Archive of ‘Africa’

Speech on Trade and Investment06.15.15

My Lords, I begin by welcoming my noble friend Lord Maude to your Lordships’ House and congratulate him on his appointment as Minister of State for Trade and Investment and on the excellence of his maiden speech. He did great work in the other place, and I am sure that he will continue to play a key role in his new capacity.

I am glad to have the opportunity to speak on the subjects being discussed here today. Trade and investment is an area in which I take great interest. I have stated several times in your Lordships’ House that I am very keen to promote more business between the United Kingdom and overseas countries. I believe that this will be one of the driving forces of our continued recovery. Ultimately, it will help us to balance our budget and reduce our national debt.

I would like to focus on the importance of the United Kingdom building its bilateral trade with the African continent. I have a personal affinity with Africa, as I was born in Kenya and spent my formative years in Uganda.

I have travelled across the continent, spoken at various meetings and met African businessmen. I have first-hand knowledge of what Africa has to offer. The continent’s GDP is expected to grow by 4.5% this year and 5% next year. Furthermore, many African states have been members of the much-admired “7% club” in recent years. A number of economists have predicted that Africa could account for 7% of the global economy by 2040. Africa has a huge land area and an abundance of untapped natural resources. These include substantial reserves of oil, minerals, food and natural resources, and will undoubtedly serve much of the world’s demands in the future.

Africa offers so much but, like any other economy, it has its challenges and vulnerabilities. Africa has realised these challenges and is already working hard to address them. At the moment a conference is being held in South Africa where one of the subjects being discussed is the growth of the continent’s economy and achieving prosperity.

Last week I hosted and spoke at an event for the Economic Community of West African States, a body of 15 west African countries with a vision of collective self-sufficiency for their member states. They are creating an integrated region with mutual access to resources and investment opportunities. A few days ago I met African businessmen who are very keen to promote trade between the UK and Ghana. It is worth while our accelerating our trade with Ghana, as it is a stable country with good governance. Similarly, last year I was asked to speak at an event for the Southern African Development Community. It is a great example of fluid multilateral co-operation to encourage economic growth. It is investing in projects aimed at improving infrastructure in the region. At a recent dinner held by the Association for African Owned Enterprises, I was awarded the lifetime achievement award for my involvement in trade with Africa.

African countries are also moving quickly to improve their investment climate and conditions for doing business. Last year a World Bank report found that Africa comprises five of the top 10 places in the world with the most reforms making it easier to do business. The same report found that since 2005, all African countries have improved the business regulatory environment for small and medium-sized businesses. Foreign direct investment is gradually moving away from mineral resources into consumer goods and services. This is in response to the needs of a growing middle class. Manufactured goods now constitute nearly 40% of intra- African exports. These changes present an unprecedented opportunity for overseas businesses to get involved. We must capitalise now before it is too late.

The UK’s current engagement with Africa is based too heavily on aid and long-established commodity-based businesses. We need to see new British companies entering the African market. We must seek to help the continent to grow rather than simply supporting it with aid contributions. This in turn will help us to grow further here at home. Does the Minister agree that trade and aid must go hand in hand? I would appreciate his comments.

We already have a natural advantage with the significant African diaspora settled in the UK. Businesses should look to engage with these people in seeking to connect with Africa for the first time. There is of course a young and hungry new workforce in Africa, ready for foreign investors to utilise. Indeed, it is estimated that Africa’s share of the global workforce will increase from 12% to 23% by 2050. The United Kingdom must do more to help unlock this potential. As someone who has a business as well as an academic background, I would like to see more partnerships between British and African universities. We must help to build practical vocational programmes and increase access to secondary and further education. Young Africans need to develop new skills in order to properly navigate what is a rapidly changing career landscape for them. Does my noble friend feel the same as I do about the education and training of Africans?

