In her first visit to the continent as UK Prime Minister, Theresa May pledged to become the G7’s biggest investor in Africa by 2022, using the UK’s development budget to not only relieve poverty, but to create a sustainable investment environment for British businesses.
May was addressing guests of the British High Commission in Cape Town on Tuesday, before meeting President Cyril Ramaphosa at Tuynhuys later in the day.
“The UK has for some time now supported land reform that is legal and transparent and generated through a democratic process. I discussed it with President Ramaphosa during his visit to Britain earlier this year and will discuss it with him again later today,” she said.
“I welcome the comments that President Ramaphosa has already made, bearing in mind the economic and social aspects of it. I think he’s made some comments that it won’t be a smash and grab approach. I think there’s an opportunity to unlock investment.”
May pledged investments of £4bn in African economies, particularly to create jobs for young people.
“Our integrated global economy means good news for British and African people. That is why I will today confirm plans to carry over the EU partnership agreement to the Southern African Customs Union and Mozambique, once the EU deals no longer apply to the UK,” she said.
With 60% of Africans under the age of 25, she said such a young population could enrich the world economy, but needed to be properly harnessed.
“Africa will have to create 18 million new jobs to keep pace with its rapidly growing populations. That is almost 15 000 jobs a day. It’s in the world’s interest to see that those jobs are created. If we fail to do so, the economic and environmental impact will soon reach every corner of the world.”
May brought with her a delegation of 29 business leaders who will be looking for investment opportunities in SA.
Mark Florman, CEO of Time Partners, said while there were concerns about South Africa’s land reform process, Ramaphosa would have Britain’s backing as long as it stayed transparent and within the limits of the law.
“Anything that creates uncertainty around investment is a problem, and in this case I think the mere symbolism could undermine the system,” he said. DM