Category: Africa

All-Party Parliamentary Group for Ethiopia and Djibouti

Lord Sheikh is a Vice Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Ethiopia and Djibouti.

The APPG for Ethiopia and Djibouti held a meeting on Wednesday 26th February. The Ethiopian Ambassador H.E. Mr Fesseha Shawel Gebre was in attendance and gave a short update to the Group and talked about the forthcoming General Elections and the reforms which have occurred under the premiership of Mr Abiy Ahmed. Lord Sheikh made the point that as now the UK has come out of the EU, more trade should be established with Ethiopia. The country has many opportunities for trade and investment and the UK should seek to increase and strengthen its economic ties with the country.

The meeting was productive and the Group engaged in interesting conversations.

The picture shows Lord Sheikh, His Excellency Mr Fesseha Shawel Gebre and Mr Laurence Robertson MP Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Ethiopia and Djibouti.

Lord Sheikh’s Written Parliamentary Questions on Unrest in the Sahel

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what recent reports they have received about unrest in the Sahel. (HL563)

Answer:

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: ?The UK is deeply concerned at the scale of terrorist and inter-community violence in the Sahel. In recent weeks, we have seen a number of horrific attacks with tragic consequences for people in the region. The UK condemns these attacks, including, most recently, those conducted against the Malian and French armed forces on 1-2 November, and offers its deepest condolences to those affected.

As part of the UK’s new strategic approach to Africa we are increasing our support to the Sahel, bringing together our development, diplomacy and defence expertise to help address instability and poverty in the region. Our increased engagement includes the deployment of 250 personnel to the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali next year and the expansion of our work to address the long-term drivers of conflict.

 

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what contributions they are making to the proposed Multi-National Joint Task Force and the G5 Sahel Joint Force in the Sahel. (HL564)

Answer:

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: Since 2016, the UK has contributed £5 million to the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), on top of our assessed contributions through the EU’s Africa Peace Facility. We also support through the deployment of UK personnel, who provide technical and strategic support, to the MNJTF headquarters in N’Djamena. The UK has supported the G5 Sahel Joint Force (G5SJF) bilaterally and through the EU. We contributed £2 million of bilateral support in 2018/19 and are continuing to support this year. We are also providing technical support to cooperation between the G5SJF and the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, MINUSMA.

 

Lord Sheikh’s Written Parliamentary Questions on the Ivory Coast

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the political situation in the Ivory Coast. (HL562)

Answer:
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:
?The British Government has a strong partnership with Cote d’Ivoire. Stability and inclusive economic growth are shared priorities, with a view to consolidating peace after a decade of crisis and uncertainty. We take every opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to peaceful, free and credible elections in 2020, in line with international law, and encourage all parties to work towards this goal. We have done so directly with government and opposition political parties in Cote d’Ivoire and at the 42nd Human Rights Council on 19 September in Geneva. The 2016 constitution of Cote d’Ivoire stipulates a two-term limit on Presidential mandates, which the incumbent will have reached by the 2020 elections. The elections are the responsibility of the Government of Cote d’Ivoire, all political parties and the Ivoirian people. We urge all parties to participate responsibly, engage fully in the process and avoid the use of inflammatory language. We continue to follow developments closely and hope to see extensive domestic and international observation encouraging transparency and due process before and during the elections in 2020.

 

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they intend to hold discussions with the government of the Ivory Coast about honouring presidential term limits. (HL561)

Answer:
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:
?The British Government has a strong partnership with Cote d’Ivoire. Stability and inclusive economic growth are shared priorities, with a view to consolidating peace after a decade of crisis and uncertainty. We take every opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to peaceful, free and credible elections in 2020, in line with international law, and encourage all parties to work towards this goal. We have done so directly with government and opposition political parties in Cote d’Ivoire and at the 42nd Human Rights Council on 19 September in Geneva. The 2016 constitution of Cote d’Ivoire stipulates a two-term limit on Presidential mandates, which the incumbent will have reached by the 2020 elections. The elections are the responsibility of the Government of Cote d’Ivoire, all political parties and the Ivoirian people. We urge all parties to participate responsibly, engage fully in the process and avoid the use of inflammatory language. We continue to follow developments closely and hope to see extensive domestic and international observation encouraging transparency and due process before and during the elections in 2020.

