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Renewable energy, trade top agenda at 2021 UK-Africa Investment Summit

21 Jan 2021, 02:07 pm
Financial Nigeria
Renewable energy, trade top agenda at 2021 UK-Africa Investment Summit

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The conference focused on four key sectors of activity: renewable energy, sustainable infrastructure, financial and professional services, and agriculture and agri-tech.

Panelists at an event during the 2021 UK-Africa Investment Conference on Wednesday said renewable energy would be a critical driver of Africa’s post-COVID-19 recovery and economic prosperity. The conference – hosted by the UK Department for International Trade (DIT) – explored how inclusive, sustainable and resilient investment can help African countries transition to cleaner, greener economies and support recovery from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event held after the post-Brexit free trade deal signed between the UK and the European Union in December. It brought together UK and African businesses for a one-day virtual event to explore the opportunities for partnership and investment. The conference focused on four key sectors of activity, namely renewable energy, sustainable infrastructure, financial and professional services, and agriculture and agri-tech.

At a panel discussion, themed UK and Africa: Partnering in Sustainable and Resilient Infrastructure Development, the panellists said investment in large-scale electrification projects would be key to recovery efforts from the pandemic. The discussion covered British innovation and experience in the context of partnering with Africa to advance its economic development, according to a statement released today by the African Development Bank (AfDB), which participated in the discussions.

As African countries build back from the economic impact of the coronavirus, Louis Taylor, CEO of UK Export Finance (UKEF) – the UK's export credit agency – said this presents an “unalloyed opportunity for UK investors to be part of the African success story and for African countries to access the UK’s support for projects.”

UKEF is providing a £1.7 billion guarantee to support the development of Cairo monorail in Egypt. This is the UK’s biggest-ever overseas infrastructure guarantee, Taylor said, adding that the “UK government is still the largest G7 investor in Africa.”

Wale Shonibare, AfDB’s Director for Energy Financial Solutions, Policy and Regulation, called for a structured approach to sustainable infrastructure development and the implementation of large-scale electrification programmes. He cited the bank’s Desert to Power initiative as an example of a project likely to attract interest from UK businesses.

“Building on the City of London’s deep expertise in innovative financial solutions, the African Development Bank sees promising opportunities to further expand its programme to securitise receipts from solar home systems providers,” Shonibare said.  

According to data from International Energy Agency (IEA), scaling up Africa’s capacity to achieve universal access to energy by 2030 would require over $100 billion per year, of which 40 per cent would be dedicated to solar, wind, and other low-carbon power generation projects.

“It is a great time to invest in Africa. The African Development Bank estimates that climate change presents a $3 trillion investment by 2030,” Nicholas Oliver, Business Development Director at UK-based NMS Infrastructure Ltd, said. “What an opportunity,” he added, urging investors to engage more actively with governments and local businesses.

Last year's UK-Africa Investment Summit was hosted in London by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Over 27 trade and investment deals worth £6.5 billion and commitments worth £8.9 billion were announced after the event, according to DIT, whose mandate involves promoting British trade around the world.

Following the EU-UK withdrawal agreement of last year, Britain has drawn up trade deals with 13 African nations, according to Foreign Brief, a geopolitical analysis publication. The UK expects to see new trade agreements with 14 African partners coming into force this year with the prospect of more countries to follow.

DIT said 35 African partners will receive preferential access to the UK thanks to its trade presences scheme. The agency said the development of the UK’s new trade arrangements alongside African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) can unleash new opportunities for African and UK businesses.

Ahead of yesterday’s summit, UK Minister for Investment, Gerry Grimstone, said, “Growing investment relationships will be central in helping economies recover and build back better from the disruption caused by Coronavirus.”

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