I am a fervent supporter of trade through our Commonwealth. It is in Britain’s economic interests to utilise what is essentially a ready-made trading bloc that covers a third of the world’s population. Many African countries are part of the Commonwealth, including Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, and Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria. On that note, I am pleased to note the Government’s recent enthusiasm for working with the new Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council. I would be grateful if my noble friend updated your Lordships’ House on how the Government are supporting and engaging with that council.

I also commend the economic partnership agreements brokered between Europe and the African regions in recent years. However, the United Kingdom must do more in its own right. We must surge ahead of the rest of Europe, and indeed the rest of the world. It is also crucial that the relevant people and bodies work together in order to maximise our trade efforts. We must pool our talents as much as possible. The expertise from the Foreign Office, the Department for International Development, UK Trade & Investment and the private sector must all be combined and work in tandem to accelerate the trade activities. Is my noble friend satisfied that there is adequate co-ordination between the parties I have referred to?

Our high commissions and embassies in African countries can take an active role in notifying relevant companies in the UK of the opportunities and tenders available for bidding in the countries where they serve. We should also arrange trade exhibitions and visits of delegations to suitable African countries. Can the Minister say whether the Government recognise the importance of such delegations, and will he undertake to ensure that we see more of these visits to the African continent in the future?

The embassies and high commissions of African countries should prepare details of the opportunities available in their countries and provide them to interested parties in the UK. They could also prepare periodic press releases with the information. The embassies and high commissions of African countries, together with private organisations that are trying to facilitate strengthening of trade links, can arrange for trade exhibitions and delegations, which can meet relevant government departments and interested companies.

Africa is made up of 54 countries and each does business in a slightly different way. Local knowledge will help us shape investment models that present African ventures to reflect their true commercial value. The UK will be left behind if we do not address our international trade engagement strategies with Africa. For future growth, and to see new UK companies enter the African markets, we need to look at individual sectors and have more of a business approach to engagement with Africa.

Particular areas that UK companies can look at are construction, infrastructure, manufacturing, minerals, IT, agriculture, the financial services sector and export of goods from the UK. We must act now and connect our businesses at home with the overseas markets of the future. From more overseas trade will come growth, and from growth will come prosperity and stability. We have unique services and products which we can offer to Africa. No other continent offers such a unique mix of opportunities and challenges. Indeed, I believe that the opportunities far outweigh the challenges.

Archive for Africa, Speeches

African Business Safari06.03.15

Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to welcome you to today’s African Business Safari event, looking at the Economic Community of West African States. This is the second event I have hosted for Association here in the House of Lords. I was honoured and privileged to be presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award from them at the dinner which they held at the Connaught Rooms last year.

I was born in Kenya and raised in Uganda. Whilst I have lived in the UK for many years I always maintain that my heart remains in Africa. I am very keen to promote more business between United Kingdom and overseas. Africa and African enterprises are very close to my heart both personally and professionally.

United Kingdom is doing well in economically and financially and our growth is expected to be about 3% in 2015. We need to do trade more with overseas countries and I feel that more should and can be done to increase the bi-lateral trade between UK and the African countries. With this view in mind I have already spoken three times in the House of Lords emphasising the need for us to expand our trade with Africa.

Last week I have tabled a debate to be heard in the House of Lords specifically on the subject of expansion of trade between United Kingdom and Africa. We of course already have a successful African diaspora here in the UK who have achieved great success in business and in the professions. We should encourage even more of these people to think about getting involved in African business. They certainly already have the knowledge and the resources. Indeed, the UK shares a commonality of language and laws with many parts of Africa. This provides us with a strong basis upon which to build our relationship further.

Africa is a huge continent, with an enormous wealth of diverse economic and cultural opportunity. The population is set to double by 2050, meaning there will be huge potential to grow the economy and make it more competitive. African economies generally showed great resilience following the financial crisis and have maintained an impressive momentum of growth. Overall continent-wide GDP growth is projected to rise to 4.5% this year, and 5% next year. Furthermore, many African states have been members of the much-admired “7% club” in recent years.

