The UK and Sub-Saharan Africa: prosperity, peace and development co-operation Contents

Chapter 2: The UK’s Africa strategy

The priority afforded to Africa by UK governments

30.Witnesses considered how important Africa is to UK decision makers.65 General Sir Richard Barrons KCB CBE, former Commander, Joint Forces Command, and Distinguished Fellow, Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), said that while “politicians … and officials” often say that “Africa really matters”, “almost in the next paragraph, Africa becomes the fourth priority.” On “the one hand” the “importance” of Africa was set out, and “on the other”, people explained “why they cannot do very much”.66

31.The Royal African Society said that Africa had suffered “political neglect from the UK”. UK Prime Ministers had “rarely visited the continent” and Ministers for Africa67 had “changed on a more or less annual basis”68. Africa policy was seen “as an extension of aid policy”69 or “a destination for philanthropic endeavour”, and not “an area of strategic geopolitical significance and trading opportunity”.70 This had been noticed by African leaders, as it was “not the partnership of equals” they sought.71

32.Baroness Amos said every time there was a new Minister for Africa there was “some kind of change in direction”. This was linked to a sense on the African continent that ministerial changes were “beginning not to matter”, because they reflected that Africa was “not perceived as important for the [UK] Government, despite what successive Prime Ministers” had said.72 In 31 years since 1989, there have been 20 ministers for Africa, an average tenure of just over 18 months (see Table 1).

Table 1: UK Ministers for Africa since 1989




Baroness Chalker, Minister of State for Overseas Development and Africa


24 July 1989–
1 May 1997

Tony Lloyd MP,
Minister of State


5 May 1997–
28 July 1999

Peter Hain MP,
Minister of State


28 July 1999–
24 January 2001

Brian Wilson MP,
Minister of State


24 January 2001–
11 June 2001

Baroness Amos, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State


12 June 2001–
12 May 2003

Chris Mullin MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State


13 June 2003–
10 May 2005

Lord Triesman, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State


10 May 2005–
28 June 2007

Lord Malloch-Brown, Minister of State


28 June 2007–
24 July 2009

Chris Bryant MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State


9 June 2009–
11 May 2010

Baroness Kinnock, Minister of State


13 October 2009–
11 May 2010

Sir Henry Bellingham MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State


11 May 2010–
5 September 2012

Mark Simmonds MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State


5 September 2012–11 August 2014

James Duddridge MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State


11 August 2014–
11 May 2015

Grant Shapps MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State


11 May 2015–
28 November 2015

James Duddridge MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State


28 November 2015–17 July 2016

Tobias Ellwood MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State


17 July 2016–
14 July 2017

Rory Stewart MP,
Minister of State


15 June 2017–
9 January 2018

Harriett Baldwin MP, Minister of State


9 January 2018–
25 July 2019

Andrew Stephenson MP, Minister of State


25 July 2019–
13 February 2020

James Duddridge MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State


13 February 2020–present

Source: Written evidence from Dr Alex Vines OBE and Bob Dewar CMG (ZAF0027) and

33.The evidence we received demonstrates why the international community in general, and the UK, a country with world-wide interests and responsibilities, in particular, should take a greater interest in Africa, and recognise its political and economic importance.

34.Africa is of strategic and geopolitical significance to the UK. It is a region where the UK really can make a difference. To do so, the UK’s future relationship with the countries of Africa and their regional institutions needs to be based, as has not always been the case in the past, on a genuine partnership. Within such a framework there are important trade and investment opportunities.

35.It is already clear that the impact on Africa of COVID-19, both in health and economic terms, will be very damaging. This adds urgency and scale to the collective responses to the challenges we have identified. We consider that it is in the UK’s national interest to work with, and to help, African states to respond to these challenges and to do so more effectively than it has done in the past.

36.Successive governments have said that Africa should be given a higher priority across Whitehall, but have failed to make this a reality in the face of competing demands.

37.For over two decades there has been too high a turnover in the role of Minister for Africa. In order to build and maintain relationships in the region, greater continuity is needed.

