Full text of a speech delivered by Minister for Africa Henry Bellingham at Lancaster House, London on December 16, 2010.
**Minister for Africa Henry Bellingham
**“Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, many thanks for coming to Lancaster House this morning. I am delighted to have this opportunity to talk to such a well- informed audience. And to be addressing such a large audience, larger than in the House of Commons!
It has been a little over six months since the Prime Minister asked me to become Minister for Africa in the Foreign Office. Those months have been extremely busy. I have made visits to Uganda, Sudan, Libya, DRC, Kenya, South Africa and Angola. There are many Heads of Mission here today whose countries I have not yet been to. But at the current rate of over one country a month I am on track to visit all 53 states in Africa by our next general election in May 2015! These trips allow me to see firsthand the challenges and opportunities facing Africa.
The challenges are well known. In parts of Africa, many people still live in terrible poverty and suffer a constant threat of violence and the abuse of their human rights. Indeed, this week we have been shocked by the deeply concerning images on YouTube of a young woman being flogged in Sudan. We, along with international partners, condemn such cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
Britain has been, and will continue to be, a leader among countries defending the rights and responding to the needs of poor people in Africa. This is demonstrated by the Foreign Secretary’s commitment to a foreign policy in which the promotion and protection of human rights around the world is indivisible from our efforts to bring security and prosperity to Britain, and, of course, in Africa as well. And it is demonstrated by our plans to devote 0.7% of Gross National Income to international aid from 2013, despite these tough economic times. Indeed, we are the first country in the G20 to set out exactly how we will do so.
But when I meet with African leaders and speak with African people the topics that come up time and again are not just the challenges, but the huge opportunities - brought about by the expansion of the middle classes, the influx of foreign direct investment, and the extraordinary impact of mobile telephony.
The British government recognises this change in the conversation.
We want to support African countries to seize the opportunities before them and are injecting new energy into partnerships to build growth. Our development assistance will help promote broad-based wealth creation, recognising that aid is a means to an end not an end in itself. And this government believes global business - including British businesses - can make an absolutely vital contribution here and we will do all we can to foster further commercial ties, open up trade and deepen investment.
Today I want to set out for you what we are already doing towards this, in the context of our ongoing work with African partners to prevent conflict, improve governance, protect human rights and manage the challenges of climate change. It is our firm belief that our support to address these issues mutually reinforces our efforts to deliver prosperity.
I recently returned from four days in Angola, an emerging economic and political power on the continent and sub-Saharan Africa’s largest oil producer. This is a country whose economy is projected to grow 8.8% next year, according to World Bank figures. Indeed, in the first 9 months of this year, UK exports there have risen by 69%. In recent years, Angola’s non-oil sector grew on average by 11% per year. Education, construction, financial services, power and water are all key sectors for Angola’s growing economy and these are areas where UK businesses are now looking to invest. This investment in Angola’s future is very much in our mutual interest.
But, of course, Angola’s story is not unique. Africa is the second fastest growing region in the world. There has been significant and sustained growth across the continent in retail, agriculture, transport and telecoms, bringing much needed investment and development to African economies. And further opportunities will open up as economies diversify, expand and reach more people.
Britain wants to be a trusted partner for governments and businesses working to realise Africa’s immense potential and we will focus our efforts in three areas:
- firstly, ensuring that British businesses are able to make the most of the trade and investment opportunities on offer;
- secondly, helping Africa trade more across the continent ;
- and thirdly, removing barriers to Africa’s goods in global markets, including our own and the EU.
Firstly, through effective commercial diplomacy and the efforts of UK Trade and Investment we are working to increase the presence of British companies across Africa. The Foreign Secretary has established a new Commercial Diplomacy Taskforce to spearhead this effort.
In parts of Africa, commerce really is thriving. South Africa is our largest trade partner in Africa. This is a place where we have been doing business for a long time, and where the relationship runs deep - we speak the same language, play the same sports and drink the same wine! During my visit two weeks ago I made it clear that we must keep building on this and so we have set ourselves a challenging goal to double bilateral trade by 2015. By working together - the UK and South Africa; governments and business - I am confident we can achieve this.
