TBY talks to Mark Simmonds MP, Minister for Africa at the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office, on the economic relationship between Mozambique and the UK.

In 2012, UKTI established a dedicated trade officer at the British High Commission in Maputo. How would you characterize the importance of the economic relationship between Mozambique and the UK?

Mozambique's economy has been growing at a phenomenal rate, and we expect this to continue. Mozambique remains a small market, but a dynamic one, and its natural resources of gas and coal could prove transformative. UK goods exports to Mozambique increased over 80% in 2012, and continue to rise; and the UK imported nearly £80 million from Mozambique over the same period. We also provide Mozambique with £70 million to £80 million each year in development assistance, so it is an important and growing relationship. But as the UK Minister with responsibility for Africa, I believe we must be even more ambitious. It is for that reason that I have selected Mozambique as a High Level Prosperity Partner. This initiative, which I formally launched on November 19, 2013 marks an exciting next step in our bilateral relationship and will see the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Department for International Development and UK Trade and Investment working with the government of Mozambique across a number of key sectors, including agriculture, minerals, and financial services, to share expertise and achieve a paradigm shift in our economic relations. I visited Mozambique in July (for the second time in 2013) and I know the Mozambican government is right behind the initiative. Our shared goal is to generate prosperity and jobs in both Mozambique and Britain.

British companies were among the first to make new investments in the Mozambican economy following the end of the civil war in 1992. How would you characterize the role that British investors are playing in Mozambique's development?

UK companies play a critical role in Mozambique's economy. They are major employers and exporters. They bring capital, know-how, jobs, and high standards of corporate governance and social responsibility, and the skills and expertise they are sharing with the local workforce are critical for the country's development. For example, I visited Lonrho's impressive operation at Maputo harbor, where products freshly fished from the sea by Mozambicans are frozen by the quayside, and are then shipped and on the shelves of UK supermarkets within 72 hours. The fact that President Guebuza chose to come to Aberdeen earlier in 2013 to learn from our experience in developing North Sea oil and gas demonstrates the positive reputation we already enjoy in Mozambique. The High Level Prosperity Partnership, which I discussed with the President in Aberdeen, will develop this even further. For example, I have invited Mozambique's Minister for Agriculture to my Lincolnshire constituency to visit farmers, supermarkets, and agricultural colleges to see for himself where UK expertise might be most valuable in key areas such as education, agriculture, and flood control. The Mozambican government is keen to encourage the sort of quality investment that UK business delivers.

“UK companies play a critical role in Mozambique's economy."

© The Business Year - February 2014