Prime Minister David Cameron has arrived in Africa at the start of a two-day trade mission designed to bolster Britain’s business links with some of the continent’s fastest-growing economies.
On his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa, which takes in South Africa and Nigeria, Mr Cameron is pushing the message that trade, not aid, is the key to its future prosperity.
Trade deals – and an African free trade area – will do more than protest marches or Live Aid-style concerts to eradicate poverty from the continent, he said.
Writing in South Africa’s Business Day, Mr Cameron said: “In the past, there were marches in the West to drop the debt. There were concerts to increase aid. And it was right that the world responded.
“But they have never once had a march or a concert to call for what will in the long term save far more lives and do far more good – an African free trade area. The key to Africa’s progress is not just aid. It is time for some fresh thinking.”
While trade is top of the agenda, the war in Libya is also likely to feature prominently when Mr Cameron meets South African president Jacob Zuma, who has been critical of Nato-led military operations and travelled to Tripoli in May to try to broker a peace deal with Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
And the ongoing crisis at News International is unlikely to be far from Mr Cameron’s thoughts, with media mogul Rupert Murdoch, his son James and former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks – a regular social guest of the Prime Minister – set to answer MPs’ questions on phone-hacking tomorrow, while he is away.
It is understood that Mr Cameron trimmed down what was expected to be a five-day trip taking in several African countries in order to be able to get back to the UK to deal with the aftermath of the Commons Culture Committee hearing. Downing Street would only say that the trip had been shortened “simply because the Prime Minister has other things he wants to be focused on”.
This week’s trip is the latest in a series of trade missions which have seen Mr Cameron visit China and India and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg go to Mexico and Brazil, in a government push to deepen UK links with the emerging economies expected to act as the drivers of global growth over the coming years.
The PM is accompanied by Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell, trade and investment minister Lord Green and a business delegation comprising 25 representatives from a range of blue chip companies, private equity firms and small businesses. Among those also in the PM’s party are Barclays chief executive Bob Diamond, Premier League communications director Bill Bush and senior executives from Waitrose, Vodafone, Diageo and G4S.