And the opportunities are there in a range of sectors. For example, Pearson, one of the world’s leading publishers, is set to continue their expansion in southern Africa by acquiring a 75% stake in SA CTI Education group for £31m. This will enable them to meet the growing demand in South Africa for career-advancing higher education. It is this kind of mutually beneficial partnership that we can hold up as an example and look to promulgate throughout the African continent.
UK Trade and Investment, to whom I pay tribute for their hard work, are present in 14 markets in Africa. They are an absolutely invaluable resource and have helped a broad range of companies to success: everything from emergency housing in East Africa to ICT in West Africa, and all points and sectors in between.
And I am keen to play my part. In November I met the Foreign Minister of Senegal and discussed what opportunities there might be for British companies to access the mining sector in his country. We agreed that the forthcoming UK-Senegal investment forum next March would promote those opportunities. Over the last fortnight in Africa I discussed numerous commercial prospects on behalf of the companies travelling with me. All Ministers stand ready to do this on their overseas trips as and when appropriate.
But let me be clear: our support for trade will not come at the expense of our values. We will never shy away from challenging human rights abuses and raising our concerns over human rights whenever and wherever those concerns arise.
Indeed, it is absolutely vital that both governments and companies make wealth creation work in a positive way that contributes effectively to African growth and development. That is why I applaud the Angolan government’s ambition to devote 30% of its own national budget to social development and housing, to address their own abject poverty and the dire conditions in which millions of their citizens still live. Deploying the proceeds of growth equitably through society will be crucial to Africa’s graduation from current levels of aid towards long term prosperity.
British companies can also serve as role models in Corporate Social Responsibility. Diageo’s ambitious pan-African Water of Life scheme responds to Millenium Development Goal 7 and aims to provide one million people with access to water every year until 2015. When I was in Luanda I had the privilege of participating in the opening of GlaxoSmithKline’s new operations there. They will deliver vaccines to millions of Angolans and they told me about dynamic plans for CSR and community projects to improve access to medicines in the country. These efforts are often delivered in partnership with African business. For example, Safaricom, part-owned by Vodafone, has become a national leader in CSR in Kenya. And there are many other British and African companies providing an excellent example across the continent, helping entrench a sustainable and equitable approach to doing business.
Secondly, we want to help Africa trade across the continent. We want to do this because intra-country trade currently accounts for less than 10% of Africa’s total trade - in some countries it is lower than 5% - compared to Europe where 62% of trade is within the European Union.
I’m glad that the African Union has an exciting vision to create an African Economic Community by 2028 and there are already successful examples of regional economic communities in Africa. In East and Southern Africa 26 countries are now working to establish a single Free Trade Area covering half the continent, while in West Africa, 15 countries are preparing to implement a customs union, with a common external tariff.
But it is not solely a question of overt trade barriers such as tariffs. ‘Behind-the border’ constraints and infrastructure bottlenecks add to the difficulties of doing business across borders. According to the World Bank’s “Doing Business 2011” Report, it takes just 5 days and $456 to export a standard container from Singapore, compared to 54 days and $5,491 from the Central African Republic.
Supporting African trade is a key priority for this government and the Prime Minister secured international community support for this agenda at the recent G20 Summit. But businesses have a role to play here too, by demonstrating to African governments the great benefits of integrated markets.
Thirdly, with only a 3.5% share of worldwide trade, Africa remains largely absent from global markets. For long term prosperity, Africa needs to increase its export revenue.
That’s why the UK will continue to lobby for developing countries to have access to international markets. We support the calls for all G20 countries to join the EU in granting Least Developed Countries 100% Duty Free Quota Free access. We support the development of friendly Economic Partnership Agreements and we are pleased that the EU is trying to make it easier for countries to benefit from these agreements. And we pushed hard at the G20 Summit for a revival of the Doha Round. A successful conclusion to this round makes sense as it could boost the global economy by a staggering £110bn annually and make a huge difference to Africa.
We also want to encourage African companies to export and invest in Britain. Our language, membership of the Commonwealth to which 19 African countries belong, and the large African Diaspora in the UK makes us a natural partner for African businesses looking to expand into global markets. This is not just an aspiration. During my visit, the Angolan bank BAI, the Banco Africano de Investimentos, announced their plans to open a London branch. A very positive, encouraging development indeed. Perhaps they can look to the model of South African health care company Netcare, which does 50% of its £2.3bn business in the UK, working through 48 sites, including 6 Nuffield hospitals.