Sub-Saharan African perceptions of the UK

38.Dr Westcott said that “the overall perception of the UK” was that it had “been a major player and a major partner for Africa,” but it was “fading”.73

39.The Royal African Society said that African countries were “waiting to see what kind of Britain emerges from this period of political turbulence”.74 Professor Murithi said that, in a “post-Brexit era”, there was “scope to establish a relationship on a slightly different footing, one that is more engaging and responsive to the interests of both sides”.75

40.Several factors shape perceptions of the UK. First, Dr Westcott said the UK had “a huge amount of soft power”, giving the examples of the influence of the “Royal Family, the BBC” and the “Premier League”. There was respect among African Commonwealth countries for the UK’s “strong tradition of a free press, free speech, democratic institutions and visible and effective accountability”.76 General Sir Richard Barrons said that while the UK had a “lot to offer”—including the private sector, the legal sector, the economy, the City, the Premier League and its entertainment industry—these had never been “harnessed” as a “force for good”.77

41.Through its presence in 19 countries across Sub-Saharan Africa, the British Council helps to facilitate “more profound and meaningful engagement with counterparts in the UK”.78 Lord Boateng PC DL, former UK High Commissioner to South Africa, and former Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said that the British Council was “no longer funded as the effective instrument of public diplomacy it might be”. He also regretted that the BBC World Service “though widely respected” faced “severe budgetary restraints”.79

42.In February 2019 the then Minister for Asia and the Pacific, Mark Field, told the House of Commons that the FCO was “developing a cross-Government soft power strategy to further project” the UK’s “values and advance … [its] overseas interests.”80 No strategy has been published.

43.Second, Lord Boateng said that the UK’s “generous” commitment of official development assistance (discussed in Chapter 5) was an advantage.81

44.Third, multiple witnesses said the UK’s visa policy affected its reputation. Dr Westcott said the UK’s “engagement with Africa” could “be undermined by one issue”: “visas”.82 Dr Alex Vines OBE, Managing Director, Ethics, Risk & Resilience, and Director, Africa Programme, and Bob Dewar CMG, Associate Fellow, Africa Programme, Chatham House, said the UK’s “onerous visa requirements” had damaged the UK’s “reputation” and they hampered the “projection of soft power.” This was the “single most common cause of complaint against” the UK. It was a “competitive market” and people who gave up on coming to the UK would go elsewhere.83 The Royal African Society said “potential connections” were “being impeded by Government policy on visas, where the rejection rate for African visitors is running at double the rate of that for any other region.”84 The issues are outlined in Box 2.

Box 2: African interaction with the UK’s visa regime

In July 2019 the All Party Parliamentary Groups for Africa, Diaspora, Development and Migration, and Malawi published a joint report, Visa problems for African visitors to the UK. They identified six challenges:

  • “Practical and logistical barriers”, including the volume and type of “documentation” required, and the “significant costs” and “inconvenience” of having to apply in neighbouring countries due to the rationalisation of visa services;
  • “Inconsistent and/or careless decision-making”, including “divergent decisions taken in effectively identical cases”;
  • A “perceived lack of procedural fairness”, including the requirement of “additional documentation and evidence … over and above that specified in the guidelines”;
  • “Financial discrimination in decision-making”, including applicants being denied visas due to having little money, despite costs being guaranteed by a sponsoring third party;
  • A “perceived gender or racial bias”; and
  • A “lack of accountability or a right of appeal”.

Source: All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Africa, APPG for Diaspora, Development & Migration and APPG for Malawi, Visa Problems for African Visitors to the UK (16 July 2019) pp 8–9: [accessed 24 June 2020]

45.Dr Westcott said the issue with the visa regime was not necessarily that it was “too tight”, but rather that it seemed “arbitrary, expensive, time-consuming and … humiliating.” He gave the example of when, as the UK’s High Commissioner to Ghana, he had had to ask the Vice-President to show him his bank accounts. Dr Westcott said that no “British Minister would be willing to have their personal finances exposed to a foreign country in return for a visa”.85

46.Fourth, Baroness Amos said that how the UK treated its citizens at home had “a direct relationship back to the perception of the UK by African governments.” This was “a domestic relationship as well as a development, trade, political and diplomatic one”, because there were “huge” Sub-Saharan African diaspora communities in the UK (discussed in Chapter 5) and “a huge number of citizens who are of African descent”.86

