By Adedapo Adesanya
At the inaugural edition of the United Kingdom and Africa Investment Summit, which brought together African and British leaders, businesses, international institutions and young entrepreneurs, the UK Prime Minister, Mr Boris Johnson disclosed that to improve trade relations with the continent, there will be certain policy changes, one of which included a more relaxed immigration system.
This is coming as the British government is negotiating its exit from the European Union (EU) on January 31, 2020, a development that has since created an imperative for the UK to build a new relationships through international alliances and trading arrangements. One of such potential market is Africa.
The summit was designed to create lasting new partnerships that deliver more investment, jobs and growth, benefiting people and businesses across Nigeria and the UK and with the intended policy change, this could see Nigerians get British visas. Observers said the new fairer visa policy the UK government is looking at may be similar to the one offered by the Canadian government, which is a points-based immigration system.
Mr Johnson, while addressing the African leaders on Monday in London, venue of the meeting, the UK’s new immigration policy will put “people before passports.” He outlined the benefits of trade with post-Brexit Britain at the event.
“Look around the world today and you will swiftly see that the UK is not only the obvious partner of choice, we’re also very much the partner of today, of tomorrow and decades to come,” he said.
The UK PM said people from African countries could benefit from the still-to-be detailed changes to the immigration system after Brexit, which will end the free movement of people to and from EU nations.
“You’ll be pleased to hear that one thing is changing – our immigration system,” Mr Johnson said. “Change is coming, and our system is becoming fairer and more equal between all our global friends and partners, treating people the same wherever they come from.
“By putting people before passports we were will able to attract the best talent from around the world, wherever they may be,” he added.
Many observers have, however, speculated that this new change to the immigration laws may see the UK adopt a Canada style which stipulates that a person has to meet a minimum of 67 points, with the maximum for each area as follows: 25 points from their educational background, 24 points from proficiency in the English and French languages.
The system places 21 points for previous work experience, 10 points for being in the prime age of employment, and up to 10 if one has an offer of employment. The Canadian system also considers a person’s financial background.
Although not certain, there is likelihood that the policy change will be welcomed with open hands as UK investment in Africa has risen by 61 percent since 2008 and with the new promises to deliver sustainable investment that can help African countries in what is a competitive market with China, Russia, and other countries, this may see a change to the cycle of economic expansion and contraction that mar the continent.
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