Today’s discussions are focusing on West Africa, and the work of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). ECOWAS is made up of fifteen member countries that are located in the Western African region. I would like to pay tribute to the vision and innovation of ECOWAS, in building what has become a pillar of the African economy. It is realising its vision of collective self-sufficiency for its member states, creating an integrated region with mutual access to resources and investment opportunities.

This year marks the group’s 40th anniversary and is an impressive milestone on a journey that will hopefully raise the standard of living for millions of West Africans. The Western region achieved growth of 6% last year and is projected to continue outperforming the continent as a whole. This was despite the Ebola virus outbreak, one of the greatest challenges in the region for many years, hitting Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone particularly hard. Unfortunately, the great economic progress made by these countries in recent times has been set back as a result. Thankfully, these economies are projected to recover again next year.

Africa is moving quickly to improve its investment climate and conditions for doing business. Last year, a World Bank report found that Africa comprises five of the top ten countries in the world with the most reforms making it easier to do business. Four of those countries – Benin, the Ivory Coast, Senegal and Togo – are members of ECOWAS, which should be acknowledged as a huge complement to the community.

The same report found that since 2005, all African countries have improved the business regulatory environment for small and medium-sized businesses. Foreign Direct Investment is gradually moving away from mineral resources into consumer goods and services.This is in response to the needs of a rising middle class. However, with minerals and ores still accounting for two-thirds of Africa’s merchandise exports, the five-year low in global commodity prices could present challenges for the economies.

We must also acknowledge that ECOWAS encompasses Nigeria, the largest economy in Africa by a considerable margin. Nigeria continues to enjoy significant growth and I hope that the UK and others will recognise its potential, particularly in the non-oil sectors.

Indeed, the further potential of Africa as a whole must not be underestimated by the global business community. Unlocking all of this potential from Africa and harnessing it with the rest of the world will depend upon effective communication and an understanding of the challenges the region faces. I hope that today’s discussions will serve this agenda.

Ladies and gentlemen, today we are going to hear from a number of distinguished speakers, who will discuss their specific industries.

Archive for Africa, Speeches

African Business Safari06.03.15

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Lord Sheikh hosted a Conference for the Association for African Owned Enterprises which is chaired by Mr Washington Kapapiro. The Association organised the second of four events for the African Business Safari and looked at promoting business between West Africa and UK. Lord Sheikh was given a Lifetime Achievement Award at a Gala dinner organised by the Association previously. Lord Sheikh is very keen to promote more business between United Kingdom and Africa.

 

Archive for Africa, Events

African Enterprise Awards11.22.14

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Lord Sheikh was presented with an award for his lifetime of excellence in business in the UK and Africa at the African Enterprise Awards at the Connaught Rooms. Lord Sheikh spoke at the event and thanked the organisers for the award and commended them on the excellent organisation of the event. Lord Sheikh was born and raised in Africa and he promotes the increase of trade between the UK and African countries.

Archive for Africa, Events

Africa Business Safari10.27.14

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Lord Sheikh hosted an event organised by the Association for African Owned Enterprises (UK) in the House of Lords entitled Africa Business Safari – Bridging the Partnership Gap with Southern Africa. Lord Sheikh made the keynote speech and mentioned his connections with the continent as well as the importance of investing in Africa. There were also representatives from the Zimbabwean Embassy and Zambian High Commission in attendance.

Archive for Africa, Events, House of Lords

Voice of Kenya09.06.14

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Lord Sheikh attended and spoke at an event organised by Pritam Chaggar of the Voices of Kenya Union to celebrate 70 years of Asian broadcasting of the Hindustani Service of Kenya. Deedar Singh Pardesi who used to sing on the shows and Pritam Chaggar and Chaman Lal Chaman who were presenters were also in attendance.

Lord Sheikh spoke about his and Lady Sheikh’s connections with Kenya and the fact that he used to listen to programmes broadcasted by Voice of Kenya. He also paid tribute to the various presenters and entertainers who have contributed to the show. He made his speech in English, Urdu, Swahili and Punjabi.