47.David Lammy MP too said the way the UK Government had treated immigrants affected the “perception of Africans” entering the UK. He cited the Windrush scandal and the ‘hostile environment’ policy.87 Baroness Amos said that “a lot of young Africans I speak to are very ambivalent about Britain, partly because of the issues around visas and the perception of a hostile environment, but also … [because] they will have family here who are constantly reporting back on what it is like to be living and working here.”88

48.Finally, witnesses raised the lasting impact of the UK’s history in Sub-Saharan Africa. Lord Boateng said that the UK had a comparative advantage over European and North American partners, in part because of “closer and deeper historical ties and cultural understanding”.89 Baroness Amos however said that the UK would have “an ongoing problem … in our relationship with a number of African countries” until the UK acknowledged “the important role that the slave trade played in building Britain, and its consequences for the dehumanisation of people from the African continent”.90 David Lammy MP said that a “pecking order”—“scientific racism”—had been “established largely to give white Europeans the right to conquer the world”; “we live with the legacy of that pecking order today”.91

49.Professor Murithi said that some African leaders still made “references to the lingering effects of colonialism” and that was likely to continue.92 David Lammy MP said that “recognition, and repairing, of the past” by the UK was needed.93

50.The UK has considerable soft power assets, which could be used to better effect in Africa. We regret that the Government’s global soft power strategy was not published. We invite the Government to explain how it is seeking to build on and support the UK’s soft power in Africa. Any action plan for Africa, such as we call for in paragraph 84, will need to ensure that the UK’s soft power assets, in particular those of the British Council and the BBC World Service, are sufficiently resourced.

51.The UK’s visa policies are damaging its reputation and the ability of international departments to build and strengthen relationships across Africa, and in some cases fall below the standards of basic human decency. One witness described the process as “arbitrary, expensive, time-consuming and … humiliating”. The Home Office should, as a matter of urgency, review how the UK’s approach to the issuing of visas for people from the continent is working. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Department for International Trade should participate in this review, to ensure that diplomatic and trade and investment priorities are reflected in how the system operates.

52.The UK’s domestic policies affect how it is perceived in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Windrush scandal and the ‘hostile environment’ have damaged the UK’s reputation.

53.The UK’s historic engagement with Africa has had a lasting impact on its relationships in the region. This has positive elements, such as the widespread use of English and common-law systems in former colonies, and more negative aspects, including ongoing tensions over the history of how it colonised many countries in Africa, and in some countries its role in the slave trade. The Government should recognise, be open about and address the challenges that this history brings to its relationships.

54.The Black Lives Matters protests have brought to greater attention the ongoing problem of racism in the UK, and the importance of appropriately addressing both the treatment of black people in the UK and the UK’s historical legacy.

55.In order to develop a better understanding of Sub-Saharan Africa, the Government should seek to foster knowledge of the UK’s historic relationship with the region among UK citizens.

The ‘strategic approach’

56.In a speech in Cape Town, South Africa, in August 2018, the then Prime Minister, Theresa May MP, announced the Government’s plan to “create a new partnership between the UK and … Africa”, which she described as a “fundamental strategic shift”.94

57.A document outlining the new approach was not published for more than a year. In a September 2019 submission to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, the FCO outlined its “strategic approach to Sub-Saharan Africa” (summarised in Box 3). This has been referred to by many observers, including the Minister, as a new “strategy” for Africa.95

Box 3: The UK’s ‘strategic approach’ to Africa

The FCO’s submission to the Foreign Affairs Committee said the ‘strategic approach’ was structured around five ‘shifts’—areas of particular focus that are not necessarily “wholly new areas of work for the UK”. These shifts are:

