The Telegraph has published an article today (Wednesday 28 August 2019) following an interview with the International Development Secretary Alok Sharma on his first visit to Ethiopia.
The article reports on Mr Sharma’s announcement of a new International Development Infrastructure Commission and highlights opportunities for private sector investment to grow the economies of developing countries and create the UK’s trading partners of the future.
The Commission will turbo-charge investment in green, sustainable infrastructure in developing countries, leading to more jobs, better access to basic services and opportunities for businesses. The International Development Secretary is quoted in the Telegraph saying:
“What I want to do is get around eight top people who have got proper experience in infrastructure in Asia, in Africa, people who have experience of planning infrastructure, of delivering infrastructure, financing infrastructure, getting them together and saying: ‘How can we do this better? How do we use what we’ve got in the UK government? How do we mobilise the City of London? How do we make sure that we can be a leader in corralling private sector investment into development?’”
The Commission will make recommendations to improve the planning, delivery and financing of infrastructure projects. The focus will be to help make investment in infrastructure in developing countries more attractive to businesses and investors.
Mobilising private sector funding in infrastructure will help plug the annual $2.5 trillion gap that the poorest countries need to meet the Global Goals.
The International Development Secretary’s focus on boosting infrastructure projects - that form the backbone of economic growth - is in addition to the life-saving humanitarian work of UK aid. Mr Sharma is quoted in the Telegraph saying:
Absolutely we do the humanitarian stuff, we support people, but ultimately this is about developing self-sustainable economies, growing economies, allowing these people to be self-sustaining…. And ultimately as a secondary benefit of that is that hopefully we are also creating markets for the future for the UK… Our primary function is to make sure we combat extreme poverty. But ultimately, as I said, this goes to the point about what do developing countries want? They want their economies to grow.
The Telegraph article also highlights that the International Development Secretary is committed to spending 0.7% of Gross National Income on international aid. He is quoted saying:
I’m already making the case for why this is important… You go round every single country and the high regard which the UK is held is absolutely phenomenal and actually the work that we do through UK aid also plays to our values, our British values and I think that is really important.
While visiting Ethiopia, which is one of Africa’s fastest growing economies, Mr Sharma met with British investors and the Ethiopian Government to discuss the opportunities and challenges of working in a developing economy.
He also met with female entrepreneurs working in partnership with Unilever which, alongside UK aid, is providing vital training and expertise to help women start their own businesses and access affordable household products to sell.
The visit comes ahead of the UK-Africa Investment Summit in 2020 which will look to build on future opportunities for trade between the UK and African businesses.