SMEs are urged to heed the call of Africa and tap into continent

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Opportunities for Yorkshire-based small businesses in Africa are on the rise, according to the Minister for Africa, Mark Simmonds.

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post on a visit to Leeds yesterday, Mr Simmonds said that there is plenty of scope for Yorkshire firms to provide their expertise to tap into agricultural, manufacturing and service industries across Africa.

Mr Simmonds, who is MP for Boston and Skegness, said that Yorkshire is filled with innovative and entrepreneurial people who may benefit from looking to Africa as they grow their businesses.

He said: “I’ve detected a real enthusiasm here to export into new African markets… African governments want to purchase goods and services that businesses in the North [of England] have available.”

During Mr Simmonds’ visit, he met with DLA Piper and Barclays clients who are already successfully trading or thinking about trading in Africa. Among the topics covered were discussions on how Yorkshire SMEs can benefit from work in Angola, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mozambique and Tanzania, which have an average growth rate of more than 6 per cent. Africa is home to six of the fastest growing economies globally.

Some 70 people attended the event in Leeds including representatives from Black Mineral Consultants, Callcredit, Angloco and Thomas Broadbent & Sons. A number of senior delegates were also present from UK Trade & Investment in Leeds, the Kenyan High Commission, Tanzania and Ghana.

“I want to make sure that SMEs are aware that opportunities exist in Africa,” said Mr Simmonds. “And it’s not just in traditional sectors like oil and gas but in education, retail, agriculture and energy. The list is extensive.” According to Mr Simmonds, the Government has “a clear objective of working to improve the business environment and address capacity constraints” in Africa. It hopes that this work will help to create conditions for increased business for UK companies across the African continent.

“There are a significant number of other private sectors from countries around the world who see Africa as a major growth opportunity. I don’t want UK companies to miss out.”

In the past three years, British Gas has invested £3bn in Tanzania. The country has a goal of reaching middle income status by 2025.

Petra Billing, partner at DLA Piper, said: “We are delighted to welcome the Minister to Leeds and to DLA Piper. Doing business in Africa offers unique opportunities and challenges, and with this comes a need to understand the cultural, economic and political nuances that exist.

“As one of the most active law firms on the continent, it’s great to be able to bring together local businesses who are already taking advantage of these opportunities and discuss how Yorkshire and the UK can make the most of what this vast continent has to offer.”

Alastair Watson, corporate director at Barclays, said: “The Minister’s visit is testament to the growing interest in doing business in Africa.

“Barclays is committed to helping businesses in Yorkshire to set up or expand their African operations, helping them to overcome barriers, such as acquiring local knowledge and guaranteeing payments in unfamiliar territories.”