Business can bring brighter future to Africans

Business can bring brighter future to Africans

by James Duddridge, 2015-06-11 06:35:52.0

I AM delighted to be back in Johannesburg for the second time since the new Conservative UK government was formed. I am no stranger to SA, having worked as a banker with Barclays in Swaziland and elsewhere in Africa. I am here in Johannesburg today to meet people from across the African Union (AU). I believe the answer to many of Africa’s key questions can be found by working through multilateral organisations such as the AU.

I am here with a clear message: the UK has put Africa at the heart of its foreign policy, with a focus on prosperity and enabling African countries to build a better context to tackle security challenges.

So I come to the AU summit with a renewed sense of purpose. We have a real opportunity to build solid foundations for a peaceful and prosperous future for us all.

At the top of the summit agenda will be women, peace and security. For without peace we cannot have prosperity; without prosperity, security is hard to maintain; and without the energy and ideas of women — half of our population — we cannot hope to achieve either. The UK has long been a strong supporter of this agenda, including through championing the prevention of sexual violence in armed conflict.

What is clear to me is that the success of business is fundamental to peace and prosperity in Africa.

I am convinced that it will be business, as much as government, that will deliver the bright future Africa deserves. Why? The equation is simple: profitable businesses generate taxes; taxes help governments invest in health, education and infrastructure; and the positive effects of a thriving economy spread throughout the whole of society. A strong business community brings the economic management of governments under scrutiny, encouraging state accountability, which in turn encourages good macroeconomic decision-making, allowing the full talent and energy of citizens to thrive.

Some see only Africa’s challenges, but I see it as a continent of vast opportunity — a dynamic continent of entrepreneurs, aspirant people and a vibrant youth culture, with more than 100-million active users of Facebook.

The overall outlook for growth, trade and investment is encouraging. Sub-Saharan Africa’s projected growth of more than 5% is expected to outshine that of many regional markets, including Europe and Latin America. True, growth in SA is not as high as elsewhere in Africa at the moment, but this country is unparalleled in terms of the depth and breadth of its economic structure; unique in its ability to offer direct access to a wide network of value chains with global access. When I was here last year I was struck by the expansive infrastructure development evident across Johannesburg.

It is no surprise then that the business leaders I speak to, in the UK and Africa, see in SA significant opportunities for growth and leadership on the continent.

But they are equally clear on the importance of a positive business environment provided by the government. Policy certainty is crucial for planning and investment, particularly the type of investment that fosters long-term growth.

That is why the UK is working with South African partners — in the government, business and civil society — to boost sustainable growth, and increase trade and investment. And that is why we are deepening our co-operation in education and skills development.

We recently announced a R12m investment in 14 projects across the Southern African Development Community. And we are investing R360m to boost research collaboration through our Newton Fund partnership, which I launched with Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor last September.

I firmly believe that if we give businesses the environment they need, Africa has a bright future. The UK and the international community have a vital part to play, but it is SA that can take the lead in forging the future of this great continent.

• Duddridge is the UK’s minister for Africa.

Picture: THINKSTOCKPicture: THINKSTOCK

I AM delighted to be back in Johannesburg for the second time since the new Conservative UK government was formed. I am no stranger to SA, having worked as a banker with Barclays in Swaziland and elsewhere in Africa. I am here in Johannesburg today to meet people from across the African Union (AU). I believe the answer to many of Africa’s key questions can be found by working through multilateral organisations such as the AU.

I am here with a clear message: the UK has put Africa at the heart of its foreign policy, with a focus on prosperity and enabling African countries to build a better context to tackle security challenges.

So I come to the AU summit with a renewed sense of purpose. We have a real opportunity to build solid foundations for a peaceful and prosperous future for us all.

At the top of the summit agenda will be women, peace and security. For without peace we cannot have prosperity; without prosperity, security is hard to maintain; and without the energy and ideas of women — half of our population — we cannot hope to achieve either. The UK has long been a strong supporter of this agenda, including through championing the prevention of sexual violence in armed conflict.

What is clear to me is that the success of business is fundamental to peace and prosperity in Africa.

I am convinced that it will be business, as much as government, that will deliver the bright future Africa deserves. Why? The equation is simple: profitable businesses generate taxes; taxes help governments invest in health, education and infrastructure; and the positive effects of a thriving economy spread throughout the whole of society. A strong business community brings the economic management of governments under scrutiny, encouraging state accountability, which in turn encourages good macroeconomic decision-making, allowing the full talent and energy of citizens to thrive.

Some see only Africa’s challenges, but I see it as a continent of vast opportunity — a dynamic continent of entrepreneurs, aspirant people and a vibrant youth culture, with more than 100-million active users of Facebook.

The overall outlook for growth, trade and investment is encouraging. Sub-Saharan Africa’s projected growth of more than 5% is expected to outshine that of many regional markets, including Europe and Latin America. True, growth in SA is not as high as elsewhere in Africa at the moment, but this country is unparalleled in terms of the depth and breadth of its economic structure; unique in its ability to offer direct access to a wide network of value chains with global access. When I was here last year I was struck by the expansive infrastructure development evident across Johannesburg.

It is no surprise then that the business leaders I speak to, in the UK and Africa, see in SA significant opportunities for growth and leadership on the continent.

But they are equally clear on the importance of a positive business environment provided by the government. Policy certainty is crucial for planning and investment, particularly the type of investment that fosters long-term growth.

That is why the UK is working with South African partners — in the government, business and civil society — to boost sustainable growth, and increase trade and investment. And that is why we are deepening our co-operation in education and skills development.

We recently announced a R12m investment in 14 projects across the Southern African Development Community. And we are investing R360m to boost research collaboration through our Newton Fund partnership, which I launched with Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor last September.

I firmly believe that if we give businesses the environment they need, Africa has a bright future. The UK and the international community have a vital part to play, but it is SA that can take the lead in forging the future of this great continent.

• Duddridge is the UK’s minister for Africa.

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