Europe’s top women leaders, May and Merkel, visit Africa in pursuit of reshaping global alliances

  • August 30, 2018

Theresa May’s ambitious trip to Africa

This is her first visit to the continent as Prime Minister of Britain.

She is also the first British Prime Minister to visit Sub-Saharan Africa since 2013, and the first to go to Kenya for over 30 years.

This visit comes at a time of enormous change across Africa with a unique opportunity, as the UK moves towards Brexit, for a truly Global Britain to invest in and work alongside African nations, with mutual benefits.

The Prime Minister’s central message was focused on a renewed partnership between the UK and Africa, which will seek to maximise shared opportunities and tackle common challenges in a continent that is growing at a rapid pace – from the Sahara to South Africa.

On the opening day of the visit in Cape Town, May spoke particularly about bringing the transformative power of private sector trade and investment from the UK to a continent that is home to 16% of the world’s people but just 3% of FDI and 3% of global goods trade.

As Africa seeks to meet the needs of its growing population, the she emphasised that it is in the world’s interest to help secure African stability, jobs and growth because conflict, poor work prospects and economic instability will continue to encourage migration and dangerous journeys to Europe.

Because nations cannot prosper without security, the Prime Minister used the visit to announce further support to tackle instability across the region.

Prime Minister Theresa May said: ‘Africa stands right on the cusp of playing a transformative role in the global economy, and as longstanding partners this trip is a unique opportunity at a unique time for the UK to set out our ambition to work even closer together.

‘A more prosperous, growing and trading Africa is in all of our interests and its incredible potential will only be realised through a concerted partnership between governments, global institutions and business.

‘As we prepare to leave the European Union, now is the time for the UK to deepen and strengthen its global partnerships. This week I am looking forward to discussing how we can do that alongside Africa to help deliver important investment and jobs as well as continue to work together to maintain stability and security.’

The Prime Minister will be joined by a business delegation made up of 29 representatives from UK business – half of which are SMEs – from across all regions of the UK and its devolved administrations. The delegation shows the breadth and depth of British expertise in technology, infrastructure, and financial and professional services.

Delegates include:

  • The London Stock Exchange
  • Cardiff-based cooling technology firm Sure Chill
  • Solar tech provider Northumbria Energy from North Tyneside
  • London-based start-up Farm.ink who have created a knowledge-sharing mobile platform for farmers
  • Northern Irish agri-tech leader Devenish Nutrition
  • The world-renowned Scotch Whisky Association and Midlands manufacturing giant JCB
  • Also travelling are Trade Minister George Hollingbery and Minister for Africa Harriett Baldwin. Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns joined the visit in South Africa to support the Welsh companies in the business delegation, while the Lord Mayor of London Charles Bowman is also accompanying the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister began her trip in Cape Town in South Africa on Tuesday where she met President Cyril Ramaphosa, business leaders and school children in Cape Town.

While in South Africa, the Prime Minister presented the Mendi bell to President Ramaphosa in a ceremony at Cape Town’s presidential office the Tuynhuys – over a century after it was lost in a shipwreck.

Over 600 troops, the majority black South Africans, died when the Mendi tragically sank in the English Channel in 1917, on their way to join the Allied forces on the Western Front. It was the worst maritime disaster in South Africa’s history, and the Mendi has become a symbol of the country’s First World War remembrance.

She also visited Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned.

The British Prime Minister has reached Nigeria, where she met President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja. She will spend time in Lagos meeting victims of modern slavery – a cause Theresa May has worked passionately to tackle.

In Nairobi, she will meet President Uhuru Kenyatta and see British soldiers training troops from Kenya and other African countries in the techniques needed to identify and destroy improvised explosive devices before they go to fight Al-Shabaab in Somalia.

She will also commit to helping support the next generation of energetic, ambitious young Kenyans as they seek to build a more prosperous country in the years ahead.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel brings investment and hope

She landed in Senegal on Wednesday, accompanied by a delegation of a dozen Chief Executive Officers. The German Chancellor pressed upon increasing investments to accelerate economic development in the region, which would help curb migration from Africa to Europe.

‘We must not be accomplices of the people smugglers. We must fight illegality but also create legality and conditions for work here on the ground,’ Merkel said via her spokesman Steffen Seibert, on the first day of her three-nation Africa tour.

She met Senegalese President Macky Sall and after the meeting announced that Germany would provide support in bringing electricity to about 300 villages in Senegal.

Merkel’s visit to Nigeria on Thursday will focus on enhancement of economic relations and security between the two countries. The Nigerian Ambassador to Germany, Yusuf Tuggar, said that the German Government is doing everything to push out their small and medium-scale businesses to take their place in an increasingly globalised world, especially in Nigeria.

‘The backbone of the German economy is essentially made up of medium-size, family-owned businesses. There are quite concerns about how to de-risk their investments. On the German side, they know the importance of these medium-size companies and they try to support them and see that they take an increasing role in a globalised world,’ he said.

The official reason for her visit is strengthening Africa’s economic development. ‘This economic outlook is crucial for most of the African countries because there are so many young people who need jobs and training,’ Merkel had said in one of her weekly video podcasts.

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