 

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the forecasts by multilateral financial institutions including the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, what plans they have to strengthen economic ties with the Ivory Coast. (HL560)

Answer:
The Earl of Courtown:
The Department for International Trade (DIT) works closely with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Department for International Development (DFID) to advance our trade relationship with the Ivory Coast.

DIT has recently increased promotion of the UK commercial offer and facilitated new business by supporting trade missions. DIT continues to develop a strong pipeline of projects in the market, eligible for UKEF financing, that UK companies are well positioned to invest in and is working to increase the visibility of the Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC) that supports the building of businesses throughout Africa.

 

Lord Sheikh’s Written Parliamentary Questions on Eritrea and Ethiopia

Question:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the peace deal brokered in 2018 between Eritrea and Ethiopia. (HL17426)  

Answer:

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: In a statement by the former Minister for Africa, we welcomed the Eritrea/Ethiopia peace agreement, signed on 9 July 2018. At the UN Human Rights Council on 12 July the UK reiterated its strong support for the peace deal and remains hopeful that it will contribute to stability and prosperity in the two countries. We welcome the visit of Prime Minister Abiy to Eritrea on 18-19 July and the re-commitment of both sides to further progress in their bilateral relationship.

Question:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the current status of indefinite conscription in Eritrea. (HL17425)

Answer:

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: We continue to be deeply concerned by reports that indefinite conscription is ongoing in Eritrea. We raise concerns about human rights in Eritrea regularly, both directly with the Government, as the former Minister for Africa did with the Eritrean Foreign Minister in September 2018, and in international fora. In a statement at the 41st session of the UN Human Rights council on 12 July the UK welcomed the renewal of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate, which we co-sponsored. The UK also urged Eritrea to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea and to reform national service.

Question: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assistance, if any, they are providing to Eritrea and Ethiopia in ratifying a trade agreement. (HL17428) 

Answer:

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: We continue to engage with Eritrea and Ethiopia as well as our regional and international partners to facilitate further progress of the peace deal they signed, including by seeking to identify practical ways to support improved ties and trade. We are encouraged that the Prime Minister of Ethiopia met with the Eritrean Prime Minister on 18 July in Asmara on the anniversary of the resumption of flights between the two countries. We remain hopeful that this will lead to further progress in implementation of their peace agreement.

Question:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the recent border closure between Eritrea and Ethiopia. (HL17427) 

Answer:

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: We are aware of reports that the border between Eritrea and Ethiopia remains closed and are concerned of the impact this has on the Joint Declaration of Peace and Friendship deal between Eritrea and Ethiopia that was signed last year. We urge the two countries to ensure the agreement is fully implemented in order to bring stability and prosperity to their countries and the Horn of Africa region. We welcome the visit of Prime Minister Abiy to Eritrea on 18-19 July and both sides re-commitment towards this.

Developing Markets Associates UK-Nigeria Trade and Investment Forum

Lord Sheikh attended and spoke at the UK-Nigeria Trade and Investment Forum organised by Developing Markets Associates (DMA) in April 2018.

DMA is a multi-service development consultancy. Incorporated in 2007, the company was established to ‘help money flow into the world’s emerging economies’ through a number of vehicles including investment summits for sovereign governments, through reducing the costs of international remittances and through deepening financial inclusion in emerging economies.

During his speech, Lord Sheikh advocated for more bilateral trade between the UK and Nigeria. Lord Sheikh has spoken on the subject of trade with Africa and Commonwealth countries in the House of Lords and at various other events. He noted that  the UK is looking to trade more with Africa and the Commonwealth and stated that he is  very glad that Nigeria is a part of the Commonwealth and that they should have a leading role in the CHOGM discussions.

