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UK Department for International Trade Africa’s response to COVID-19

Guest post: Emma Wade-Smith, Trade Commissioner for Africa, Department for International Trade (DIT)

The COVID-19 virus is causing major disruption across much of the world, including Africa. The UK is working with national governments across the globe to ensure supply chains remain open and businesses can keep essential goods moving. We are drawing on as many sources as possible to understand the impact this situation is having on business, including insights from our ongoing dialogue with companies.

This coronavirus outbreak is the biggest public health emergency in a generation. It calls for decisive action, at home and abroad. The UK is clear; we need to reduce the tariffs on essential medical devices and pharmaceuticals, not erect barriers. Free trade will also be essential for the recovery that must follow.

The situation is challenging and varied across the African continent. I intend to ensure that DIT Africa continues to support the Africa operations of UK companies through these difficult times. To future-proof against any potential future disruption to our service delivery, I encourage UK businesses to use our DIT Africa enquiry mailbox: DIT.Africa@fco.gov.uk, alongside any existing individual contacts they have in the team, to guarantee the swiftest response possible.

The UK Government has launched online guidance on gov.uk on how DIT can support businesses impacted by COVID-19. My in-country teams are also available to address any specific concerns that UK businesses may have about their operations in Africa.

As this global pandemic alters the way we work and do business, UK companies are helping to provide solutions and support. For example, Diageo’s East Africa Breweries Ltd in Kenya has enabled the production of 135,000 litres of hand sanitiser, to respond to the health emergency, prioritised for vulnerable and at risk groups. Unilever has donated €100M of soap, sanitiser, bleach and food to emergency efforts, including in a number of markets across Africa.

UK Edutech companies such as Twinkl, Get My Grades, Cambridge University Press and Open University UK are making available their bespoke and innovative online learning and teaching solutions to support at home learning in the face of temporary school closures.

We are all working through the immediate and longer-term implications and consequences of this extraordinary situation. I believe that a coordinated approach between government and the private Sector will help us better navigate the enormous challenges we face. DIT Africa is committed to supporting business growth on this continent. We are here for the long term.

Return to the main coronavirus blog here: https://liveblog.africanbusinessmagazine.com/

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2 thoughts on “UK Department for International Trade Africa’s response to COVID-19”

  1. Avatar
    Derrick Sanyahumbi

    The impact of Covid-19 on international trade will be felt for a long time, especially as travel will continue to be restricted due to the lag time of the impact between countries. British Expertise International are working with DIT and other UK government departments to explore ways to support our members (UK based companies) working in the infrastructure supply chain to ensure resilience and sustainability through the crisis. More importantly our members are ready to provide the infrastructure support that will be required to support Covid-19 response and afterwards re-invigorate economies.

  2. Avatar

    Dear Emma,
    I read this article with hope and enthusiasm for your efforts at supporting UK based companies with operations overseas. Trade is a two way street. There are many of us in Africa who trade with UK and international companies and are able expand these relationships/volumes particularly on trade finance facilitation. An immediate program to allow Africa companies undertake trade finance lines ( even if it starts with back to back LC’S) with UK financial services firms will catalyze the volume of cross border trade and embrace UK’S expertize as a leading international fiannce centre when African banks are unable to extend trade fiannce facilities due to domestic liquidity constraints. I encourage you to explore this further as there is a tremendous amount of business that can be done for mutual benefit between the UK financial services sector and African companies and overcome the inertia of African banks in this COVID economic times.

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