We start this year as an EU member state and we will end it as an independent trading nation. 2020 is the year the UK reaches out across the world and kick starts the decade of trade.
Free trade is the proven path to success. It is the way countries make its citizens richer, the way towns grow and the way individuals can transform the lives and those of their families by creating something new. What does setting up your own business mean? It means taking control of your own future. And that is exactly what Britain is going to do come Jan 31.
Britain is a high-tech, green, innovative country - the ideas factory of the world - and we believe in free trade. Once we leave the EU, we’ll be strengthening our ties with the Americas, Asia and Africa, as well as Europe. Because we are on the side of countries who want to make their own way in the world.
On Monday we will be championing free trade as the engine of prosperity on the world stage, at the UK Africa Investment Summit. The Government will be announcing £620 million-worth of deals that UK Export Finance, the world’s oldest credit agency, has provided financing for.
These deals are a great success and show the huge potential of Africa, home to eight of the 15 fastest growing economies according to IMF estimates. From Kinshasa to Cairo demand for high quality goods and modern services is shooting up.
Very soon, the sunshine in Ghana will provide clean energy to sterilise drinking water for 225,000 people across the country, thanks to Aqua Africa, a UK business that uses solar powered technology to deliver five litres of water a day for less than a third of a penny. This is a great example of how British expertise is being exported to bring innovative solutions to people’s lives.
This support has been vital in helping UK exporters gain a foothold in Africa.
High Street stalwart Matalan will also open 13 outlets in Egypt in an investment worth £25million. These types of deals aren’t just great for African consumers and businesses. They create jobs and opportunities right here in the UK.
Government export finance support unlocks overseas contracts for UK firms and puts British expertise at the forefront of development projects in Africa.
By the end of this decade, it will have five cities with a population of more than 10 million. And it has been estimated that by 2050, one in every four consumers will be African.
These new consumers and entrepreneurs will be looking for new opportunities like never before. They will want to buy our high-quality British goods and services, and sell their products on the global marketplace. They will want roads and hospitals – and British expertise to build them.
In the new Global Britain age, we want to team up with people with new ideas and new ways of doing things and many African nations are teeming with exactly that. We have already signed trade agreements with 11 African countries, covering 43 per cent of the UK’s total trade with Africa, with seven more in the pipeline.
It is exciting to think that we can build on and expand these agreements, particularly in the services and digital and sectors, where nations like Kenya with their digital currency M-Pesa are already very strong.
This Government has made a manifesto commitment to cover 80 per cent of our trade with free trade agreements and our links with Africa play a vital role in fulfilling this. We want to lower barriers to businesses and consumers so that people can buy things for better value for money and opportunities and jobs are created for British people.
African nations want to trade more and operate independently, and so do we. And there is no better platform on which to make the case for free trade than when we take our independent seat at the WTO. African nations represent a quarter of the membership at the WTO and they, like the UK, want fair rules for everybody that enable trade rather than domination by big trading blocs.
We have strong historic ties to many African countries, particularly those Commonwealth countries who – as we take up our independent seat at the WTO – will be key allies in our desire to defend the rules-based system.
Whether it’s doing deals, trading more or working together at the WTO our alliance with Africa is a win-win. And this government is determined to ensure that the UK remains the partner of choice in Africa for decades to come.