 

Developing Markets Associates UK-Papua New Guinea Trade and Investment Forum

Lord Sheikh chaired the UK-Papua New Guinea Trade and Investment Forum organised by Developing Markets Associates (DMA) in April 2018.

DMA is a multi-service development consultancy. Incorporated in 2007, the company was established to ‘help money flow into the world’s emerging economies’ through a number of vehicles including investment summits for sovereign governments, through reducing the costs of international remittances and through deepening financial inclusion in emerging economies.

In his speech, Lord Sheikh advocated for more bilateral trade between the UK and Papua New Guinea. Lord Sheikh has spoken about trade with Commonwealth countries in the House of Lords several times and at other meetings. Lord Sheikh made remarks about the trade and investment statistics between the UK and Papua New Guinea and the potential for increased trade in terms of industries including renewable energy and those of natural gas and crude oil. Lord Sheikh cited that he hopes that the conference could contribute to more business being undertaken with and in the country.

 

Speech on Trade and Investment

My Lords, I begin by welcoming my noble friend Lord Maude to your Lordships’ House and congratulate him on his appointment as Minister of State for Trade and Investment and on the excellence of his maiden speech. He did great work in the other place, and I am sure that he will continue to play a key role in his new capacity.

I am glad to have the opportunity to speak on the subjects being discussed here today. Trade and investment is an area in which I take great interest. I have stated several times in your Lordships’ House that I am very keen to promote more business between the United Kingdom and overseas countries. I believe that this will be one of the driving forces of our continued recovery. Ultimately, it will help us to balance our budget and reduce our national debt.

I would like to focus on the importance of the United Kingdom building its bilateral trade with the African continent. I have a personal affinity with Africa, as I was born in Kenya and spent my formative years in Uganda.

I have travelled across the continent, spoken at various meetings and met African businessmen. I have first-hand knowledge of what Africa has to offer. The continent’s GDP is expected to grow by 4.5% this year and 5% next year. Furthermore, many African states have been members of the much-admired “7% club” in recent years. A number of economists have predicted that Africa could account for 7% of the global economy by 2040. Africa has a huge land area and an abundance of untapped natural resources. These include substantial reserves of oil, minerals, food and natural resources, and will undoubtedly serve much of the world’s demands in the future.

Africa offers so much but, like any other economy, it has its challenges and vulnerabilities. Africa has realised these challenges and is already working hard to address them. At the moment a conference is being held in South Africa where one of the subjects being discussed is the growth of the continent’s economy and achieving prosperity.

Last week I hosted and spoke at an event for the Economic Community of West African States, a body of 15 west African countries with a vision of collective self-sufficiency for their member states. They are creating an integrated region with mutual access to resources and investment opportunities. A few days ago I met African businessmen who are very keen to promote trade between the UK and Ghana. It is worth while our accelerating our trade with Ghana, as it is a stable country with good governance. Similarly, last year I was asked to speak at an event for the Southern African Development Community. It is a great example of fluid multilateral co-operation to encourage economic growth. It is investing in projects aimed at improving infrastructure in the region. At a recent dinner held by the Association for African Owned Enterprises, I was awarded the lifetime achievement award for my involvement in trade with Africa.

African countries are also moving quickly to improve their investment climate and conditions for doing business. Last year a World Bank report found that Africa comprises five of the top 10 places in the world with the most reforms making it easier to do business. The same report found that since 2005, all African countries have improved the business regulatory environment for small and medium-sized businesses. Foreign direct investment is gradually moving away from mineral resources into consumer goods and services. This is in response to the needs of a growing middle class. Manufactured goods now constitute nearly 40% of intra- African exports. These changes present an unprecedented opportunity for overseas businesses to get involved. We must capitalise now before it is too late.

