Global Britain: Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures as he speaks at the UK-Africa Investment Summit at the Intercontinental Hotel in London on Monday. Picture: ANDY RAIN/EPA/BLOOMBERG
Global Britain: Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures as he speaks at the UK-Africa Investment Summit at the Intercontinental Hotel in London on Monday. Picture: ANDY RAIN/EPA/BLOOMBERG

London — Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a clear pitch for business to African leaders at the first UK-Africa Investment Summit on Monday less than two weeks before Britain leaves the European Union. 

He said Britain would be more open to migrants from Africa after Brexit and wanted to make Britain the continent’s  “investment partner of choice”.

Sixteen national leaders and representatives of another five countries attended the investment summit at the Intercontinental Hotel in London.

African leaders attended the first UK-Africa Investment Summit in London on Monday. Business Day TV spoke to the president of the British Chamber of Commerce in SA Leon Ayo about the event.

Johnson held private meetings with the presidents of Nigeria, Rwanda, Ghana and Uganda and was due to hold talks with the leaders of Egypt and Kenya on Tuesday.

After highlighting all Britain had to offer, he said Brexit would mean an end to preferential treatment for EU migrants.

“Our (immigration) system is becoming fairer and more equal between all our global friends and partners, treating people the same, wherever they come from,” he said. “By putting people before passports we will be able to attract the best talent from around the world, wherever they may be.”

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said Brexit offered an opportunity for increased free trade across the Commonwealth and highlighted visas as a key issue.

“While many in the African diaspora enjoy considerable benefits from life in the West, they do not always feel at the heart of the community,” he wrote in The Times newspaper on Monday. “A renewed sense that there are ties that bind us through the Commonwealth, and a concerted effort to grow those links through trade, could act as a spur to encourage togetherness and the certainty of belonging.”

The prime minister also announced a shift in investment strategy to help combat global warming, ahead of Glasgow staging the next UN climate change summit later in 2020.

Johnson promised an end to direct UK state investment in thermal coal mining or coal power plants overseas, saying London would focus on supporting a switch to low-carbon energy sources.

“There’s no point in the UK reducing the amount of coal we burn, if we then trundle over to Africa and line our pockets by encouraging African states to use more of it, is there?” he said.

“We all breathe the same air, we live beneath the same sky. We all suffer when carbon emissions rise and the planet warms.

“Not another penny of UK taxpayers money will be directly invested in digging up coal or burning it for electricity. Instead, we’re going to focus on supporting the transition to lower and zero-carbon alternatives.”

Sub-Saharan African faces a number of environmental challenges, particularly the effects of climate change, water and air pollution, desertification, deforestation and overfishing.

The UK government’s export agency reports providing £2bn in financing for British exports to Africa in the past two years.

The agency says it wants to “increase its risk appetite” in Egypt and the emerging economies in Nigeria and Rwanda.

British and African firms announced 27 commercial deals worth £6.5bn, from energy provision in Ivory Coast to road projects in Ghana and breweries in Kenya.

Britain will leave the EU on January 31, although ties will remain the same for 11 months while the two sides thrash out a new trading relationship. London wants to leave the bloc’s single market and customs union to allow it to strike trade deals with other countries, even if this brings new barriers to EU trade.