A series of ambitious new Innovation Partnerships between the UK and Africa are expected to stimulate significant economic growth and support the creation of thousands of new jobs.
The partnerships, announced by the Prime Minister as the UK strengthens ties with the region, will be established in African countries with growing tech sectors where there are young, expanding populations with ideas and innovations developing at a rapid pace.
Building on the UK’s already-strong investment in science and research in Africa, the partnerships will enable UK and African entrepreneurs to share skills and ideas, and encourage future trade.
The increased engagement comes after the Department for International Trade announced the appointment of a dedicated HM Trade Commissioner to Africa. Emma Wade-Smith will now lead a team which will provide expert in-country investment and export advice for UK and African companies.
The Innovation Partnerships are a unique opportunity for UK entrepreneurs to work alongside and collaborate with African entrepreneurs at the cutting-edge of technology. The UK has a lot to gain from this untapped market, and a lot to share with its own expertise.
The tech sector is one of the fastest growing sectors in Africa. The continent’s startups raised 50 per cent more venture capital in 2017 than in 2016, and the majority of this is being invested in South Africa (£130 million), Kenya (£114 million) and Nigeria (£89 million).
Nigeria and Kenya’s technology sectors are also growing rapidly and generate more than ten per cent and 11 per cent of their respective economic output.
Technology can help transform societies by increasing economic participation and creating sustainable jobs and growth. It also increases the potential for countries to ‘leapfrog’ to the latest developments. This happened in Kenya where a small UK aid investment in a startup ten years ago led to the explosion of mobile-phone based money transfer service MPesa.
Today more than half Kenya’s daily GDP goes through mobile money.
The new plans will bring together the best of British science, research and technology to offer tailored support to businesses and entrepreneurs in sectors from health to farming. And in partnership with DIT and DfID, will also open up new trading opportunities for exporters by helping promote stability and creating strong new markets.
The partnerships with South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria include:
● Dedicated UK science, technology and innovation teams who will build on the strong existing science relationships with South Africa and Kenya, including through the shared investments in the Newton Fund and high-end research programmes like the Square Kilometer Array. The aim is to leverage all of UK’s investments in science and research and broaden this into the regions across Africa to achieve real impacts and support mutual interests
● New regional tech experts in Kenya and Nigeria to build links between the UK and Africa’s cutting-edge digital sectors; support a wide range of startups to grow and create jobs; and help those in need of digital skills get access to training
● A significant new DFID programme to accelerate the growth of promising technologies and support startups to grow sustainably, including through early-stage investment, connecting them with private financing, and building connections with UK peers
● The rollout of digital skills and entrepreneurship programmes including TeXchange, Global EdTech Awards, Go Global and Founders and Coders programmes in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa, so the UK becomes the partner of choice for startups to expand internationally
Digital Secretary Jeremy Wright said:
These new Innovation Partnerships will not only help countries turbocharge their development, but they will also promote the UK as the place to start and grow a digital business.
Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya’s technology sectors are growing rapidly and generating a significant part of their economic output. This means huge opportunities for UK businesses and for future partnerships.
New ideas, game-changing research and cutting-edge science are good news for our African partners and good news for the UK’s world-leading scientists, technologists and researchers who are representing the country on a global stage.
Emma Wade-Smith, Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioner for Africa, said:
I’m delighted to see these ambitious partnerships being driven forward in one of Africa’s most rapidly-growing sectors.
We’re already seeing fantastic work being done to transform the UK and Africa’s shared entrepreneurial spirit into jobs and growth. In my role, I see first-hand the huge potential that Africa holds for British businesses looking to create modern trading partnerships.
Julian David, CEO of techUK, said:
Africa’s economy is projected to grow by 3.2 per cent in 2018 and to a further 3.5 per cent in 2019, according to the latest 2018 World Bank report. Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa represent a significant part of that growth with technology increasingly underpinning these numbers.
The decision to set up Innovation Partnerships and extend the tech hub network to these African nations shows the Government clearly recognises this opportunity.
The decision will allow the UK tech community to engage with high-growth markets internationally, and in turn provide an important corridor for international communities to engage with our burgeoning UK tech sector.
techUK looks forward to working with the UK Government to grow these Innovation Partnerships for the benefit of the UK tech sector, the host countries and beyond