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africa investment

The UK government’s export credit agency significantly increased the number of businesses it supported in the last financial year, its results for 2019-20, published yesterday (25 June) show.

UK Export Finance (UKEF) – part of the Department for International Trade – provided £4.4bn in support for UK exports, helping 339 UK companies trade with 69 countries – a 30% increase on the previous financial year.

Highlights from the report include:

  • 77% of the companies UKEF directly supported were SMEs, 88% of which were based outside of London
  • Support for exports to Africa grew substantially in the year the African Investment Summit was hosted in the UK. UKEF support to the continent increased from £85m five years ago to £780 million in 2019-20
  • A wide range of exports benefited from UKEF support – from street furniture made in Belfast and sold to Dubai, to the Glasgow-based utilities contractor that helps Angola improve its national power supply.

UKEF ‘critical role’

Liz Truss, minister for trade, also said UKEF has a “critical role at the centre of the government’s plan to power an export-led recovery”.

The UK Export Finance 2020-24 Business Plan report sets out how the department is to provide export credit and trade finance as the UK forges its new independent trade path and as the country recovers from the impact of coronavirus.

The plan includes further support for SMEs and for businesses across all regions of the UK, building on the £2bn recently allocated by government for ‘clean growth projects’.

'Increase risk profile' call

IOE&IT director general, Marco Forgione, welcomed the progress UKEF has made, particularly its expanded support for SMEs.

He also called on UKEF to play a central role in the UK’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic by further increasing its support for SMEs.

“If we are to truly deliver an export-led recovery we need to ensure the national credit agency is aligned with the aspirations and needs of UK businesses,” he said.

“On behalf of our members and the wider exporting market we call on UKEF to increase its risk profile, both for finance and insurance, so that more SMEs are able to make use of the provision.”

He also said the recently launched General Export Facility – working capital support for the UK’s smallest exporters – will be a “great move forward”.