By Patricia Kapulula, United Kingdom
The United Kingdom has expressed its commitment to supporting African countries in trade and investment through negotiating for independent trade policies for the first time in 46 years.
UK Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade and Minister for Women and equalities, Elizabeth Truss made the commitment in London, United Kingdom on Monday at a panel discussion on Trade and Investment.
The panel discussion which was participated by the Malawi President Prof Arthur Peter Mutharika, President of Rwanda Paul Kagame, President of Guinea Alpha Conde and Truss was part of the activities at the UK-Africa Investment Summit 2020.
She said the country is committed to make such negotiations within three years.
“African nations represent a larger opportunity and as such it is our ambition to secure 80 percent of UK’s trade in free trade agreements, zero tariffs,” she said.
President Mutharika said Africa should move quickly and be ready for further trade with UK in order to be on a steady path.
He said Malawi should strive to make its products competitive in order to benefit from markets created through partnerships made among countries.
He emphasized on the need to invest in agriculture and add value to the high yielding crops like soya beans, pigeon peas, cow peas and others saying there is a huge market for such crops since Malawi’s economy is agricultural based.
However, the President expressed concern that despite Malawi’s priority being to address the supply side constraints like energy and financing the major challenge that the country faces is little production capacity which needs to be addressed by taking advantage of the new African common market.
“We have little production capacity. Therefore, our priority is to bring industrialization to the rural areas by assisting farmers with farm inputs and training them to farm properly.
“If we can achieve that, we will be able to industrialize the rural areas and get the people out of poverty,” he said.
In order to address such challenges, the $95 million Malawi Agriculture Investment and Industry Cooperation was created to empower farmers with financing and skills.
The debate which was part of activities of the UK-Africa Investment Summit discussed on trade and investment, future African growth sectors, clean energy and climate, need for improved transport network and increased investment in agriculture among others