The UK’s current engagement with Africa is based too heavily on aid and long-established commodity-based businesses. We need to see new British companies entering the African market. We must seek to help the continent to grow rather than simply supporting it with aid contributions. This in turn will help us to grow further here at home. Does the Minister agree that trade and aid must go hand in hand? I would appreciate his comments.

We already have a natural advantage with the significant African diaspora settled in the UK. Businesses should look to engage with these people in seeking to connect with Africa for the first time. There is of course a young and hungry new workforce in Africa, ready for foreign investors to utilise. Indeed, it is estimated that Africa’s share of the global workforce will increase from 12% to 23% by 2050. The United Kingdom must do more to help unlock this potential. As someone who has a business as well as an academic background, I would like to see more partnerships between British and African universities. We must help to build practical vocational programmes and increase access to secondary and further education. Young Africans need to develop new skills in order to properly navigate what is a rapidly changing career landscape for them. Does my noble friend feel the same as I do about the education and training of Africans?

I am a fervent supporter of trade through our Commonwealth. It is in Britain’s economic interests to utilise what is essentially a ready-made trading bloc that covers a third of the world’s population. Many African countries are part of the Commonwealth, including Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, and Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria. On that note, I am pleased to note the Government’s recent enthusiasm for working with the new Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council. I would be grateful if my noble friend updated your Lordships’ House on how the Government are supporting and engaging with that council.

I also commend the economic partnership agreements brokered between Europe and the African regions in recent years. However, the United Kingdom must do more in its own right. We must surge ahead of the rest of Europe, and indeed the rest of the world. It is also crucial that the relevant people and bodies work together in order to maximise our trade efforts. We must pool our talents as much as possible. The expertise from the Foreign Office, the Department for International Development, UK Trade & Investment and the private sector must all be combined and work in tandem to accelerate the trade activities. Is my noble friend satisfied that there is adequate co-ordination between the parties I have referred to?

Our high commissions and embassies in African countries can take an active role in notifying relevant companies in the UK of the opportunities and tenders available for bidding in the countries where they serve. We should also arrange trade exhibitions and visits of delegations to suitable African countries. Can the Minister say whether the Government recognise the importance of such delegations, and will he undertake to ensure that we see more of these visits to the African continent in the future?

The embassies and high commissions of African countries should prepare details of the opportunities available in their countries and provide them to interested parties in the UK. They could also prepare periodic press releases with the information. The embassies and high commissions of African countries, together with private organisations that are trying to facilitate strengthening of trade links, can arrange for trade exhibitions and delegations, which can meet relevant government departments and interested companies.

Africa is made up of 54 countries and each does business in a slightly different way. Local knowledge will help us shape investment models that present African ventures to reflect their true commercial value. The UK will be left behind if we do not address our international trade engagement strategies with Africa. For future growth, and to see new UK companies enter the African markets, we need to look at individual sectors and have more of a business approach to engagement with Africa.

Particular areas that UK companies can look at are construction, infrastructure, manufacturing, minerals, IT, agriculture, the financial services sector and export of goods from the UK. We must act now and connect our businesses at home with the overseas markets of the future. From more overseas trade will come growth, and from growth will come prosperity and stability. We have unique services and products which we can offer to Africa. No other continent offers such a unique mix of opportunities and challenges. Indeed, I believe that the opportunities far outweigh the challenges.

African Business Safari

Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to welcome you to today’s African Business Safari event, looking at the Economic Community of West African States. This is the second event I have hosted for Association here in the House of Lords. I was honoured and privileged to be presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award from them at the dinner which they held at the Connaught Rooms last year.

I was born in Kenya and raised in Uganda. Whilst I have lived in the UK for many years I always maintain that my heart remains in Africa. I am very keen to promote more business between United Kingdom and overseas. Africa and African enterprises are very close to my heart both personally and professionally.