So the potential for growth is clearly there- but we cannot overlook the significant challenges standing in the way. Instability and conflict, poor governance and corruption, abuses of human rights and poverty, the impact of climate change. These are obstacles that cannot be sidestepped, but must be overcome. If not, millions of Africans will continue to suffer terrible hardship as a consequence. This government will work with African partners to address these challenges and our new foreign policy architecture, including the formation of a National Security Council, enables us to provide effective, coordinated support.
The Foreign Office enjoys a close working relationship in Africa with colleagues from the Department for International Development and other government departments. On my travels, I have been extremely impressed at the way they work together, often collocated in the same offices. For example, we’re implementing joint (FCO/DFID/UKTI) anti-corruption strategies overseas, supported by the development of a UK Bribery Act, which will tackle both the grievances of UK companies trying to do business in Africa and also the damage to poverty reduction and economic growth done by corruption.
We remain wholeheartedly committed to supporting African efforts to reduce instability and conflict. Our National Security Strategy places particular emphasis on conflict prevention because we understand that, in an interconnected world, tackling problems at their roots safeguards our own security and prosperity.
We are, and will continue to be, major contributors to the UN and AU peacekeeping budgets and in particular we are working through these institutions to develop stability in Somalia, and maintain it in Sudan. We also have an important diplomatic and political role to play. For example, in recent weeks we have worked closely with our friends and partners in West Africa to encourage them to take a robust position on the political crisis in Cote D’Ivoire.
That crisis demonstrates how improved governance is vital for consolidating gains in economic growth and prosperity. Perceptions of political stability inevitably have an impact on investor confidence, so an early resolution that respects the democratic will of the majority will be important for the country’s economic prospects.
As I have said, deploying wealth equitably through society will be essential for prosperity in the long run. In Ghana and Tanzania, with their strong institutions, they have been able to turn exciting opportunities to turn wealth from hydrocarbons into benefits that can be shared across society. Yet elsewhere in Africa similar opportunities can be exploited by elites, who secure profits for themselves at the expense of ordinary citizens.
Proper political accountability can change this. So we support efforts to make elections credible and contribute to election monitoring directly and through the EU, Commonwealth and AU in countries such as Mozambique, Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, and DRC. But holding successful elections is only part of the story. We need to encourage the development of transparent and accountable institutions, strong civil society and a free media. And the promotion of improved governance goes hand in hand with our firm support for the protection of people’s rights.
In Zimbabwe we see an example of where a previously strong economy was systematically undermined by a government willing to visit the worst abuses of human rights on the people. It is good to see some economic progress being made under the Inclusive Government. This must now be matched by political progress leading to credible elections and we are ready to support the work of the Southern African Development Community going forward.
Finally, as the Foreign Office Minister responsible for climate change, I am acutely aware of the challenge Africa faces as a result of global warming. During my visit to Kenya, I saw how the country was struggling to cope with severe drought. Many African nations lack the capacity or resources needed to adapt to these environmental changes and in today’s interconnected world it threatens to undermine the prosperity and security of all nations.
So we are very pleased with the outcomes of the Cancun Climate Change Summit last week. In particular, we welcome the establishment of a Green Climate Fund, which will help developing countries with their transition to low carbon.
I hope I have demonstrated this morning that this government takes a multi-dimensional approach to Africa. It is an approach motivated by our shared values, interests and prospects. We recognise that our efforts to promote economic growth cannot stand apart from our work to prevent conflict, improve governance, protect human rights and manage the impact of climate change. These are the only foundations on which long term prosperity can be built.
So we want to build a trusted partnership across agendas: economic to environmental; defence to development. We have much to build on. But I believe we can and must do more to support long-term economic growth across the continent. British companies have a major role to play in this, with their strong tradition of engagement around the globe and knowledge of world markets. Supported by our world-leading diplomatic presence, we can make a great contribution to Africa’s economy, from which we all stand to gain. The time is right; the opportunities are there.
Ten years ago, Kofi Annan asked leaders from government and business to come together, saying:
“open markets offer the only realistic hope of pulling billions of people in developing countries out of abject poverty, while sustaining prosperity in the industrialized world.”
It is time we responded to that call and built a strong UK and African partnership, across government and business, that enables us to deliver lasting prosperity together.
I look forward to working with you. Thank you.”