Archive for Africa, Events, House of Lords, Kenya

Ghana11.13.12

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the Government of Ghana concerning the Presidential elections there in December.

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government and Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): The UK has an ongoing dialogue with the Government of Ghana about the upcoming presidential elections. Most recently, in his visit in October, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, my honourable friend the Member for Boston and Skegness (Mr Simmonds), discussed the elections with Vice-President, Kwesi Amissah-Arthur, Deputy Foreign Minister, Chris Kpodo, and Trade Minister, Hannah Tetteh, as well as the opposition under Nana Akufo-Addo.

The UK will continue to engage with the Government of Ghana on this issue in the run-up to, and following, the elections in December.

 

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have given any guidance to the Government of Ghana about the implementation of the proposed freedom of information law; and, if so, what that guidance was.

Baroness Warsi: Our high commission in Accra ran a project funded in financial year 2009-10 to bring two freedom of information experts to Ghana to engage with relevant stakeholders as the Ghanaian Government were developing a Right to Information (RTI) bill.

In partnership with local civil society organisations they ran a fact-finding mission to identify Ghana’s requirements and then ran a two-day workshop with senior public servants to draw together ideas for the implementation process.

The key outcome of the workshop was the development of an action plan outlining major activities necessary to work towards the successful implementation of RTI in Ghana, should it be adopted into law.

 

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they have taken through the Commonwealth to support economic growth in Ghana.

Baroness Warsi: The Commonwealth has the potential to contribute significantly to the prosperity of its members given we share the core values, of democracy, rule of law, good governance, human rights and similar legal systems.

In financial year 2012-13, UK contributions to Commonwealth organisations will amount to approximately £40 million, which includes £16 million in funding to the Commonwealth Secretariat. The Commonwealth Secretariat’s Economic Division aims to strengthen policies and systems that support economic growth in Commonwealth member countries. This is achieved through helping countries take advantage of opportunities, and improve their ability to manage long-term economic development.

In 2012, the secretariat helped train 220 national facilitators from both Ghana and Kenya in implementing programmes in financial literacy, and supported a conference in Accra on private equity for African institutional investors. In September, the secretariat co-hosted a workshop on venture capital for Ghanaian policy-makers and regulators to help unlock local capital for private sector investment in Ghana.

 

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assistance they have given to the Government of Ghana to help it meet the United Nations’ millennium development goals.

Baroness Northover: The UK Government provide financial and technical support to the Government of Ghana in a range of areas to help Ghana accelerate its progress towards the millennium development goals. Examples include assistance to the Ghanaian Government’s national malaria campaign; malaria is the biggest cause of deaths of children under five and a major cause of the death of pregnant women. Last year, UK aid distributed 2.35 million bednets to protect against malaria and help achieve universal national coverage. This year UK aid is providing an additional two million bednets.

UK aid’s programme up to 2015, including the results we will achieve, is outlined in the DfID Ghana Operational Plan 2011-15. These results includes supporting 70,000 girls to stay in school with assistance through both the Ghanaian Government and NGOs, helping the Ghanaian Government to extend their cash grant programme to 100,000 of the poorest people, which will help tackle hunger and malnutrition among other things, and helping 50,000 people to grow their businesses through access to better support and services.

 

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they have taken to boost trade between Ghana and Britain.

Baroness Garden of Frognal: UK Trade and Investment’s (UKTI) teams in London and Accra offer potential exporters a range of services and support, including market research, the identification of local agents and distributors, participation in trade missions, and product launches. In recent months, UKTI has given particular support to companies in the oil and gas, education and construction sectors. During a recent visit to Accra, FCO Minister for Africa, Mark Simmonds, hosted a breakfast meeting with UK investors and visited a hospital being built by a UK company, which won the contract with High Commission support.

Between 2010 and 2011 bilateral trade between the UK and Ghana increased by 32%, to nearly £1.2 billion.

