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U.K. Minister for Africa announces closer UK-Southern Africa partnerships on visit to Malawi and Zambia

LONDON, (The Southern African Times) – The UK Minister for Africa, James Duddridge, travelled to Malawi and Zambia this week (5 to 9 October) where he built on UK partnerships across Southern Africa to promote, support and reinforce the United Kingdom’s national interests – with a focus on boosting regional trade links and tackling the health and economic impacts of COVID-19.

He visited businesses in the 2 countries – including Zazu, a British-backed financial services start-up in Lusaka and 14Trees, a CDC investment in Lilongwe producing environmentally sustainable bricks.

In Zambia, the Minister announced UK funding to help small-and-medium-sized (SME) firms to access investment, innovate and improve productivity. This support is purported to help create 50,000 jobs and facilitate over £100m of private sector investment into high-potential Zambian businesses.

In Malawi, a major focus of discussions with the President, Vice President and Finance Minister was how to drive growth through improving the investment climate and reforming state-owned enterprises, building on the foundations of the UK-Africa Investment Summit in January.

He also met with the Zambian Minister for Finance and trade bodies to discuss a new UK-backed partnership between the Government of Zambia and Trademark East Africa (TMEA). The support will help improve trade flows at one of Southern Africa’s busiest borders – the Nakonde border post between Zambia and Tanzania, through which 135,000 trucks pass every year.

Informal cross-border trade accounts for up to 30 to 40% of regional trade across Southern Africa, making it a vital source of income and food security for communities across the region. But with many borders closed to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic, traders are missing out on crucial earnings their families rely on.

To ensure key border posts in Zambia, South Africa and Malawi can remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Minister announced that the UK is partnering with the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) to provide advice and training to traders, governments and border agencies – allowing traders to resume their business legally and safely.

James Duddridge, Minister for Africa said:

From farmers selling their crops at regional markets, to growing African businesses exporting to global markets, traders across Southern African are an important and growing driver of regional business, investment and prosperity.

UK support to help both formal and informal traders to move their goods quickly and safely will help Southern African trade to not just survive the economic consequences of COVID-19 but thrive in the future.

In both Malawi and Zambia, Minister Duddridge heard about the countries’ responses to the global COVID-19 pandemic and announced:

  • New UK aid support for the Malawi Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 plan, to procure more supplies, deploy more front-line nurses and increase oxygen supplies for those seriously affected
  • UK-backed technical assistance to design and deliver a new emergency power solution for the Levy Mwanawasa Hospital in Lusaka, enabling the hospital to provide up to 800 more beds for critical COVID-19 care

On a visit to 260 Brands/SEBA Foods – a Zambian food SME that has received UK support to invest in expanding their capacity to produce nutritious foods for the domestic market – the Minister announced UK funding to tackle childhood malnutrition in Zambia.

During the Minister’s visit to Malawi, he also met with President Lazarus Chakwera and discussed additional UK support for the new President’s commitment to fighting corruption. This aims to strengthen Malawi’s anti-corruption environment and increase penalties for serious and organised corruption, building on existing UK support which recently helped retrieve MK782 million (around £806,000) in assets and convict 17 criminals on corruption charges.

As the UK assumes the COP26 Presidency Minister Duddridge welcomed Malawi and Zambia’s international climate engagement, and reaffirmed the UK’s commitment to bringing expertise, influence and ambition to the joint climate action partnerships across Africa ahead of COP26 in November 2021.

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