Senior British diplomat Emma Wade-Smith has been named new HM trade commissioner for Africa under the UK department for international trade (DIT). Her role will be to boost the UK’s trade and investment relationship with the continent.

Based in South Africa, the trade expert has previously worked in Brussels, Chile, Mexico and Washington in a diplomacy career spanning 20 years.

Wade-Smith joins Simon Penney (Middle East), Richard Burn (China), Jo Crellin (Latin America), Crispin Simon (South Asia), Judith Slater (Eastern Europe and Central Asia) and Antony Phillipson (North America) as HM trade commissioners. Those for Europe and Asia Pacific are yet to be confirmed.

Wade-Smith has been based in Johannesburg since the start of 2016 when she first joined the DIT as UK regional trade director for Southern Africa. During this time, she created the UK government’s first ever pan-Africa trade and investment team. In April 2017 she became the UK regional trade director for Africa.

As the most senior British government trade representative in Africa, Wade-Smith has led a team across 24 locations in Africa focused on promoting and increasing trade and investment ties between the UK and the continent. This included creating a regional hub and a pan-Africa trade services unit to provide a single point of enquiry for British businesses interested in exporting to and investing in Africa.

Wade-Smith says of her new role: “I will put partnerships at the heart of our business relationships, building on the work we’re already doing to transform our shared entrepreneurial spirit into jobs and growth in the UK and across Africa.”

The UK government says Wade-Smith’s appointment “will build on the UK’s position as a leading partner for Africa’s peace, security and prosperity”.

UK minister for international trade Liam Fox says he is “delighted” to welcome Wade-Smith to the new role. “With young and growing populations, and the world’s fastest-growing middle class, there is huge potential for British businesses to create modern trading partnerships across Africa,” he says.

“HM trade commissioners will have more autonomy to do what works best in their region to improve trade with key markets of the future,” Fox adds.