This summer the Prime Minister visited South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya. She met some of the young, dynamic and entrepreneurial next generation of Africans who are working hard, achieving change and challenging outdated stereotypes.
Alongside a delegation of British businesses, I accompanied the Prime Minister on a visit that marked our important historical, societal and people-to-people relationships with these great Commonwealth countries, whilst looking ahead to a future of greater trade, stronger partnerships and shared prosperity.
The message from Prime Minister May, President Ramaphosa, President Buhari and President Kenyatta was clear: now is the time to build a new partnership between the UK and African countries – built on investment, job creation and inclusive, growth.
During the visit, the Prime Minister saw first-hand that Africa is a continent full of potential, with its ambitious, young and growing populations, who are eager to embrace the opportunities of the 21st century.
But she also acknowledged the challenge we all face: that this potential will only be realised if there are enough jobs – the types of jobs that enable people to provide for their families in the pursuit of a healthier and more prosperous future.
18 million new jobs are needed every year between now and 2035, just to keep pace with fast-growing populations across Africa. Nigeria alone needs to create around 6,000 new jobs every single day until 2030.
Yet, there is good news. The continent is rich with great opportunity, growth and momentum – home to five of the world’s fastest growing economies. And some calculate that Africa’s GDP could double between 2015 and 2030.
So it is unsurprising that when I meet African leaders, civil society groups, young people and businesses, they are clear on what the answer is: investment.
By using the power of business, investment and the private sector – alongside investment in education and health – we can combine the catalytic youth force with fast-growing African economies, to create millions of jobs that empower young people and meet the rising aspirations of Africa’s next generation.
This is a genuine win-win.
For British investors and businesses, these emerging African markets – whether the agriculture innovations coming out of Kenya, the fast-growing fintech companies of Lagos, or the manufacturing hubs in Ethiopia – offer exciting, new opportunities.
For African nations, this investment will help businesses to grow and to hire – transforming economies, lifting people out of poverty, and enabling countries to move to a future beyond aid.
For the rest of the world, we all benefit when more export opportunities, more jobs and stronger economies are built by supporting African-led ambitions with expertise and investment.
This is why on her visit to the continent, the Prime Minister announced a new £4 billion package of UK investment to directly support over half a million jobs across Africa – making the case for using both UK aid and City of London expertise to unlock major private sector investment into African businesses and markets.
This month the Prime Minister took this message to the world stage, joining Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda – alongside young entrepreneurs and international investors – at the United Nations General Assembly annual meetings, to call on the world to invest in Africa. This event gave young African entrepreneurs the opportunity to tell the world about the investment opportunities their countries present, and the type of investment they need.
There is still work to be done – it is estimated that $1.2 trillion needs to be invested in Africa every year if we are to achieve the Global Goals that lift people out of poverty for good and help more African nations move to a future free from aid dependency. And as the Prime Minister underlined, that investment needs to be sustainable and spread benefits right across society.
We are taking an important step in the right direction.
At the United Nations General Assembly, the Prime Minister welcomed the launch of the Sustainable Development Capital Initiative – a City of London group of finance experts who, in partnership with UK Government, will develop the City’s role in raising the capital needed to meet the sustainable development goals. Then next year the UK will host an Africa investment summit in the UK – bringing African leaders together with private and institutional businesses and investors.
It is these long-term, meaningful and mutually beneficial partnerships for prosperity – between our young people, governments, businesses and investors – that we want to harness over the coming months, years and decades, to deliver a safer, healthier and more prosperous future for the next generation of Africans, Brits and the rest of the world.
Minister for Africa at the Department for International Development, Harriett Baldwin.