Theresa May said the UK aims to be Africa’s biggest foreign investor within four years as she began the first visit by a British prime minister to the continent in half a decade. Mrs May is visiting South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya this week to tout a “new partnership” with sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest economies as the UK leaves the EU.
“By 2022 I want the UK to be the G7’s number one investor in Africa, with Britain’s private sector companies taking the lead in investing the billions that see African economies growing by trillions,” Mrs May said in Cape Town, the first stop on her visit. CDC, the UK government-owned private equity group, will invest up to £3.5bn in African projects in the next four years as part of the pledge, she added.
African countries are already home to about $55bn of UK investment, slightly less than from the US. Mrs May’s pledge will also pit the UK against France, whose president, Emmanuel Macron, has visited the continent several times since last year.
Outside the G7, western links to Africa are being rivalled by China, with Beijing deepening ties though infrastructure investment.
The visit by Mrs May, who is accompanied by a delegation of 29 business figures including Standard Chartered chief executive Bill Winters, is intended to showcase opportunities for a “Global Britain” after Brexit, even as terms of exit from the EU remain in the balance.