When John Bolton was President Trump’s National Security Adviser, he argued that Africa would soon be home to a new phase of great power rivalries – with the United States, France, China and Russia vying for investment opportunities in the continent.
In the first eight years of last decade alone, China’s top officials made 79 visits to Africa. Emmanuel Macron personally visited the continent nine times since his election victory in 2017. Vladimir Putin turned on the charm last year, in the inaugural Russia-Africa Investment Summit.
All of which makes next week’s UK-Africa Investment summit all the more important. It’s absolutely essential that post-Brexit Britain plays a key investment role in Africa – as we shape our post-EU independent foreign policy and cut bespoke trade deals – but also to act as a break on the worst excesses of the great powers in the region.
This month, International Development Secretary Alok Sharma launched East Africa’s first ‘green bond’ on the Kenyan securities exchange – which will will help Acorn Housing raise local currency to build environmentally-friendly houses for students in Nairobi – a great example of how British soft power can help coordinate action on pressing issues without expending masses of resources or interfering massively abroad.
By 2050, one in four global consumers will be African. Africa is home to eight of the fifteen fastest growing economies in the world. Yet only 4% of foreign direct investment is actually focussed on the continent – despite British plans to become the largest G7 investor in Africa by 2022.