  • Prosperity: “Stronger economic partnerships will deliver increased investment into African countries, encourage job creation and grow UK–Africa trade relationships. This is for African partners looking to transition from aid recipients to commercial and political partners, capable of financing all their own development needs … We are strengthening our commercial expertise on the continent by 50%”.
  • Security and stability: “The UK has long been supporting African capacity to tackle African crises. We have a strong history of supporting United Nations (UN) and African Union (AU) operations across Africa.” It referred to “long-standing engagement on Somalia” and “effective training partnerships with troop contributing countries”. It also referred to support for the International Organisation for Migration, and to tackling organised crime.
  • Climate change and sustainable natural resource management: “A sharper focus on climate change and natural resource management will deliver stronger African capacity to build resilience to the impacts of climate change, support clean growth and energy security. This will enable economic growth and prosperity, and protect the environment”.
  • Demographic transition: “Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the world’s youngest and fastest growing population … the UK will work in partnership on supportive policies and investments. In particular, we will partner on: greater access to quality education, especially for girls; healthcare including voluntary family planning; measures that tackle gender inequality and enable women to enter the labour market; and the creation of productive jobs that keep pace with numbers of workforce entrants.”
  • The Sahel: “We will pivot UK resources towards Mali, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso, and Mauritania”. The Government would work with its partners in this area, “seek to contain threats to regional security and wider UK interests”, and “make migration safer while providing critical humanitarian support.”

The Government’s ‘strategic approach’ is underpinned by three “enablers”:

  • People and platform: the Government had increased funding to eight participating departments96 to allow them to fund “approximately 400 new positions” and five new diplomatic posts in sub-Saharan Africa—eSwatini, Chad, Djibouti, Lesotho, and Niger (see Table 2).
  • Science and technology: the Government had increased the amount of ODA spent on research and innovation from £550 million in 2016–17 to £1.2 billion in 2020–21.
  • Soft power: Government research had shown that some African nations, including Commonwealth nations, “no longer feel an instinctive affinity with the UK and have limited awareness of what the UK has to offer”. To address this the Government had “set aside up to £7 million of ODA programme funds”.

As well as the five ‘shifts’ and three ‘enablers’, the Government said “international engagement” was “central”, and values and democracy were “at the heart” of its work.

Source: Written evidence from the FCO to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee (UKA0012)

58.Baroness Amos said whenever she heard of a new UK “plan for the African continent”, she thought, “Here we go again”. New approaches often said “the same thing, but perhaps in slightly different language.” The Government needed to learn the lessons from “various strategies” it had “had to date”.97

59.The Minister said the five ‘shifts’ had been identified by the National Security Council in early 2018. It was right that the Government had decided to “reposition” itself around them.98

60.Witnesses said that the Sahel ‘shift’ represented a change in approach for the UK, which had traditionally focused on Anglophone Africa. Harriet Mathews OBE, Director for Africa, FCO, acknowledged that the UK had “not been very involved in the Sahel”, but there was now a “recognition” that the four trends identified in the ‘shifts’ came to an “absolute confluence” in the region. This was why the UK decided it “should and could do more”.99 The Minister said the region had “perhaps” been “left for too long as a French sphere of influence.”100

61.Some witnesses supported this change: Dr Vines and Mr Dewar said the Government was prioritising a “crucial region”.101 Lord Boateng said that it was “important to be able to identify new partners as our strategic interests dictate without being limited to previous historical patterns of engagement”. He said that problems in Mali and Burkina Faso had an impact on countries with which the UK had longstanding relationships, such as Nigeria and Ghana.102

62.Dr Ero said the UK should be “cautious” about further engagement in the Sahel.103 Dr Moyo wondered whether the UK was trying “to do too much”. It was a “hard proposition” to engage in Francophone West Africa. The UK had “long-standing relations” in Anglophone Africa: “Why go against a closed door when there are places such as Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa which have very long-standing historical connections with this country and a very open door?”104

63.International engagement on peace and security issues in the Sahel, including by the UK, are discussed in Chapter 6.

The Africa ‘uplift’

64.Ms Mathews said that the Government had “increased staffing by 440”, which the Government termed the Africa ‘uplift’.105 Seventy-five per cent of the positions were in Africa, 20% based in the UK and 5% were deployed in the UK’s global network.106

65.As of January 2020, 70% of these staff had been recruited. They were a mix of locally employed and UK-based staff.107 The uplift as it applies to the FCO is outlined in Table 2.

