UKrampsup tiestoAfrica

TheUKgovernment is stepping up efforts to foster economic relations withAfrica, exploring business opportunities across the continent with its first major international investment event since leaving the EU. The UK–Africa Investment

Conference, hosted virtually by the Department for International Trade on January 20, took place on the one-year anniversary of the inaugural event hosted in London’s O2 arena by UK primeminister Boris Johnson. Mr Johnson opened the summit

by reaffirming his “ambition for the UK to be Africa’s investment partner of choice,” and the need to build back “better, faster and greener” to recover fromthe Covid-19 pandemic. “We in Britain have much to

learn from the ingenuity, energy and ambition of African entrepreneurship and wealth creation. Africa is the future and the UK has a huge role to play in realising long-termprosperity for all African nations,” said Mr Johnson. Throughout this year’s event,

much attention was put on the success of the 2020 UK–Africa summit — where 27 trade and investment deals worth £6.5bn and commitments worth £8.9bn were announced — as deals have gone ahead in the face of pressure brought about by Covid-19. “Despite the pandemic, deals

and commitments made around last year’s summit worth £15.4bn all survived”, said Gerry Grimstone, the UK Minister for investment who heads the UK’s recently created centralised office for investment. “Covid has hampered the

appetite of some activities, but recovery will bring opportunity,” said Dirk Willem te Velde, the director of international economic development at think tank ODI. “There needs to be a ratcheting up of the relationship between the UK and Africa in trade, investment, migration and aid,” he added,


TheUKcities hit by pandemic life

England’s north and midlands are hometo nine of its tenmost resilient cities to post-pandemic changes in lifestyle, according to a study by KPMG which lays bare Covid-19’s dramatic impact on the UK’s town centres. The report reveals a strong link

between the rise of home working and retail unemployment, with high streets expected to lose 20–40% of their retail offerings as the pandemic accelerates the shift to e-commerce. For local governments, it is a stark warning to rethink town centres which today are designed around shopper, worker and commuter footfall. KPMG’s vulnerability index of

more than 100 town centres across England combines the impact of home working, retail closures and cultural offerings to attract people to the area. London fares the best, but its commuter towns are among those hardest hit. “We were surprised by how

Boris Johnson has reaffirmed his “ambition for the UK to be Africa’s investment partner of choice”

suggesting that this event should be held on an annual basis for the UK to ensure its position on the continent after Brexit. Prior to the pandemic, UK-based

investors had begun ramping up their investment activity on the continent. In 2019, the UK outward foreign direct investment (FDI) stock in Africa rose on an annual basis by 14.7% to reach a record £50.6bn, according to ONS figures. However, Africa still makes up a

relatively small share of the UK’s total outward FDI, maintaining its roughly 3% share seen since 2010. Overall FDI flows — which

include both cross-border mergers and acquisitions and greenfield investments — from the UK to Africa have been largest into South Africa, followed by Nigeria and Kenya. A similar pattern is seen in terms

of greenfield investment projects, according to figures from fDi Markets. The UK has historically been the second largest source market of greenfield investment in Africa, outstretching othermajor markets such as France, Germany and the UAE, but beaten only by the US.■ ALEXIRWIN-HUNT

badly the south-east is scoring,” said Yael Selfin, chief economist of KPMG in the UK.■ DANIELLEMYLES

Dagenham datacentre

Japanese telecoms giant NTT has announced the opening of a new data centre in Dagenham, London, in the latest win for the UK as the pandemic continues to accelerate digital infrastructure investment. The London 1 Data Center is

expected to create up to 100 new jobs and forms part of NTT’s plan to invest £500minto UK data centres, including another site in Hemel Hempstead that the company announced in October. Florian Winkley, the chief

executive of NTT’s Global Data Centers EMEA, said that UK data centres are a “critical enabler” of global business and ensuring year-round business continuity. “The pandemic has

demonstrated the vital importance of effective connectivity and reliable infrastructure for businesses to operate,” he added.■ ALEXIRWIN-HUNT February/March 2021



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