Brexit: a watershed moment for UK trade with Africa?
Jonathan Brufal, partner at the international law firm, Gowling WLG discusses the impact of Brexit for UK and Africa trading.
Last week, I attended the UK Africa Summit in London, in my capacity as a professional services provider, and was able to witness first-hand the renewed attitude of this government towards renewing or commencing trading links with African nations – a notion which seems to sit well with the post- EU membership climate into which this country enters/ has entered (depending on whether this appears pre or post Jan 31st).
And so it should – the proportion of trade between Africa as a whole and the UK makes for startling reading, with our place falling nine places behind the EU, when imports to Africa are considered (2018 International Trade Centre). Having said this, the involvement of key UK sector and service providers throughout the continent – such as those within tech, telecoms and professional services – has been considerable for some time now. However, there are a raft of other sector focused firms in the UK, covering manufacturing, real estate and infrastructure, for example, that are yet to make their name in Africa. The onus is, therefore, now on the government to provide the necessary regulatory and financial support to help facilitate a wider mandate for trade.
The government has clearly committed to this, with 2019 seeing the introduction of a new Commission to 'turbo-charge' quality infrastructure projects in developing countries throughout Africa. According to their press material, 600 million Africans do not have access to electricity, hence the Commission's efforts to facilitate private sector support to build more sustainable and resilient cities and improve access to clean energy and water. However, IT is essential that this is not the only focus or initiative that ensues after Brexit and of course, that they follow through on implementing their objectives.
Aside from the introduction of specific trading arrangements and initiatives, it is essential that more practical day-to-day barriers are addressed – for example, the need for international businesses to be paid in dollars is an issue for many governments and regional companies. However, by providing the endorsement and support needed to strengthen local finance facilities, the government, in conjunction with the international finance community, can help genuinely open up these markets for business, via a robust regulatory framework.
A further, more business-led consideration is the need for project and international business successes that UK organisations have been involved with, to be better publicised and shared with the UK market, in order to create a landscape of desire and direction where considering new trading partners is concerned. This is an avenue that the government should consider as we move into this brave new world of life outside the EU - and the role that they need to play in facilitating interest in African trade amongst UK firms in the most needed sector and service based areas for the continent will only intensify.
For more information on business topics in the Middle East and Africa, please take a look at the latest edition of Business Chief MEA.
G7 Summit guide: What it is and what leaders hope to achieve
Unless you’ve had your head buried in the sand, you’ll have seen the term ‘G7’ plastered all over the Internet this week. We’re going to give you the skinny on exactly what the G7 is and what its purpose on this planet is ─ and whether it’s a good or a bad collaboration.
Who are the G7?
The Group of Seven, or ‘G7’, may sound like a collective of pirate lords from a certain Disney smash-hit, but in reality, it’s a group of the world’s seven largest “advanced” economies ─ the powerhouses of the world, if you like.
The merry band comprises:
- The United Kingdom
- The United States
Historically, Russia was a member of the then-called ‘G8’ but found itself excluded after their ever-so-slightly illegal takeover of Crimea back in 2014.
Since 1977, the European Union has also been involved in some capacity with the G7 Summit. The Union is not recognised as an official member, but gradually, as with all Europe-linked affairs, the Union has integrated itself into the conversation and is now included in all political discussions on the annual summit agenda.
When was the ‘G’ formed?
Back in 1975, when the world was reeling from its very first oil shock and the subsequent financial fallout that came with it, the heads of state and government from six of the leading industrial countries had a face-to-face meeting at the Chateau de Rambouillet to discuss the global economy, its trajectory, and what they could do to address the economic turmoil that reared its ugly head throughout the 70s.
Why does the G7 exist?
At this very first summit ─ the ‘G6’ summit ─, the leaders adopted a 15-point communiqué, the Declaration of Rambouillet, and agreed to continuously meet once a year moving forward to address the problems of the day, with a rotating Presidency. One year later, Canada was welcomed into the fold, and the ‘G6’ became seven and has remained so ever since ─ Russia’s inclusion and exclusion not counted.
The group, as previously mentioned, was born in the looming shadow of a financial crisis, but its purpose is more significant than just economics. When leaders from the group meet, they discuss and exchange ideas on a broad range of issues, including injustice around the world, geopolitical matters, security, and sustainability.
It’s worth noting that, while the G7 may be made up of mighty nations, the bloc is an informal one. So, although it is considered an important annual event, declarations made during the summit are not legally binding. That said, they are still very influential and worth taking note of because it indicates the ambitions and outlines the initiatives of these particularly prominent leading nations.
Where is the 2021 G7 summit?
This year, the summit will be held in the United Kingdom deep in the southwest of England, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson hosting his contemporaries in the quaint Cornish resort of Carbis Bay near St Ives in Cornwall.
What will be discussed this year?
After almost two years of remote communication, this will be the first in-person G7 summit since the novel Coronavirus first took hold of the globe, and Britain wants “leaders to seize the opportunity to build back better from coronavirus, uniting to make the future fairer, greener, and more prosperous.”
The three-day summit, running from Friday to Sunday, will see the seven leaders discussing a whole host of shared challenges, ranging from the pandemic and vaccine development and distribution to the ongoing global fight against climate change through the implementation of sustainable norms and values.
According to the UK government, the attendees will also be taking a look at “ensuring that people everywhere can benefit from open trade, technological change, and scientific discovery.”