United Kingdom is doing well in economically and financially and our growth is expected to be about 3% in 2015. We need to do trade more with overseas countries and I feel that more should and can be done to increase the bi-lateral trade between UK and the African countries. With this view in mind I have already spoken three times in the House of Lords emphasising the need for us to expand our trade with Africa.

Last week I have tabled a debate to be heard in the House of Lords specifically on the subject of expansion of trade between United Kingdom and Africa. We of course already have a successful African diaspora here in the UK who have achieved great success in business and in the professions. We should encourage even more of these people to think about getting involved in African business. They certainly already have the knowledge and the resources. Indeed, the UK shares a commonality of language and laws with many parts of Africa. This provides us with a strong basis upon which to build our relationship further.

Africa is a huge continent, with an enormous wealth of diverse economic and cultural opportunity. The population is set to double by 2050, meaning there will be huge potential to grow the economy and make it more competitive. African economies generally showed great resilience following the financial crisis and have maintained an impressive momentum of growth. Overall continent-wide GDP growth is projected to rise to 4.5% this year, and 5% next year. Furthermore, many African states have been members of the much-admired “7% club” in recent years.

Today’s discussions are focusing on West Africa, and the work of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). ECOWAS is made up of fifteen member countries that are located in the Western African region. I would like to pay tribute to the vision and innovation of ECOWAS, in building what has become a pillar of the African economy. It is realising its vision of collective self-sufficiency for its member states, creating an integrated region with mutual access to resources and investment opportunities.

This year marks the group’s 40th anniversary and is an impressive milestone on a journey that will hopefully raise the standard of living for millions of West Africans. The Western region achieved growth of 6% last year and is projected to continue outperforming the continent as a whole. This was despite the Ebola virus outbreak, one of the greatest challenges in the region for many years, hitting Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone particularly hard. Unfortunately, the great economic progress made by these countries in recent times has been set back as a result. Thankfully, these economies are projected to recover again next year.

Africa is moving quickly to improve its investment climate and conditions for doing business. Last year, a World Bank report found that Africa comprises five of the top ten countries in the world with the most reforms making it easier to do business. Four of those countries – Benin, the Ivory Coast, Senegal and Togo – are members of ECOWAS, which should be acknowledged as a huge complement to the community.

The same report found that since 2005, all African countries have improved the business regulatory environment for small and medium-sized businesses. Foreign Direct Investment is gradually moving away from mineral resources into consumer goods and services.This is in response to the needs of a rising middle class. However, with minerals and ores still accounting for two-thirds of Africa’s merchandise exports, the five-year low in global commodity prices could present challenges for the economies.

We must also acknowledge that ECOWAS encompasses Nigeria, the largest economy in Africa by a considerable margin. Nigeria continues to enjoy significant growth and I hope that the UK and others will recognise its potential, particularly in the non-oil sectors.

Indeed, the further potential of Africa as a whole must not be underestimated by the global business community. Unlocking all of this potential from Africa and harnessing it with the rest of the world will depend upon effective communication and an understanding of the challenges the region faces. I hope that today’s discussions will serve this agenda.

Ladies and gentlemen, today we are going to hear from a number of distinguished speakers, who will discuss their specific industries.

African Business Safari

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Lord Sheikh hosted a Conference for the Association for African Owned Enterprises which is chaired by Mr Washington Kapapiro. The Association organised the second of four events for the African Business Safari and looked at promoting business between West Africa and UK. Lord Sheikh was given a Lifetime Achievement Award at a Gala dinner organised by the Association previously. Lord Sheikh is very keen to promote more business between United Kingdom and Africa.

 

African Enterprise Awards

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Lord Sheikh was presented with an award for his lifetime of excellence in business in the UK and Africa at the African Enterprise Awards at the Connaught Rooms. Lord Sheikh spoke at the event and thanked the organisers for the award and commended them on the excellent organisation of the event. Lord Sheikh was born and raised in Africa and he promotes the increase of trade between the UK and African countries.