Trade push expected as Theresa May makes first Africa visit as PM

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Theresa May is preparing to fly to Africa on a three-nation trade mission in an attempt to bolster Britain’s post-Brexit fortunes.

Mrs May will visit South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya as she makes her first trip to the continent since becoming Prime Minister in 2016.

She will be accompanied by a 29-strong business delegation, adding her aim is to “deepen and strengthen” partnerships around the world as the UK prepares to leave the EU in 2019.

G7 meeting
Prime Minister Theresa May (Simon Dawson/PA)

Mrs May’s visit to Nairobi will mark the first by a British prime minister to Kenya since Margaret Thatcher in 1988.

It is also the first to Africa by a British PM since David Cameron in 2013 for Nelson Mandela’s memorial service.

Mrs May will fly into South Africa’s legislative capital Cape Town on Tuesday, where she will meet young people before delivering a keynote speech on trade and how UK private sector investment can be brought into Africa.

After a bilateral meeting with South African president Cyril Ramaphosa, in which Zimbabwe is likely to feature, the PM is also expected to visit Robben Island.

Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (Victoria Jones/PA)

On Wednesday, Mrs May intends to meet Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari in the capital Abuja before meeting victims of modern slavery in Lagos.

After arriving in Kenya on Thursday, Mrs May is expected to meet president Uhuru Kenyatta shortly after his return from seeing US President Donald Trump in Washington and before he travels to China to meet president Xi Jinping.

The British PM will then see British troops and later a business school.

A state dinner hosted by Mr Kenyatta will conclude the trip.

The PM will arrive back in the UK just days before Parliament’s summer recess ends and a hectic and potentially stormy two-week session is expected before a further break for the party conferences.

Mrs May said: “Africa stands right on the cusp of playing a transformative role in the global economy, and as longstanding partners this trip is a unique opportunity at a unique time for the UK to set out our ambition to work even closer together.

“A more prosperous, growing and trading Africa is in all of our interests and its incredible potential will only be realised through a concerted partnership between governments, global institutions and business.

“As we prepare to leave the European Union, now is the time for the UK to deepen and strengthen its global partnerships.

“This week I am looking forward to discussing how we can do that alongside Africa to help deliver important investment and jobs as well as continue to work together to maintain stability and security.

“I am proud to be leading this ambitious trip to Africa and to become the first UK Prime Minister in over 30 years to visit Kenya.”

Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting
(Jonathan Brady/PA)

With United Nations’ figures showing more than 200 million 15 to 24 year olds live in Africa, officials add the UK’s aim is to find ways to help young people on the continent make a living through jobs in a secure environment.

The Prime Minister’s deputy official spokeswoman said: “The visit will also emphasise that it is in the world’s interest to help secure African jobs and growth because if we do not then conflict, poor work prospects and economic instability will continue to encourage migration, dangerous journeys to Europe.

“We will be talking about security and the PM will use the visit to announce further support to tackle instability across the region because nations can’t prosper without it.”

Details on investment in Britain’s diplomatic network in Africa are expected to emerge, amid growing Chinese influence on the continent.

It comes after Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan last year told MPs that savings would be made in Africa and elsewhere to free up £4.2 million to fund 50 new jobs in the European network, while former foreign secretary Boris Johnson this year announced new diplomatic posts in Swaziland and Lesotho.

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