Ride the wave of AfCFTA, AfDB president Adesina urges UK investors

Adesina 31 JanAfrica is on the cusp of unmatched economic transformation and the UK must engage in a partnership of change, according to the African Development Bank (AfDB) president Akinwumi Adesina

Adesina said this in a keynote address at the UK Parliamentary Symposium

The Symposium was co-organised by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Africa with the Royal African Society, Oxford Brookes University and the Trade Justice Network under the theme UK-Africa Trade and Brexit.

The Bank’s chief argued that Africa and the UK should be significant trading partners. “The reality, however, is that UK’s trade with Africa is trending downwards. From a US$49bn peak in 2012, trade decreased to US$30.6bn in 2018,” he noted.

The decline in UK trade and investment in Africa is against a backdrop of projected business-to-business and consumer-to-consumer expenditures of US$5.6tn by 2020 and a food and agriculture market worth US$1tn by 2030.

President Adesina used his engagement at the House of Commons to share Africa’s investment opportunities, “which speak for themselves.” Trading under the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, which represents a market of more than 1.3 billion people and a gross domestic product of US$2.5tn, and is the world’s largest free trade area since establishment of the World Trade Organisation, starts in July.

Speaking earlier in the morning at the UK-Africa Investment Summit Sustainable Infrastructure Forum, the Bank’s chief said, “Investing in quality and sustainable infrastructure can spur Africa’s economic transformation.”

The Forum, organised by the Department of International Development (DFID) and Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioner for Africa, seeks to facilitate new investment and commercial opportunities for the UK and promote quality infrastructure to deliver better services to African citizens.

“Just under two decades ago, Africa had fewer telephones than Manhattan in New York. Today, Africa has over 440 million cell phone subscribers. Returns on digital infrastructure are very high as the continent expands broadband infrastructure to boost connectivity and improve services,” Adesina said.

The AfDB has been a major investor in infrastructure development in the electricity, transport, and water sectors across Africa. Cumulative Bank funding for infrastructure on the continent rose by 22 per cent from US$66.9bn in 2016 to US$81.6bn in 2017. During the same period, the value of infrastructure projects with private sector participation has increased from US$3.6bn to US$5.2bn.

The AfDB and DFID are collaborating to explore how to better support fragile states, which are facing huge financing needs. DFID has been the Bank’s major strategic partner since it joined the Bank group in 1983. And its “strong and consistent” support for the African Development Fund has helped the development of low-income states, especially the fragile states.

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