“We have no divine right” acknowledged Boris Johnson, in his opening remarks this week at the maiden UK Africa Investment Summit hosted by the British Prime Minister, with leaders of 21 African countries in attendance.
The United Kingdom is keen on establishing deeper trade ties with Africa, as it continues to prepare for life outside the European Union (EU) and, with the affinity that many Africans have with the British Isles, the summit was a move warmly welcomed by the leaders in attendance.
“I appreciate, as I say, that there is no shortage of governments out there touting for your business. China, I must mention the competition, I better, I mean, why not, China, Russia, Germany. I’m told there will be a conference in France fairly soon. But in the words of an old Akan proverb that I picked up while I was in Ghana, “All fingers are not the same.” There is wisdom in these Akan proverbs. All fingers are not the same, and all countries are not the same, and the UK boasts a breadth and depth of expertise that simply cannot be matched by any other nation.” he said.
The Prime Minister spent the best part of twenty minutes or so laying on the charm as he sought to convince African leaders of the merits of doing business with the UK.
“We have ed tech, med tech, fin tech, bio tech, green tech, nano tech. Tech of all kinds” he riffed, as the room boomed with laughter at a line that would have made Derek Trotter himself, proud.
Africa really is up for sale.
At least, that seems to be the view of the West and the East, when you consider the grab for its markets that both have embarked upon in recent times.
A grab that continues to set alarm bells ringing for some who fear for the long term effects of deals that are being signed by leaders who are often criticised as ‘short-sighted’. Which can be particularly dangerous when playing with players who strategise thirty years ahead.
Whilst it is great that the continent is now centre stage as the next major investment destination, boasting 8 of the 15 fastest growing economies in the world, and with 1 in 4 global consumers by 2050 expected to be African, the question is how much of a long term view will its leaders take with the deals they are striking.
Upshoots of a new era of leadership continues to rise across the continent. The fear however, is that by the time those upshoots take root, the sale will well and truly be over.