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Greg Dorey


Part of UK in Ethiopia

17th May 2013

Africa in London

This has been a fortnight of focus on Africa in London.

It started with the Somalia Conference on 7 May in Lancaster House, following up the Somalia Conference of a year ago. The difference was that this time the Government of Somalia co-chaired the event and the agenda concentrated on its priorities. Feedback from those attending was hugely positive and substantial additional support to Somalia was promised by the International Community. Many useful bilateral visits took place in the margins of the main event.

Foreign Secretary William Hague and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam
Foreign Secretary William Hague and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam

Security – in the face of the continuing threat from Al Shabaab – was high on people’s minds. But a longer-term perspective was being taken too. So it was logical to hold a Somalia commercial event on 8 May to look at how to underpin improvements in the country in a sustainable way.

In parallel, the first ever trade and investment mission (in either direction) from Djibouti was engaging with no less than 180 UK companies. Though not a traditional market for us, the companies were deeply interested in the prospects offered by a huge planned expansion in Djibouti’s port and free zone provision; the liberalisation of the financial sector; the renewable energy opportunities; and developments in other key sectors.

UK Heads of Mission joined their African counterparts for a group photo on the stairs at Lancaster House.
UK Heads of Mission joined their African counterparts for a group photo on the stairs at Lancaster House.

On 13 May, African Ambassadors and High Commissioners in London met to commemorate 50 years of the Organisation of African Unity, again in Lancaster House, prefacing the celebrations due in Addis Ababa next week.

A wide range of political, academic, business and diplomatic contacts were present. Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros and our Deptuy Prime Minister both gave much-praised speeches. Amongst the ceremonial aspects there were serious discussion, with sessions focussing on the African economy, business environment and investment opportunities. The UK was delighted to be able to host this tribute to how far the (now) African Union has come and to look forward to the future.

This week was Leadership Week for British Ambassadors and High Commissioners from around the world, when we come back to London to discuss our work and the Government’s priorities collectively. But regional meetings also take place and British Heads of Mission (as we are called) were able to discuss together the tremendous progress being made in Africa and how we can best bring British and African aims and achievements together.

Separately, we engaged with Parliamentarians and businesses to review future work – in my case I attended five Africa-specific business gatherings (further evidence of the considerable and growing commercial interest in Africa at present).

Thus energised, we are all returning to the countries to which we are accredited – ready to take forward the substantial security and prosperity agenda we have with our African partners. If anyone still believed we were not giving enough attention to this fast growing Continent, the evidence of the past fortnight should have put them right.

2 comments on “Africa in London

  1. It’s great to see and to read that Africa is taking chances to improve their economy and situation in world. They spoke about trade and education and I guess it will have a good effect on people’s lives not only orally but in general too. Although, not all parts of Africa are having improvements.

  2. This is the first time I have felt hugely positive about reaching a solution for Somalia.
    Ethiopia, and the British Embassy here are so strategic in all this.
    What practical ways can we positively support this movement?
    Thank you, Ambassador Greg!

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