Table 2: FCO staff ‘uplifts’


Total agreed FCO staff



Global Britain


EU Exit




Source: Supplementary written evidence from the FCO (ZAF0058)

66.As part of the new ‘strategic approach’ five new diplomatic posts had been opened (see Figure 1). Ms Mathews said that “sovereign countries” were “very proud” and requested “more and more representation”, rather than having UK ambassadors and high commissioners covering countries from a neighbouring post.109

Figure 1: UK diplomatic posts in Sub-Saharan Africa

Source: Supplementary written evidence from the FCO (ZAF0058)

Government co-ordination

67.Lord Boateng said the new ‘strategic approach’ needed to be driven from Downing Street and HM Treasury, otherwise “the old departmental battles, rivalries and a profound unwillingness to pool resources” would “limit” the Government’s “capacity to deliver meaningful changes in policy”.110

68.Government witnesses stressed the cross-Whitehall nature of the new ‘strategic approach’. Ms Mathews said that each embassy in the region was “working together across government” to consider the five ‘shifts’ and apply and prioritise them in the particular context of the country in which they operated.111 The Minister said that Government departments and overseas posts had organised “around the strategy”. This had prevented the strategy from becoming “siloed or” just “integrated with Department for International Development … and [the] FCO”.112

Communication of the ‘strategic approach’

69.Witnesses criticised the way the ‘strategic approach’ had been communicated. The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Africa had been “left with the strong impression” that the ‘strategic approach’ was “less a comprehensive ‘strategy’” and more an “outline of some broad policy themes where the UK would like to focus more with regards to Africa.”113

70.Lord Boateng said the “‘new strategic approach’ to Africa” seemed to “exist primarily … in a series of [Prime Ministerial and ministerial] speeches”. There was “little by way of specifics and no overarching document”, “let alone [a] set of targets” by which success could be measured.114

71.Dr Westcott said the strategy had “never [been]… clearly expressed”.115 He said the Government should make the strategy “slightly clearer … and more public”.116

72.In January 2020 Ms Mathews said that the word “strategy” had been used as “shorthand”, and this might have been the source of confusion. The Government had designed a “strategic approach that aimed to provide a framework and guidance for … broader work across the continent, rather than having a traditional document that set out milestones and the point at which it would be achieved.” She added that there would be a “series of strategies” “underneath” the ‘strategic approach’.117

73.The APPG for Africa said the lack of “a public reference point” for the approach had limited “its impact on African perceptions that the UK is re-prioritising the continent.” A “clear strategy” was “essential”.118

74.In May 2020 the Minister said that the Government had a “very clear strategy” and that the strategy was “very much a real document”.119

75.He said that “Later this year, following our analysis of the impacts of COVID-19 in Africa, we will be updating the strategic approach and will publish the updated information online.”120

The UK’s investment target

76.Theresa May MP had announced one target during her visit to Cape Town: the “ambition” for the UK to become the largest G7 investor in Africa by 2022.121

77.By the time of the UK–Africa Investment Summit in January 2020 (discussed in Chapter 5) this target had been dropped. Instead, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson MP, wanted the UK to be the “partner of choice” for the continent.122

78.The Minister said it had been “a crass target”. “As Africa expands massively, the cake expands more”. China was “eating up a lot more of that investment opportunity than before”. This had made hitting such a target “harder and harder”.123 We note that China is not a member of the G7. Debbie Palmer, Director, West and Southern Africa, DfID, said that another reason for dropping the target was that targets “bounce up and down as the data changes”.124

79.UK trade and investment in Sub-Saharan Africa is discussed in Chapter 5.

The Integrated Review

80.In February 2020 the Prime Minister announced a “government-wide review” of foreign policy, defence, security and international development. The ‘Integrated Review’ will run in parallel to the Comprehensive Spending Review.125 Both have been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

81.Lord Boateng said both reviews would “provide an opportunity to “demonstrate a political commitment” to the Africa strategy.126

82.We are disappointed to conclude that the Government’s new ‘strategic approach’ to Africa falls short. It is not a strategy, but rather some broad ideas and themes, and there is little clarity on how the Government plans to put it into action.