 

 

Archive for Africa, House of Lords, Written Answers

Angola11.13.12

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the recent general elections in Angola.

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government and Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): In a Statement on 12 September, following the Angolan elections of 31 August, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my honourable friend the Member for Boston and Skegness, (Mr Simmonds) said:

“I welcome the re-election of President dos Santos and congratulate the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) on its success in the third election in the Republic of Angola. I commend the Angolan people, political parties and civil society on the peaceful environment in which the elections were held.

Despite concerns about the electoral process, such as unequal access to the media, problems with voter rolls, and lack of timely accreditation for election observers, the Angolan authorities’ commitment to take action to address such concerns is commendable. This is an important step toward further strengthening Angola’s democratic institutions and will help to build confidence for future elections.

I look forward to continuing to strengthen our bilateral relationship with the Angolan Government, and to further engagement with the Angolan people”.

 

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they have taken to promote democracy in Angola.

Baroness Warsi: The UK firmly believes that democracy is the system of government that provides the best route to building accountable and responsive states which are best able to safeguard human rights and promote development. Our embassy officials in Luanda regularly engage with the Angolan Government on democratic and human rights issues, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has funded a range of projects which have democracy at their heart including:

a project run with Angola’s Secretary of State for Human Rights to promote human rights and democracy among the Angolan population; anda project with a coalition of national election observers to provide funding to enable them to observe and report on the 2012 general election.

 

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the independence of the Angolan Electoral Commission.

Baroness Warsi: The Angolan law on the organisation and functioning of the National Election Commission and the Constitution of February 2010 make clear that the National Election Commission must be an independent body. The commission is made up of 17 members including its chair, who must be a judge, and 16 others designated by the National Assembly. Membership is broad: the commission’s central decision-making body is its plenary, in which one representative from each political party and coalition with at least one parliamentary seat and up to five representatives from political parties and coalitions without a parliamentary seat can participate.

 

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what reports they have received about recent civic unrest in Angola.

Baroness Warsi: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, through our embassy in Luanda, carefully monitors the security situation across Angola. Since March 2011, there have been a number of demonstrations and political rallies in Angola, including during August (the month of the recent general election). Some of these gatherings have resulted in outbreaks of violence.

 

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of Angola’s candidacy for graduation from the group of less developed countries.

Baroness Warsi: Since the end of civil war in 2002, Angola has made remarkable economic progress, becoming Sub-Saharan Africa’s third-largest economy. It is important the newly elected Government of Angola make sure that the economic boom benefits as many citizens as possible. I particularly welcome President dos Santos’s pre-election pledge to work on reducing the disparity between rich and poor.

Angola’s aspiration to graduate from the group of less developed countries (LDC) is welcome. If Angola meets the UN requirements and thus graduates, this will help achieve the UN goal set in May 2011 of at least half the current LDC countries graduating within a decade.

 

Archive for Africa, House of Lords, Written Answers

Middle East: Recent Developments07.13.12

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Howell for initiating this debate. Although the Motion refers to the Middle East, my contribution will include developments in North Africa. I have visited some of the countries in those areas and have personal knowledge of the situation in these countries.

Noble Lords will recognise that the Middle East and North Africa are commonly referred to as MENA. Therefore, I cannot discuss the former without making reference to the latter. It is vital that Her Majesty’s Government should continue to highlight and condemn instances of violence and discrimination against individuals and groups because of their beliefs, wherever, and whenever, they occur. To that end, I fully support the work of the Arab Partnership.

The Arab spring heralded a new era for many citizens who were living under oppressive regimes. However, it has led to unfortunate consequences that have permeated neighbouring countries; namely, Mali. Tuareg rebels now control two-thirds of Mali, due to the provision of weapons following Colonel Gaddafi’s downfall. Algeria has just celebrated 50 years of independence, which has seen increased foreign investment to the nation in recent years. Libya’s first democratic election has been won by the former interim Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril, who led Libya’s National Transitional Council last year. The composition of the Constituent Assembly in Tunisia occurred with little controversy. I hope that the elections in Tunisia scheduled for next year follow that trend.

