As part of my role, I travel the world seeking out investment opportunities for British businesses that will not only create high-quality jobs for our partners overseas, but also long-term growth investments for UK firms.
North Africa is a part of the world with many such opportunities to uncover. I recently returned from a visit to Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco at the head of a City business delegation. During our time in Algiers, Tunis and Casablanca, we were able to identify much potential for UK business, in a region with bountiful natural resources and an increasingly global outlook.
When I began my year in office, visiting the dynamic, growing economies of North Africa was a key priority for me, as I believe that there are many opportunities for mutually rewarding growth and development in both London and North Africa. There is huge ambition across the region to create financial services centres of excellence, and the City of London can fully support these ambitions as we understand how a dynamic, burgeoning financial centre can bring prosperity to an entire society.
These regional centres in North Africa would operate as spokes centred on our own global hub city, the international financial centre that is London. I offered the City of London’s continued advice and support in developing North Africa’s financial sector further.
Among the many opportunities we discussed during my visit, one very promising area for British investment is in the green finance sector, as was persuasively demonstrated in last year’s COP 22 meeting held in Marrakesh.
Morocco produces more than two-thirds of the world’s phosphate, essential for modern farming, and also enjoys an enviable 350 days of sunshine a year. Taking advantage of these two natural resources through access to green finance in London can bring benefit to both the UK and Morocco. Building a large-scale solar plant, such as the recently opened Noor 2 deep in the Moroccan desert can, for example, provide high-quality local jobs as well as develop a valuable commodity for export.
I know there is a substantial appetite here in the City to hear more about large-scale infrastructure projects such as this that are ready for investment and support.
There are big opportunities for British companies elsewhere in the region too. During my discussions with the Prime Minister of Algeria, we spoke at length about potential investment alongside Sonatrach to help the country further take advantage of its substantial gas reserves with imagination, efficiency, and new technology, while also growing economic diversification. In Tunisia there was huge interest in developing the renewables sector with British expertise and capital.
As we start the process of leaving the European Union following the triggering of Article 50, it is now more important than ever that we deepen our business relationships with such valued partners as Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria.
The United Kingdom has always been a global trading nation, epitomised most strongly by the City of London, the world’s leading financial centre. I believe that with support from the City’s unique cluster of services, North Africa can see an era of strong growth that will benefit both the City and local economies across the Maghreb.