83.Communication of the new ‘strategic approach’ to Africa has been confused and confusing. Since it was first mentioned in July 2018, when Theresa May MP was the Prime Minister, it has been necessary to piece together the ‘approach’ from different speeches and documents. Moreover, the language it has used to describe its approach has been imprecise—referring to a “strategy” and then a “strategic approach”—and has relied on jargon—referring to “shifts” and “enablers”.

84.The Government should publish a clearly articulated list of its priorities for its engagement with Africa, and an action plan for meeting them, including ministerial and departmental responsibilities. This should include how it intends to better engage with African governments and institutions, and the role to be played by more high-profile initiatives such as visits and summits. The action plan could be used to measure the Government’s success and could be periodically updated as circumstances change.

85.The context of the UK’s departure from the European Union, and the Integrated Review of foreign policy, defence, security and international development, present a timely opportunity for a renewal of the UK’s engagement in Africa. This should build on the initiative launched by the former Prime Minister and the welcome ‘uplift’ of staff in the region.

86.We recognise that the Government’s target to become the top G7 investor in Africa by 2022 may have been overly ambitious; it was unlikely that it could have been achieved. Nonetheless, we regret the Government’s decision to drop a formal target for investment in Africa, in favour of an ambition of being the “partner of choice”. This new ambition cannot be measured or quantified, and could be seen as signalling the downgrading of Africa as a Government priority.

Other countries and organisations

87.Witnesses outlined the policies of some of the most influential non-African actors on the continent.


88.Witnesses said that France’s approach to Sub-Saharan Africa since decolonisation had differed from the UK’s in a fundamental way. Professor Tony Chafer, Professor of French and African Studies, Portsmouth University, characterised France’s approach as “hands-on” and the UK’s as “hands-off”.127

89.Myles Wickstead CBE, Visiting Professor (International Relations), King’s College London, and former Head of the Secretariat, Commission for Africa (2004–05), said that France had not been as good as the UK at “withdrawing from” its colonial relationships “and building up different ones”.128 François Dr François Gaulme, Associate Research Fellow, African Studies Center, Institut français des relations internationales, said that during the period of decolonisation France had been “keen to disseminate” its “own political model to these new and very fragile” states, while maintaining a military presence to protect “post-independence stability”.129 Professor Chafer said that because France had left troops in former colonies it had been able to launch approximately 30 military interventions in the “three decades after political independence.”130

90.Francophone African currencies had remained pegged to the French franc (and then the euro) through the CFA franc. This had allowed France to maintain significant economic influence. This relationship still existed today, although the CFA franc arrangements had recently been modified.131

91.According to Professor Chafer, two events in the 1990s caused a rethink of French policy towards its former colonies and Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole. First, the end of the Cold War meant that “France could no longer present itself as the key guarantor of Western strategic interests in its former colonies”, as there was no longer a need to preserve them “from Soviet incursion”. The second was the Rwandan genocide: France’s actions prompted “renewed accusations” of “French neo-colonialism”, and provoked “widespread domestic, regional and international criticism.”132

92.France’s approach to Africa subsequently became focused more on “multilateralism”, with a recognition of the need to better use UN processes and co-operate more with European partners. France made all countries in the region eligible for French aid, not just its former colonies. French aid had since become highly multilateral; by 2016 “some 40% of the total aid budget was multilateral aid”, with 57% of that aid channelled through the EU.133

93.Professor Chafer said the 1998 Saint-Malo summit between the UK and France “was supposed to draw a line under the history of rivalry that had long hampered Anglo-French co-operation”.134 Dr Westcott said France was the UK’s “best friend and oldest rival” in Sub-Saharan Africa. The UK had “a lot of common interests with the French”; it was important to cooperate as the French often had the “hard power” and the UK often had the “economic soft power.”135 Ms Mathews said the UK had “excellent co-operation with the French”.136

94.One such area of common interest is the Sahel. This, along with its implications for UK–French cooperation, is considered in Chapter 6.

