UK to boost construction exports to Africa
By Leila Steed26 January 2022
The UK Government has launched its new Growth Gateway tool, which is designed to strengthen UK and African business relationships.
Launched at this year’s Africa Investment Conference, which was hosted online by the Department for International Trade (DfIT) last week and was attended by over 3000 delegates, the digital platform enables African and British businesses to access UK Government trade, finance and investment services and opportunities.
According to the DfIT, the Growth Gateway offers “practical online support to businesses in Africa that want to export to and invest in the UK, and businesses in the UK that want to export to and invest in Africa, backed up by a team of trade and investment specialists”.
Speaking at the event, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, “We’re already one of Africa’s biggest commercial partners - we’ve signed nine free trade agreements with our African friends, and in this financial year alone our embassies and high commissions helped British companies to invest £2.5 billion in Africa.
“But I am determined to do much more. Our shared task must be to ensure that Africa prospers from the green industrial revolution, that will rescue humanity from catastrophic climate change.”
The conference was described as a legacy of the UK-Africa Investment Summit hosted in London in 2020, which saw the signing of 27 trade and investment deals worth £6.5bn and further commitments worth £8.9 billion.
Gerry Grimstone, the UK Minister for Investment, said, “We want more British firms to sell to the world, taking advantage of new opportunities that present themselves in growing markets like this.
“The potential is huge. This government has the finance available to back British firms going global in West Africa, supporting growth and development in the region and helping communities and local economies to thrive.”
To further increase trade in the region, the UK Government has drafted in support from the UK Export Finance (UKEF) - the government export credit agency responsible for helping British companies finance and insure their export activities.
The agency, which has billions of pounds at its disposal for projects in African markets that source their materials and services from UK companies, said, “UKEF has capacity to provide further support for UK trade in West Africa, with up to £3 billion available in Senegal, £2 billion in Cote D’Ivoire, and up to £2 billion in Nigeria.”
In the past year the agency has provided support worth £2.3 billion to Africa, with £500 million being spent on projects in West Africa alone.
These included vital infrastructure developments such as major road and bridge construction projects, as well as the provision of environmental services, design services and medical and IT equipment.
UKEF said, “The region provides a unique opportunity for UK exporters as West Africa has experienced a surge in economic growth since the early 1990s.
“Research shows that since 2000 its collective GDP has risen from $105 billion to more than $659 billion in 2020.”
Support from the agency has previously included a £40 million guarantee for Gloucestershire firm Mabey Bridge, for the building of 87 emergency bridges to strengthen flood defences in Ghana, helping to minimise effects of climate change in the region.
The agency added, “In 2021, UKEF also signed its largest ever deal in the region worth over £200 million to support the construction of six hospitals, with support from UK suppliers, creating jobs in the UK and improving health outcomes in the Côte d’Ivoire.”