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For the sake of British Business we must maintain our aid budget - here's why

Credit: PA Images

Dominic McVey, Entrepreneur | Coalition for Global Prosperity

4 min read Partner content

With COP, the G7 and a new White House administration there are plenty of opportunities for Britain to continue its world leading role in protecting freedom and prosperity.

While the recent focus of foreign relations has been the Special Relationship and whether or not we get a Brexit Deal, one region often overlooked by decision makers is UK relations with African nations.

As an entrepreneur with deep ties across Africa, I have seen first-hand the incredible opportunities that aid can provide the continent.

Africa’s combined GDP is set to reach $3.2 trillion in the next five years and is home to five of the world’s fastest-growing economies. With these opportunities ahead of us, now is not the time to abandon our promise to spend 0.7% on UK aid and development.

By providing lifesaving aid, we help stimulate economic growth and job creation, which in turn ensures that our development partners of today, become our trading partners of tomorrow.

I firmly believe that most businesses in the UK that have been able to invest in the Global South have been able to do so because of the development expertise provided by British aid workers and supported by successive Conservative Governments.

As an entrepreneur who has worked in Africa I have experienced this partnership first hand. I have developed business across East Africa and helped to create over 5000 ethical jobs in Kenya alone.

These jobs were not created on the cheap and my own business was rated as one of the top employers in Kenya because of the environment and support that was provided such as medical care, reproductive care and education.

The only way that we were able to make investment in locations in East Africa such as Kenya was thanks to investment from the UK Government.

It would have otherwise taken too long to move goods in and out but thanks to overseas aid, it allowed Britain to export its services and skills but also allowed for the export of goods to other markets from Kenya such as the USA alongside exporting back to the UK and Europe.

This partnership between overseas aid and private investment has allowed for real and positive change to take place by opening markets and sharing prosperity to those who have previously been out of reach of British business.

Businesses in Kenya can then export to the USA duty free, which generates higher profits for UK firms and in turn generates higher tax revenues for HM Treasury.

Without this investment by UK Aid, consumers in the UK would be handed higher costs for everyday items that couldn’t be grown or manufactured at home. Investment in overseas development benefits us all.

Global Britain can continue to be a force for good by lifting people out of poverty through trade and commerce

Trademark East Africa (TMEA) was one of the key programmes that enabled my business to grow and support employment for so many and one of the flagship programmes of UK Aid.

TMEA is funded by a group of international aid agencies from around the world with the joint aim of reducing barriers to trade in the region and working to ensure that a more united East Africa is able to take advantage of and access new global opportunities.

This is an incredible example of how the international aid community enabled businesses such as my own to access new markets by improving logistics and access where traditionally logistics costs can range from anywhere between 30 to 60% of commodity value for rice (and other cereals), while the logistics costs penalty on high-value items like electronics are considerably lower.

Britain is one of the most entrepreneurial countries on Earth and, combined with the Government’s ability to open new trading opportunities through the use of international aid, there is no end to the successes that can be achieved for UK and African businesses.

Without Government assistance, UK exporters would struggle to get their products or services into some of the most landlocked and difficult to reach places on the African continent. But it is not just for trade that these partnerships are essential.

If we do not support new and emerging economies, then other nations will.

Hostile states are only too keen to invest in new infrastructure if they know it will gain them a foothold in the region through the building up of debt.

Global Britain can continue to be a force for good by lifting people out of poverty through trade and commerce, helping us at home and our partners overseas from falling to the hands of those with far more sinister intentions such as Russia and China.

The Chancellor is rightly trying to balance the books, but this should not be done at the expense of losing British influence.

With COP, the G7 and a new White House administration there are plenty of opportunities for Britain to continue its world leading role in protecting freedom and prosperity.

Investing in Africa and supporting British business should be one of them.

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