Value and Commerce: The UK s Political and Economic Engagement in Africa

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1 Africa Programme Summary Value and Commerce: The UK s Political and Economic Engagement in Africa Speaker: MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, UK Chair: Alex Vines OBE Research Director, Area Studies and International Law; Head, Africa Programme, Chatham House 15 September 2014 The views expressed in this document are the sole responsibility of the speaker(s) and participants do not necessarily reflect the view of Chatham House, its staff, associates or Council. Chatham House is independent and owes no allegiance to any government or to any political body. It does not take institutional positions on policy issues. This document is issued on the understanding that if any extract is used, the author(s)/ speaker(s) and Chatham House should be credited, preferably with the date of the publication or details of the event. Where this document refers to or reports statements made by speakers at an event every effort has been made to provide a fair representation of their views and opinions. The published text of speeches and presentations may differ from delivery. 10 St James s Square, London SW1Y 4LE T +44 (0) F +44 (0) Patron: Her Majesty The Queen Chairman: Stuart Popham QC Director: Dr Robin Niblett Charity Registration Number:

2 2 Value and Commerce: The UK s Political and Economic Engagement in Africa Introduction This document provides a summary of the question-and-answer session for a meeting held at Chatham House on 15 September 2014 on the UK s political and economic engagement in Africa. The speaker discussed the need for further partnerships in Africa, including both bilateral engagement and institutional engagement with the African Union (AU) and African regional organizations. He examined how coordination between stakeholders was aiding the response to significant issues in Africa such as the Ebola crisis and maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea. Mr Duddridge argued that although African countries present business opportunities for UK companies, a lack of infrastructure and capacity, particularly at the middle-management level, hinders investment. He explained the potential benefits of increasing the taxation base in countries, partly in order to develop stronger health sectors, and to help provide security and stability for Africa. The meeting was held on the record. The following summary is intended to serve as an aide-mémoire for those who took part and to provide a general summary of discussions for those who did not. For more information, including recordings, transcripts, summaries, and further resources on this and other related topic, please visit Summary of Questions and Answers Questions and comment Could the speaker elaborate on how MPs are appointed as trade envoys, and whether they work on a bilateral, sub-regional or regional level? Could the speaker comment on the role of the UK s relations with non-african countries, particularly China? Despite the British government s claims that there were no sanctions on Sudan, some British banks operating in the country were fined by the United States, restricting their transactions. Sudan greatly appreciates the UK s assistance in ending the civil war and helping the referendum on the independence of South Sudan to take place peacefully, but trade is more beneficial than aid, and it is a great impediment if banks cannot deal with each other. The speaker explained that UK trade envoys are personally appointed by the prime minister, according to what a UK partner country might need and what the UK could offer. Mr Duddridge indicated that he welcomed recommendations of envoys if particular candidates might foster a good bilateral relationship. He explained that some trade envoys have responsibility for more than one country, and so suggestions for trade groupings would also be welcome. He acknowledged that the UK needs to foster more partnerships, and noted that the example of China was particularly pertinent. He explained that Chinese investment in Africa has previously been perceived negatively, but this was misguided. Chinese businesses are now more open to working with British

3 3 Value and Commerce: The UK s Political and Economic Engagement in Africa businesses and this should encourage the UK to increase its engagement with China. Mr Duddridge gave an example from Sierra Leone, explaining that China s ambassador in the country was aware of the UK s concerns over the lack of conditionality in some of Sierra Leone s business practices. The speaker argued that the UK should use its position within the European Union (EU) to enhance relationships with African countries where there is a smaller British presence. He opined that the EU has the potential to leverage resources with smaller countries. Mr Duddridge conceded that UK banks had been over-cautious in Sudan. He emphasized that remittances were more beneficial to developing countries than aid, and acknowledged the potential damage to citizens of countries such as Sudan and Somalia if strained banking relations hindered remittance payments. He argued that the UK government could not claim to be encouraging trade and the growth of tax bases in African countries without ensuring that mechanisms for remittances were not hampered. Questions How is the UK helping to strengthen African healthcare systems to be proactive rather than responsive, given that fatality levels in the Ebola crisis are determined by the strength of the systems? What is the speaker s policy on São Tomé and Príncipe in relation to maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea? What can the international community do to address the conflict in South Sudan? Mr Duddridge answered that an increased taxation base is the key mechanism for solving public health issues. He argued that countries in West Africa would have been more resistant to the Ebola outbreak if a regional prosperity agenda had developed faster, as a greater taxation base would have allowed for better government investment in healthcare. The speaker indicated his intention to work across departments and encourage coordination between the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Departments of Health and Education in order to encourage holistic UK government engagement with Africa. He highlighted the UK s involvement in an initiative involving African health ministries and senior doctors in establishing health systems, in Africa. He also described how the UK is learning from African countries about measures to reduce the cost of the healthcare system. Mr Duddridge clarified that he had not previously been engaged with South Sudan and so was reluctant to comment in too much detail. He emphasized that this was not an indication of the importance of the issue, rather of the recent date of his appointment to the position of UK Minister for Africa. Nic Hailey, Africa Director, FCO Maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea is a rising concern for the British government. There are a number of initiatives taking place to which the UK contributes, including initiatives through the EU. The UK has also worked with the G8 and other international groups to coordinate efforts.

