Theresa May pledges £4 billion of extra investment to Africa as three-day trade mission begins

Theresa May has been met with a guard of honour and "the British weather" after touching down in South Africa - where she committed extra investment to the continent and declared her desire for the UK to overtake the US to become the G7’s leading investor in Africa by 2022.

The Prime Minister arrived in Cape Town on Tuesday for the first part of her three-leg tour of Africa, which will also include Kenya and Nigeria, and will see her promote trade with the countries ahead of the UK's withdrawal from the EU in March.

In a speech on Tuesday morning, Mrs May vowed to provide an extra £4 billion of investment to African economies, while simultaneously reassuring that overseas aid spending would benefit UK interests.

She also outlined Britain's intention to carry over the EU's economic partnership agreement with Mozambique and the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), which consists of South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland, post Brexit.

Mrs May said the increased investment would help offer security and jobs to stabilise African economies.

  • Theresa May dances with schoolchildren

Despite Mrs May's pledges during her speech, it is more likely that her trip to South Africa will be remembered for her dancing skills.

The Prime Minister's first port of call for was the I D Mkize School, where the Maidenhead MP danced with school children after they met her waving South African and British flags.

As well as seeking stronger trade ties with Africa, Mrs May will also promote the UK as an educational destination during her trip.

Speaking during an assembly at the school, Mrs May told pupils that the Chevening scholarship - a scheme which enables international students with leadership qualities to come and study in the UK - would be opened up to 100 more of "Africa's brightest young people".

"What I see before me in this hall today is the future of South Africa," she added.

"I'd like to think that some of you when you get older if you're thinking of going to university, that you might think of coming to one of our great universities in the UK."

Theresa May's first stop on her visit was to the I D Mkize School. Credit: AP

After visiting the school, Mrs May delivered a speech at the First National Bank in Cape Town which she stated that by 2050, "a quarter of the world's population... and a quarter of the world's consumers" will live in Africa, making clear that she sees the continent as the next stage of global growth.

She then paid tribute to former South African president Nelson Mandela and the struggle to end apartheid, in what would have been the centenary year of the campaigner's birth.

The Prime Minister also paid tribute to fellow African, Ghanaian Kofi Annan, the former UN secretary general who died last week aged 80.

Mrs May then went on to announce plans for increased investment in Africa, stating: "As Prime Minister of a trading nation whose success depends on global markets, I want to see strong African economies that British companies can do business with in a free and fair fashion.

"Whether through creating new customers for British exporters or opportunities for British investors, our integrated global economy means healthy African economies are good news for British people as well as African people."

  • Theresa May delivers a speech on her arrival in South Africa

She continued: "So while we cannot compete with the economic might of some foreign governments investing in Africa, what we can offer is long-term investment of the very highest quality and breadth, something that will deliver more for Africans for longer and which can only be achieved when the Government and private sector work together."

The 61-year-old also used her speech to reassert the UK’s shift in strategy over aid spending, encouraging private sector investment alongside efforts to alleviate extreme poverty.

"I want to be clear, foreign aid works," the Prime Minister told those listening.

She continued: "The UK's role in international development is something of which I'm immensely proud as I believe the nation as a whole should be.

"We will remain a global champion for aid spending, humanitarian relief and international development.

"We will continue our commitment to spend 0.7% of gross national income on official development assistance and we will not falter in our work to deliver the sustainable development goals.

"But I am also unashamed about the need to ensure that our aid programme works for the UK.

"So today I'm committing that our development spending will not only combat extreme poverty but at the same time tackle global challenges and support our own national interest.

"This will ensure that our investment in aid benefits us all and is fully aligned with our wider national security priorities."

Britain’s overseas aid budget totalled £13.9 billion in 2017, an increase of £555 million in 2016 and in line with the legal commitment to invest 0.7% of national income in this area.

It has proven a controversial pledge among some Tory backbenchers, with successive international development secretaries vowing to use the cash to help develop trade against the backdrop of Brexit.

Theresa May will visit Cape Town on Tuesday. Credit: PA

Part of the reason why Downing Street is keen to invest in Africa, is that it believes helping young people on the continent secure jobs will stabilise the economy of their countries, while also reducing the likelihood of them undertaking risky journeys to Europe.

In her speech, Mrs May continued: "For a variety of reasons the private sector has not yet managed to deliver the level of job creation and investment that many African nations need," Mrs May said.

“So I want to put our development budget and expertise at the centre of our partnership as part of an ambitious new approach – and use this to support the private sector to take root and grow...

“I am unashamed about the need to ensure that our aid programme works for the UK.

“So today I am committing that our development spending will not only combat extreme poverty, but at the same time tackle global challenges and support our own national interest.

"This will ensure that our investment in aid benefits us all, and is fully aligned with our wider national security priorities.”

Downing Street cited data from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) as showing UK direct investment in Africa was £42.7 billion in 2016 compared to £44.3 billion from the US.

France followed in third with £38 billion and China fourth with £31 billion.

The Prime Minister added: “It is in the world’s interest to see that those jobs are created, to tackle the causes and symptoms of extremism and instability, to deal with migration flows and to encourage clean growth.

“If we fail to do so, the economic and environmental impacts will swiftly reach every corner of our networked, connected world.

“And the human impacts – from a loss of faith in free markets and democracy as the best way to secure global growth and human rights, to greater conflict and an increased susceptibility to extremism – will be similarly global.”

The Prime Minister also said she supports controversial South African land reform if it is legal, with no "smash and grab".

Mrs May's comments are in stark contrast to those made by US President Donald Trump who has effectively labelled the policy - which seeks to correct the legacy of white minority rule that stripped South Africa's black population of their land - as racist towards white people.

Currently in the country, nearly a quarter of a century after the first democratic elections, black South Africans, who comprise 80% of the population, still own just 4% of the country’s land, according to the government.

Charles Bowman, Lord Mayor of the City of London, will accompany the PM. Credit: PA

Among Mrs May’s business delegation are Charles Bowman, Lord Mayor of the City of London Corporation, David Schwimmer, CEO of the London Stock Exchange, and representatives of firms who specialise in helping Africa – including Georgia Barrie, co-founder and director of, which helps farmers connect and share information.

During her trip to South Africa, Mrs May will also hold a bilateral meeting with president Cyril Ramaphosa and hopes to visit Robben Island – where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned during the era of Apartheid.

Such a visit would commemorate the 100th anniversary of the former South African president’s birth.