Although both the elections in Libya and Egypt were reported to have been relatively peaceful, like most noble Lords, I am concerned with the perceived power struggle between President Morsi and the Special Council of the Armed Forces. What steps are Her Majesty’s Government taking to resolve that tension?

There are many positive developments to highlight in this debate about solidarity among nations in the region. I would now like to discuss the positive points, as the situation is good in certain areas. Bahrain appears to be successfully positioning itself as the Gulf’s shipping centre, following the opening of the Khalifa port and the Bahrain logistics zone. Oman is a founding member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, which was established in 2004. Since Oman’s accession to the World Trade Organisation in 2000, a substantial improvement in its investment environment and regulatory framework has occurred. The 2006 free trade agreement with America resulted in the adoption of International Labour Organisation regulations, further encouraging international investment in Oman. I may add that Oman is important to us strategically and it is our friend.

Reports in the Saudi media last month claimed that Saudi Arabia had rehabilitated an old Iraqi oil line, which could serve as an alternative route to the Strait of Hormuz, should tension increase with Iran. Bahrain and Qatar have engaged in joint economic initiatives such as the proposed friendship bridge project, which would link the two countries. Both nations are also thought to be in discussion about construction of a subsea pipeline to supply natural gas from Qatar to Bahrain. In February 2010, the Emir of Qatar issued a decree which allowed the Minister of Business and Trade to waive the 49% foreign ownership cap in the tourism, natural resources, health, education and consulting sectors. I support this policy as it reflects a desire to attract further foreign investment.

The vast majority of nations in the Middle East are enjoying peace and prosperity. However, Iran and Syria unfortunately do not follow this trend. Iran is in clear defiance of six UN Security Council resolutions that call for the suspension of its uranium enrichment programme. The International Atomic Energy Agency has expressed concerns about the potential military implications of Iran’s nuclear programme. As such, I welcome the EU’s sanctions against Iran as a means of urging the regime to review its stance. We need to deal with the situation by the application of stringent sanctions and by negotiations. I do not favour any form of military action. What are my noble friend the Minister’s views on military intervention?

I am pleased that Russia has softened its position towards Syria by calling for a three-month extension of the UN monitoring mission, which is scheduled to end on 20 July. Yesterday the Syrian ambassador to Iraq, Nawaf al-Fares, defected to join the revolution against al-Assad’s regime. His is the second high-profile defection since the uprising began 16 months ago. The Republican Guard’s Brigadier-General Manaf defected last week. These two defections suggest that support for President Assad’s regime is diminishing. I welcome Russia’s decision to suspend defence co-operation with Syria. Russia has blocked two United Nations Security Council resolutions on Syria to date.

Last week, Hillary Clinton urged Russia and China to join Britain, America and France to put pressure on Assad’s regime. In May this year, 108 people were killed in the Houla massacre, 49 of whom were children.

More killings occurred yesterday. Kofi Annan’s Geneva initiative does not demand the removal of Assad. It is therefore unpalatable to the Syrian opposition. Reports suggest that more than 17,000 persons have lost their lives since the uprising began 16 months ago. The US Secretary of State has also called for “real and immediate consequences” for non-compliance with Annan’s peace plan.

Qatar’s Prime Minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, has expressed his intention to join any effort to end the bloodshed in Syria. Both Qatar and Saudi Arabia are providing arms and funds to the Free Syrian Army. Qatar played an important role in providing military and financial support during and after the Arab spring to countries in the Middle East and north African region. Qatar was a founding member of the Gulf Co-operation Council in 1981 and hosts a large American military base. Qatar also has the highest GDP per capita in the world, which is growing at a faster rate than that of any other nation. Qatar successfully acted as a mediator between Yemen’s Government and the Houthi rebels. We should be making more efforts towards further engagement with Qatar in all areas.

