The United Kingdom (UK) has committed to boosting its trade relations with Rwanda and other African countries as the deadline for Brexit looms, Jo Lomas, the UK High Commissioner to Rwanda has said.
Lomas was addressing the media in Kigali on UK’s plans about its relationship with Africa during the post-Brexit period.
The UK voted to leave the European Union (EU), a 28-member body, by March 2019. But the exact terms of the withdrawal will be clearer before the end of the year.
Between November and December, the European Council will take a decision on what the future relations of UK and EU will be. However, the implementation will go through until December 2020.
“As we prepare to leave, the UK has been considering its relations around the world because we are moving from what in the past might have been an EU or UK relations with various countries to what’s going to be a UK relationship,” Lomas said.
She highlighted that the British government has decided to prioritise the relationship with African governments, which is why Prime Minister Theresa May visited Africa recently. May concluded her visit to Africa last week during which she visited Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria.
“The central message is that we are hoping for a renewed relationship with African partners. We believe we have got a distinct offer, which is around investment, stability, innovation and growth,” she said.
With Africa moving toward creating millions of jobs to move people out of poverty, she said, UK believes increased investment in trade will help the continent, and that the long-term plan is to negotiate own trade agreements with Africa.
“We hope they will be fairer and accessible by more countries. What this means is that we are increasing our presence in Africa,” she said, highlighting that the UK is opening new missions in Lesotho, Swaziland, Chad and Niger.
UK wants to become the largest G7 investor in Africa by 2022, and to achieve this, the country announced a package of 8 billion pounds in Africa.
The High Commissioner explained that half of this will come from the development finance institution, CDC Group and the other half will be from private investments.
Lomas also noted that the country was increasing the Chevening Scholarships by 2.7 million pounds for Africa, something she said they are working hard for more Rwandan students to benefit from.
How will Rwanda benefit?
“Our focus here [in Rwanda] is on trade, investment and growth and we’ll be increasing our staff. We expect that to be predominantly trade staff from the Department of International Trade,” Lomas noted.
Latest statistics from the Rwanda Development Board show that last year the UK was the second largest investor in Rwanda with an investment value of $203.1 million.
Lomas said that her country was going to continue to work with Rwanda through economic development partnership to improve economic growth.
The High Commissioner also touched on the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), saying that the country is going to work with Rwanda for the next two years to facilitate the successful hosting of CHOGM which is expected to take place in Kigali in 2020.