The UK-Africa Investment Summit took place in the presence of world leaders, including President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi and the UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the event’s host, high-profile representatives of 21 African countries and members of the UK government.
According to Johnson, Africa is the future and the UK is a huge part of that future.
“Look at the monorail trains that will shortly be conveying citizens through the streets of Cairo, that great and growing city, the monorails will be made here in Derby,” said Johnson.
In his speech addressing the summit, President Al-Sisi said: “There are promising and diverse opportunities for Africa’s partners… such opportunities make Africa one of the most important destinations for international business institutions.”
Al-Sisi highlighted four areas where cooperation with partners such as the UK was especially welcome — the implementation of infrastructure projects that contribute to continental integration and fall within the priorities of the infrastructure development programme of the African Union, such as the Cairo-Cape Town axis linking the north and south of the continent, renewable energy generation projects, and all road and railway projects and initiatives to activate the African Continental Free Trade Agreement and enhance intra-Africa trade.
Al-Sisi stressed the important role of the domestic private sector as a driver of economic growth. He said partnerships between foreign and African private sectors were an integral part of African national strategies.
The president also welcomed cooperation in empowering women and youth and providing job opportunities and equipping them with skills, and highlighted the importance of the government in providing guarantees to international companies to reassure investors and encourage them to pump direct investments into Africa.
During the summit, the UK’s Secretary of State for International Development Alok Sharma and Egypt’s Minister of International Cooperation Rania Al-Mashat agreed to work together on projects that can help deliver Egypt’s 2030 agenda.
Cooperation between the UK and Egypt already encompasses medical training programmes and the Chevening Scholarship Programme which provides 50 fully-funded scholarships a year. The UK is a major investor in Egypt’s telecommunications, oil, gas and pharmaceutical sectors. According to a joint press release by the UK Department of International Development and the Egyptian Ministry of International Cooperation, current UK investments stand at $48 billion.
The press release also said the UK will provide technical assistance and capacity building for the structural reforms required to unlock private sector development and inclusive economic growth, seek to strengthen education and healthcare partnerships, deepen financial links, boost trade and investment and continue to establish a UK-Egypt association agreement.
“The agreement, once signed and following completion of domestic processes in both countries, will provide continuity in our trading relationship when the current agreement between Egypt and the EU ceases to apply to the UK.”
Another highlight of Egypt’s cooperation with the UK this year will be Egypt’s High-Level Conference on Accelerating Learning in the Middle East and Africa, to be held in Cairo in February 2020, which the UK will support.
African growth is accelerating, with GDP set to reach £2.5 trillion by 2025. Advantages mentioned by panel members included Africa’s young population and its rapidly growing economies.
The IMF says Africa is home to eight of the world’s 15 fastest growing economies.
According to World Bank figures, six of the top 10 fastest growing economies in the world are located in Africa.
According to David Schwimmer, the CEO of the London Stock Exchange, Africa is in need of capital. Schwimmer said the London stock market is ready and able to mobilise capital to drive growth across the continent.
On Tuesday, Al-Sisi held closed bilateral talks with Johnson at 10 Downing Street. This was followed by a meeting between the two countries’ delegations during which, according to Presidential Spokesperson Bassam Radi, Johnson stressed his keenness on enhancing bilateral relations with Egypt.
“Britain counts on Egypt’s central and active role as a mainstay of stability in the Middle East and Africa,” Johnson said.
According to Radi, Al-Sisi stressed that Egypt is “looking forward to maximising bilateral cooperation in the coming period and enhancing political and security coordination and the exchange of visions on issues of mutual interest.”
Earlier the same day, Al-Sisi met with Prince William. They discussed economic and trade ties and ways to strengthen mutual cooperation, mainly in the fields of tourism and education.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 23 January, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.