crippled by events as mundane as heavy rain.

The infrastructure deficit was clearly visible. The rapid transport system is sadly not yet up and running. There is no quick fix. I was talking to Paul Collier about urbanisation in Africa and the need for a flexible job market. Big infrastructure projects take time to implement. But it is good that the Department for International Development is supporting a Government of Tanzania programme with the World Bank to make the City of Dar Es Salaam more resilient to these extreme weather events.

The problems of congestion and inefficiency at Dar es Salaam Port are well known.

That is why the UK Government is helping Tanzania unlock the potential of this maritime gateway and supporting Trademark East Africa to work on the immediate congestion problems. We are supporting critical feasibility studies necessary for the Government of Tanzania to secure bigger finance through the World Bank. With greater funding, Tanzania can improve the port infrastructure and realise the regional trade benefits that will come from improved freight corridors across Tanzania.

Of course I will continue to play my part too. Championing Africa as a place to trade and invest. Working together with business. Working with colleagues across Whitehall and in the City of London. Most importantly, working with my counterparts in Africa to support Africa’s continued economic transformation.

This year the UK and Africa have continued to build on their enduring partnership. By working together, I firmly believe that this partnership, built on long standing political links, cultural connections and historical links, will go from strength to strength.

Thank You.