Sharma assures new UK aid to build green cities across Africa

Alok Sharma.
Alok Sharma.

BRITISH international development secretary Alok Sharma has pledged new UK aid to help build green cities across Africa with quality infrastructure.

Sharma, who is on a visit to Kenya, announced he would set up a UK Centre for Cities and Infrastructure, which will turbo-charge investment in fast growing cities across the developing world.

The centre will provide British expertise to African governments and city authorities to improve the way cities are planned, built and run, including making them more environmentally-friendly.

It will focus on improvements to infrastructure, including water and energy networks.

During his trip, Sharma also announced an expansion of the Department for International Development’s (DFID’s) Cities and Infrastructure for Growth programme to Ghana, Rwanda and Sierra Leone.

The programme helps UK businesses to invest in quality, resilient infrastructure, boosts access to reliable and affordable power and creates construction jobs.

Sharma’s trip came ahead of the UK-Africa Investment Summit next Monday (20), which will create new lasting partnerships to deliver more investment, jobs and growth, benefiting both Africa and the UK.

African cities produce more than half of the continent’s income, but too many suffer from poor connectivity and congestion, which continue to hinder growth.

The continent’s urban population is 472 million and set to double over the next 25 years. This growth provides an opportunity for African cities to prosper if the right infrastructure and jobs are available with the UK’s support.

Last Sunday (12), Sharma visited Kisumu in western Kenya, where British businesses such as drinks company Diageo and solar power provider Azuri Technologies operate.

Diageo makes beer in its modern, environmentally-friendly brewery in the city, using sorghum plants from nearby farms. This in turn boosts the incomes of Kenyan farmers and helps them provide for their families.

Azuri, whose UK base is in Cambridge, provides pay-as-you go solar energy systems to off-grid homes across Africa, including in the Kisumu area.

This is helping families to store food in fridges and providing light for children to do their homework.

On Monday (13), the Asian-origin international business secretary opened the Securities Exchange in Nairobi. He was there for the listing of East Africa’s first green bond, which DFID helped Acorn Housing to develop, by providing British expertise.