Picture: 123rf/ Lakov Kalinin
Picture: 123rf/ Lakov Kalinin

As I visit SA this week the UK is set to embark on a new chapter in our trading relationship with this great nation and Africa more widely. Africa’s economic development in recent decades has already brought millions out of poverty, and the continent's projected growth over the years to come makes it an exciting proposition for UK investors. Indeed, during her visit last year the former UK prime minister set out the aim for the UK to become Africa’s biggest investor by 2022, and we are already on our way to realising that vision. 

Take SA: the largest recipient of foreign direct investment on the continent, where total UK exports have increased by a quarter in the past decade and where we are the biggest investors in its energy sector. This is a great success, but we can do so much more, while ensuring our business relationship is built on sustainable goals and focuses on inclusive prosperity. Embedded within this new chapter needs to be an understanding that we face common challenges together. Home to some of the most exciting fintech companies and the world’s most biodiverse regions, Africa has a huge opportunity to advance a modern digital society that has sustainability at its heart.

That’s why the main purpose of my visit this week is to show how the City of London — as the world’s leading hub for fintech investment and a leader in the development of the green and sustainable finance sectors — is a key ally. This is a message that I will be making loud and clear as I meet SA business and government leaders this week, promoting the work of some of our very best start-ups. Several of these companies specialise in empowering the millions of unbanked across the continent. By giving people the ability to save, borrow and exchange money, it is this type of expertise that is the key to helping South Africans access financial tools that allow them to pay, be paid and improve their quality of life.

Elsewhere, the London Stock Exchange, as a hub for global capital, can provide the financial means and expertise to deliver clean energy and infrastructure projects to boost Africa’s economies. Just last month London was once again recognised as having the best quality of green finance products and services offering anywhere in the world, while our recently launched Green Finance Institute will provide global leadership in the development of the sector.

There is plenty more to look forward to in the near future. In January the UK prime minister will host the UK-Africa Investment Summit in London, which will bring together businesses, governments and international institutions to showcase and promote the breadth and quality of investment opportunities across Africa. In doing so it will further support the creation of jobs across the continent and help further establish our strengthening partnership for mutual prosperity.

That will be just the start. With the Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Rwanda later in the year and the UK hosting COP26, I see this visit as the beginning of an unprecedented period of opportunity for intense engagement and collaboration. The UK sees SA’s potential. Now is the time to work together and convert that into reality, and transform the lives of millions for the better.

Alderman Peter Estlin
Lord mayor, City of London

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