Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets 16 African leaders at an investment summit Monday (20 January) that will see Britain cast out a net for trading partners in its new life outside the EU.
The first UK-Africa Investment Summit in London comes less than two weeks before Britain formally ends its decades-long involvement in the European integration project.
It also follows a tour of sub-Saharan Africa former prime minister Theresa May made in 2018 — the first by a UK leader in five years.
The 16 leaders from 21 attending African countries include presidents Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt and Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and Ghanaian leader Nana Akufo-Addo will also attend.
Johnson will tell the African leaders and big company executives that he wants to make Britain their “investment partner of choice,” Downing Street said.
He is also expected to announce an end to Britain’s support for thermal coal mining and coal power plants overseas.
“UK aid is tackling climate change and supporting women entrepreneurs,” Britain’s International Development Secretary Alok Sharma said in statement.
“Africa’s economic potential is huge, with eight of the world’s 15 fastest growing economies and a population set to double to over two billion by 2050,” said Sharma.
“We have much to offer African nations.”
Growing risk appetite
The British government’s export agency reports providing £2 billion ($2.6 billion) in financing for UK company exports to Africa in the past two years.
The agency says it now wants to “increase its risk appetite” in Egypt and the fast-growing economies in Nigeria and Rwanda.
The UK government said the London summit will see British and African firms announce commercial deals worth £6.5 billion.
It did not spell out whether these were all firm commitments or included memorandums of understanding that do not always result in actual deals.
Britain will formally leave the European Union on 31 January.
Brussels and London will then have just 11 months to reach a new free trade agreement that can preserve frictionless trade between Europe’s single market and one of its largest economies.
Johnson’s government says it wants to diverge away from the EU economy in the future — even at the expense of some of its producers facing trade tariffs and quotas as a result.
London believes that this would give Britain a better chance at reaching its own agreements with growing nations outside Europe.
UK finance minister Sajid Javid said in an interview with the Financial Times published on Saturday that “there will not be alignment” with the EU once the post-Brexit transition period shuts at the end of the year.