President Cyril Ramaphosa has opted to focus on pressing domestic crises instead of joining the most significant investment and macroeconomic event between Africa and the UK in modern times.
Hosted by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the UK-Africa Investment Summit takes place in London tomorrow, and will see no less than 15 African heads of state plus leading private sector executives descend on the British capital for a gathering that seeks to bring closer investment ties between the UK and Africa.
Africa boasts 15 of the world’s fastest growing economies but only enjoys less than 4% of global foreign direct investment (FDI).
The UK currently has a net value of £22 billion (R414.64 billion) of investments in Africa with 2 200 of its companies engaged in business across the continent.
The continent’s leading economy, South Africa, is expected to lead the drive for investment as it is sending over a powerful delegation led by Minster of International Relations Naledi Pandor, while Finance Minister Tito Mboweni leads the charge on the Davos-hosted World Economic Forum in the Swiss Alps.
Ramaphosa had been pencilled in to deliver the summit’s closing address, will be in Tshwane presiding over the ANC national executive committee’s beginning of the year lekgotla, where the energy crisis and the state of the SOEs such as Eskom and SAA – divisive issues in the party – will be high on the agenda.
A strong believer and proponent of FDI, the president of Africa’s oldest liberation movement made a mark on the City, London’s financial district, with a convincing, informed and confidence-building opening address at the FT Africa Summit held in October last year.
It was within the same month that South Africa played a prominent role at the inaugural Russia-Africa Summit and Economic Forum as President Vladimir Putin played host to 41 African heads of state in the Russian coastal city of Socchi.
With Brexit looming, the UK is on overdrive in its efforts to garner stronger trade partnerships outside of the EU.
The Conservative-led government is looking to dispel sceptics’ notion that it looks to Africa as a source of “substitute goods” by focusing on hardcore business, trade and investment relations as opposed to China’s much-criticised strategy on Africa, which is dominated by credit lines, grants, development finance, and concessional and “interest-free loans”.
Many people view the latter more as a form of economic control than a mutually beneficial business relationship.
The London summit comes in the wake of what has been described by some as the “New Scramble for Africa”.
Besides the UK, China and Russia, two other European countries have recently hosted major Africa-focused multilateral economic events.
France and Germany hosted Ambition Africa and the German-Africa Business Summit, respectively.
Besides the presence of Johnson at the summit, the UK government has also demonstrated its commitment to improving its trade relations with Africa by hosting a series of pre-event forums over the past week.
These dealt with the nitty-gritties of the broader macro-economic objectives, including a manufacturing-focused forum as well as a “start-up night”.
Sponsored by the likes of Standard Bank – Africa’s largest bank by assets – tomorrow’s summit will be attended by presidents and dignitaries from Algeria, Angola, Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tunisia and Uganda.
A notable absentee from the summit is Zimbabwe – whose President Emmerson Mnangagwa has sought to downplay the snub, which represents a major blow to his attempts to end international isolation.
Multilateral organisations and international financial institutions have also been invited, including the African Development Bank, AU, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, IMF, UN and World Bank.
Along with Brand SA and the department of trade and industry, there will also be other investment promotion agencies from Ghana, Algeria, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco, Rwanda, Senegal, Tunisia and Uganda.
Considered a gateway to investment in Africa for European investors, the event is expected to be hosted once a year.
Brand SA and the SA High Commission in London will host a pre-event reception dinner at SA House on Trafalgar Square tonight.
Follow live updates from the summit via City Press’ website and social media platforms
- Thapelo Moloantoa is CEO of Global Media Content