Last week I spoke about us undertaking more trade with overseas countries. With regard to the Middle East, there are favourable situations in certain countries and we must make use of these opportunities and do more business in the region. The Middle East is blessed with great mineral wealth and a vibrant culture. However, challenges lie ahead for peace in the region. It is up to Britain, alongside our international allies, to demonstrate leadership in efforts to help the region and achieve lasting peace.

 

Archive for Africa, House of Lords, Middle East, Speeches

Uganda03.22.11

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the Government of Uganda about its role and responsibilities within the Commonwealth.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): Uganda is well versed on Commonwealth issues, principles and values, having hosted the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in November 2007 and having held the chair-in-office role for the next two years.

In July 2010, my honourable friend Henry Bellingham underlined to President Museveni the importance of free, fair and peaceful democratic elections. The Commonwealth Observer Group was invited by the Government of Uganda to observe the February 2011 elections. In a statement issued just after elections, my honourable friend Henry Bellingham urged all political stakeholders in Uganda to reflect on the assessments of the EU and Commonwealth observers, build on the positive developments, and address the shortcomings identified in order to strengthen pluralistic, multi-party democracy in Uganda.

Our High Commission in Kampala is in contact with the current Ugandan representative on the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group, who is the Commonwealth Youth Caucus’s Africa regional representative.

Furthermore, we have lobbied Ugandan Ministers, including the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Internal Affairs and Information, on specific human rights issues including respect for the rights of sexual minorities, media freedoms and freedom of assembly. We also continue to engage with the Government of Uganda on international security and peacekeeping priorities. As a troop-contributing country to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), Uganda is making a major contribution to the international community’s goals in Somalia.

We and our partners were concerned about allegations of corruption around the financing of CHOGM, and are continuing to urge the Government of Uganda to act on the report of the Parliamentary Accounts Committee.

 

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what recent reports they have received about the political situation in Uganda.

Lord Howell of Guildford: Our high commission in Kampala reports regularly on all aspects of the UK’s bilateral relationship with Uganda. This has included full assessments of each stage of the recent electoral process, our bilateral trade, investment and development relationships, the situation with regards to respect for human rights, and security and prosperity in the East Africa and Great Lakes regions.

We also receive representations and reports on all of these areas from key stakeholders in Ugandan politics, including the Ugandan Government, opposition parties and interested non-governmental organisations. Last month, my honourable friend Henry Bellingham, the Minister for Africa, met MPs and Peers to discuss our assessments of the political situation in Uganda.

 

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the Government of Uganda about the promotion of equal rights to its citizens irrespective of sexuality.

Lord Howell of Guildford: We have made clear to the Government of Uganda on several occasions that we are opposed to actions that will have a negative effect on the human rights of Ugandans, including the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. This includes our opposition to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, tabled by a private Member, which would further criminalise homosexuality if passed into law. We have also raised our concerns to the Ugandan Government over an article that appeared in a Ugandan tabloid newspaper late last year, which apparently incited violence against homosexuals.

Our high commission in Kampala is in close touch with civil society groups that are campaigning for LGBT rights in Uganda, to which they have offered their support.

 

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the recent presidential elections in Uganda.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My honourable friend Henry Bellingham noted in his statement of 22 February 2011 that we fully endorse the preliminary findings of the EU and Commonwealth observation missions to Uganda, which noted that while there have been improvements in the overall conduct and transparency of the elections, they were marred by avoidable shortcomings in their organisation. We share the observer mission’s concern that the power of incumbency was exercised to such an extent as to compromise severely the level playing field between the competing candidates and political parties.

We will encourage all those elected and all Uganda’s political stakeholders, including Uganda’s Government, political parties and the Electoral Commission, to reflect on the assessments of the independent observers, build on positive developments, and address the shortcomings identified in order to strengthen pluralistic, multi-party democracy in Uganda.

Archive for Africa, House of Lords, Uganda, Written Answers

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    Lord Sheikh is a Conservative Peer, businessman, academic and philanthropist. This is his website.

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