‘East must look to Africa for trade,’ says businesswoman

Prime minister Boris Johnson during the UK-Africa Investment Summit at the Intercontinental Hotel Lo

Prime minister Boris Johnson during the UK-Africa Investment Summit at the Intercontinental Hotel London. An East Anglian businesswoman has told the region's bosses: 'Africa is open for business' - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Post-Brexit Britain will benefit from an African trade boom, according to an East Anglian businesswoman.

Bolaji Sofoluwe, managing director of Langham-based ETK Group, has urged the East's bosses to explor

Bolaji Sofoluwe, managing director of Langham-based ETK Group, has urged the East's bosses to explore opportunities in Africa - Credit: Archant

As the inaugural UK-Africa Investment Summit kicked off in London, Bolaji Sofoluwe urged businesses in the East to look at striking trade deals across the continent.

The managing director of Colchester-based ETK Group - currently the only consultancy with people working actively in Africa to broker deals with the East - said the opportunities were "too good to resist".

The summit, hosted by prime minister Boris Johnson, brings together businesses, governments and international institutions to showcase the broad spectrum and quality of investment opportunities across Africa.

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Reacting to the announcement by the Department for International Trade (DIT) and the Department for International Development (DfID) of a Growth Gateway - designed to help African, UK and other international businesses trade - Mrs Sofoluwe said: "This is such positive news.

"The programme will provide support for African businesses to find trade and investment partners and expertise from the UK. It will also help British business find new partners and capitalise on opportunities for international growth in Africa.

"Africa is open for business - this is a message ETK Group has been pushing for a number of years and thanks to our relationships, the East of England is already leading the way with export and import relationships.

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"We have helped businesses across the East broker a number of successful ventures for clients to export to countries including Nigeria.

"We are delighted the DIT and DFID are recognising the importance of what we do already.

"Around 40% of our business comes from the East of England, 10% from the north of the country, 1% from London and the remainder comes from around the world including Finland, the USA, Singapore, Africa and Holland. We find businesses in the East have been very receptive to trading with Africa which is why they are now ahead of the market.

"Africa is home to six of the 15 fastest growing economies in the world. Now is the time for the UK's businesses to seize on the huge amount of growth predicted across Africa in sectors including agriculture, renewables, finance and technology.

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"Brexit has seen many small and medium-sized UK businesses explore opportunities in Africa. I hope this is a sign of greater things to come and the unlocking of prosperity between the UK and Africa."

Mrs Sofoluwe added: "The message is plain and simple - if you are not in Africa by 2045 you will desperately regret it.

"The fact is that Africa has the youngest population in the world with nearly 60% aged below 35 - and it's rapidly growing. From the perspective of jobs and the workforce, it's the opposite to what's happening in Europe.

"Africa is still virgin territory really and that's because some of the world's least developed economies are there. It opens opportunities for full investment in areas such as infrastructure, logistics and housing.

"In developed countries, there is a limit to the growth opportunities available - in Africa, there are still many opportunities for growth."

At the summit also attended by the Duke of Sussex - the PM made a pitch for improved business links from his proposed Australian-style immigration system.

"Change is coming and our system is becoming fairer and more equal between all our global friends and partners, treating people the same, wherever they come from," he said.

"By putting people before passports, we will be able to attract the best talent from around the world, wherever they may be."

Mr Johnson gave current partnership examples of Nigerian street lights being stocked with low-emission diodes from Dorset, and Angolan families tucking into chicken from Northern Ireland.

"We want to build a new future as a global free-trading nation, that's what we will be embarking on on January 31," he said. "But I want to intensify and expand that trade in ways that go far beyond what we sell you or you sell us.

"I've just told president Museveni of Uganda that his beef cattle will have an honoured place on the tables of post-Brexit Britain."

Since 2012 ETK Group has been working with clients to build trust and confidence in trading and investing in Africa and helping companies expand their international footprint.

The firm specialise in legislation, trading practice, finding partners and helping business leaders understanding cultural differences.