4 4 Value and Commerce: The UK s Political and Economic Engagement in Africa The British government has indicated the need to increase pressure on the parties of South Sudan, as these parties created the crisis. British ministers have pronounced this a man-made tragedy, and will continue to do so. International attention will soon return to South Sudan owing to a growing hunger problem that is likely to turn into a famine. Mr Duddridge highlighted how the Deputy President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU) were all engaging with South Sudan. He stressed the importance of working through African institutions and individuals on such issues, otherwise the UK could be perceived as acting unilaterally simply to push its own interests. Questions How does the commitment of 0.7 per cent of UK government income to overseas aid enshrined in the recent international development bill fit into the government s plans for economic and political engagement in Africa? Why is the 0.7 per cent figure so important? How does the UK government engage with the AU s economic integration agenda, which is intended to increase regional wealth and thereby improve peace and security on the continent? How would the speaker like to see British companies develop plans for investment in infrastructure and energy in Africa, given that increasing economic growth on the continent will hinge on these two factors? Is there a role for British businesses and education institutions to promote education for the management of successful hydrocarbon economies? What bilateral action can the UK government take over Mario Masuku s situation in Swaziland, given that his bail hearing has been turned down, his case will not be heard until December 2014 and he suffers from diabetes? What is the UK government s policy on Boko Haram in Cameroon, to which far less attention has been paid than Nigeria? The speaker noted that he had supported the bill to commit 0.7 per cent of national income to foreign aid. He explained that 0.7 per cent was an arbitrary figure and he queried whether it could have been higher. He suggested that this figure might incorporate engagement and work by government departments outside those traditionally associated with international development. Mr Duddridge acknowledged the potential for increased work with the AU. He highlighted the tendency for some partners to focus on bilateral engagement with countries, rather than regional interconnections. He noted that regional engagement was not a simple matter in Africa, giving the example of Tanzania, which is a member of both the East African Community (EAC) and SADC, but described his intention to further increase coordination with Africa s regional organizations. He went on to explain that more could be done to establish infrastructure projects and develop plans for investment in Africa. He pointed to UK expertise and managerial capacity in financing and developing

5 5 Value and Commerce: The UK s Political and Economic Engagement in Africa large-scale infrastructure projects, and argued that more liquid investment opportunities are needed in Africa. Mr Duddridge highlighted the US Power Africa project as a good example of an energy investment. He explained that poor power availability has hindered business development in a number of African countries, and so if energy is unlocked business could fuel Africa s growth. The UK can offer assistance through sharing its energy experience, including in the separation of transmission and delivery, and cross-border projects involving the supply of power across a number of countries. The speaker stated that many African countries experiencing high economic growth also have capacity issues. He indicated that levels of education remain an issue, particularly for countries that have undergone turbulent periods, as schooling is not normally a priority during conflicts. He described a recent increase in the number of scholarships for general management education in South Africa as a positive development, but stressed that more MBA schools were needed across the continent. Mr Duddridge explained that although Swaziland does not attract much international attention, the country remains personally important to him because of his past work with Mario Masuku at Barclays Bank there. He expressed his surprise at Mr Masuku s treason charges, and described his concerns over the latter s access to health services in prison. The speaker indicated that he would continue to pay attention to the developing situation. Mr Duddridge detailed his recent bilateral conversation with Cameroon s foreign minister, at a recent Abuja conference on Boko Haram which involved representatives from that country, Nigeria, Chad and Niger. He described the coordination of efforts by all stakeholders, and gave the example of the British planes returning to French hangars in Chad after flights to observe the situation in northeastern Nigeria. The UK also funds a regional intelligence fusion centre for Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Benin and Nigeria. As Boko Haram does not recognize boundaries in regions surrounding northeastern Nigeria, the international community should not be limited by country borders when attempting to tackle the threat from Boko Haram. Mr Duddridge concluded by emphasizing the importance of security for the prosperity agenda in Africa.

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