United Kingdom to cut import taxes on products from Africa

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Besides pursuing concrete investment projects and running joint business with local partners, the United Kingdom now plans to considerably cut taxes from around 99% of goods imported from Africa. At least after its historic UK-Africa Investment Summit held in January 2020, UK has increased its support for business on the continent – a step that aims at strengthening aspects of planned economic cooperation with Africa.

The scheme to cut tariffs on hundreds of products from some of the world’s poorest countries aims at boosting trade links. The preferential terms, which come into effect early next year, will affect products ranging from food to textiles. Under the Developing Countries Trading Scheme, 99% of goods imported from Africa will be duty-free. The scheme helps fulfil the post-Brexit pledge to take back control of the country’s trade policy while also reducing dependence on aid.

Monitoring developments and random research after the summit, we have noticed different priorities – all of which are supporting and strengthening economic partnerships in a number of countries on the continent. The significance of these is to help unlock opportunity, spread prosperity and thus transform lives in Africa.

Judging from our monitoring and research, there is an indication that while the visible practical steps aim at building a more practical partnership, it is simultaneously helping to lay the foundation for sustainable future relations. It has not only displayed heightened interest but is also delivering on its plans to engage Africa.

The Department for International Trade said in a media release that it will cut import taxes on hundreds more products from some of the world’s developing countries to boost trade links. It explained further that the measure is part of a wider push by the UK to use trade to “drive prosperity and help eradicate poverty”, as well as reduce dependency on aid. The scheme covers 65 developing countries and will affect around 99% of goods imported from Africa.

Goods such as clothes, shoes and foods not widely produced in the UK will benefit from lower or zero tariffs. But goods and services from Africa make up just a tiny share of the UK’s imports, accounting for 2.5% of the total goods imported into Britain.

South Africa and Nigeria, the continent’s two largest economies, make up 60% of the entire UK-Africa trade relationship. Only eight nations from sub-Saharan Africa, mostly former colonies, count the UK in their top-10 export destinations – including Rwanda, Mauritius, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Mozambique, Kenya and South Africa. Britain has long been criticised for undervaluing trade with Africa. The amount of products Britain sends to Africa isn’t just small, it’s also shrinking.

As the UK Minister for Africa, MP Vicky Ford explained: “The overarching aim of all this work is to try and help; build the resilience of countries and help them have a much more durable prosperity. For far too long African countries have endured the fallout from global forces outside their control, and the compelling task is to build more sustainable economies in African countries.”

Over the past 12 months, we have calculated or tally at least 14 African countries visited by the UK Minister for Africa, MP Vicky Ford. In most of these African countries, the UK-Africa’s partnership agenda is, in practical terms, working. It at the same time shows a huge difference between rhetoric and what it takes to deliver all that is listed on the agenda with Africa.

British investors are strategically leveraging onto trade platforms, working to support the creation of an African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) because trade integration is such a powerful tool to accelerate economic growth, create employment and alleviate or reduce poverty.

The AfCFTA provides a unique and valuable platform for businesses to access an integrated African market of over 1.3 billion people. The growing middle-class, among other factors, constitutes a huge market potential in Africa.

The UK has set a priority to help African countries insulate themselves against these pressures. Under the current circumstances, what has Russia done to help Africa? It only contributes to deepening social dissatisfaction, and increases the fear of vulnerable groups among the population about rising prices of commodities and consumables throughout Africa.

With African partners, the UK has been exploring possible ways toward achieving common or mutual benefits from partnerships, and consistently keep an eye on others such as the technology, infrastructure development, agriculture and industrialisation, health and education, social and cultural spheres.

African leaders and governments, private sector operators are embracing these progressive efforts for boosting bilateral economic relations; efforts promoting sustainable economic growth. Our monitoring shows that other countries have been proactive investors in Africa over recent years.

Now, UK businesses are expanding into African countries and luring potential exporters to raise revenue by exporting more of their services and goods to the United Kingdom. The Developing Countries Trading Scheme comes into force in January 2023, and builds on a scheme introduced by the UK while a member of the European Union.

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