The European Union

95.Dr Ero said the EU was “very willing” to engage on issues relating to Sub-Saharan Africa but was “oftentimes overly bureaucratic and slow, and not agile.”137 In March 2020 it announced a plan to develop a “new comprehensive EU strategy with Africa”.138 Dr Andrew Edward Yaw Tchie, Senior Research Fellow for Africa Security, and Obasanjo Fellow, RUSI, said this would be built on five partnerships: green transition; digital transformation; sustainable growth and jobs; peace and governance; and migration and mobility.139

96.Dr Westcott said that “historically” the UK had been “central to the EU’s approach to Africa.” Before the UK joined, the bloc’s Africa policy had been “basically French”. After the UK joined it “very much became a joint effort.”140

97.The UK had had significant influence over the EU’s approach and policies towards Sub-Saharan Africa. Dr Westcott said EU aid programmes had “been enormously influenced” by DfID, and the UK had been “absolutely central” in “terms of the effectiveness of sanctions and aid conditionality”. The UK had used its membership to influence the EU’s prioritisation in Sub-Saharan Africa. He said France had “always” tried to “drag resources away from the Horn [of Africa] towards the Sahel”, but because of UK influence, the EU had “paid for AMISOM”, which was critical to the UK’s objective to “stabilise Somalia”141 (discussed further in Chapter 6).

98.Dr Westcott said the UK’s interests were “still broadly aligned” with those of the EU’s member states.142


99.Dr Tchie said Germany’s engagement focused on “investment, humanitarian aid, conflict resolution and mitigation”.143 It had been a major troop contributor to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (MINUSMA) in Mali.144 Dr Westcott said it was “nearly as big a donor” as the UK and the two countries co-ordinated closely.145

The United States

100.Dr Westcott said the US had two “areas of interest in particular”. First, “democracy and [aid] conditionality”, although this appeared to “be a lower priority” at the moment. Second, the “struggle against terrorism”, which remained a “high priority” for Washington.146 Dr Tchie said increased US engagement with Africa “since the 2000s” had a strong security focus.147

101.General Sir Richard Barrons said the “US security footprint in Africa” was “designed to be light (by US standards)”. Washington focused on “two missions”: “direct action against” non-state armed groups; and “building the capacity of … African partners” in the security space.148 Dr Tchie said there had been recent reports that the US was planning to significantly lower its security commitments in the region.149

102.Dr Westcott said the US approach to the region had traditionally aligned with the UK’s but was “perhaps” less so “at the moment”.150


103.Ms Mathews said China had “the biggest presence” in Sub-Saharan Africa. China’s economic power in Africa gave it a “very strong influence and interest in individual countries”, and in relation to “broader themes”.151

104.Dr Tchie said China’s approach to Africa was centred around four areas: “infrastructure projects” through its Belt and Road Initiative; “strengthening and maintaining partnerships with states … open to and supportive of the Chinese government and its businesses”; protecting “its financial interests” through loan repayments; and ensuring “intervention in the politics or policies of partner states” was seen as “being at the invitation of their governments.”152

105.China’s economic role in Africa was not new. Dr Moyo said that China had been “a large participant in Africa’s growth story dating back to the … 1930s and 1940s.” However, the “extent and depth of China’s incursion into Africa in the last decade” had been “meaningful in terms of foreign direct investment and trade”.153

106.Ms Mathews said trade between China and African countries was worth over $200 million, its foreign direct investment over $30 billion, and Chinese state banks were “the largest external source of infrastructure finance”. China was “a larger creator of jobs than any other external player.”154

107.China presented itself as a model for Sub-Saharan African countries to follow. Mr Wickstead said the “China–Africa dynamic” was “more one of South–South partnership than of North–South partnership.” China presented itself to Sub-Saharan African partners as “a developing country just 10 years further along the road”, which could “help and teach lessons”.155

108.Dr Moyo said China’s role was “fundamentally a good thing” but there were problematic aspects.156 Andrew Mitchell MP said “a lot of what China” had done in Africa was “good”, but Beijing needed to be more “transparent”.157 David Lammy MP was “deeply concerned” about aspects of the China–Africa relationship. He said “very extravagant” private finance initiatives, funded by China, were “largely weighted in favour of China and not the country in which” the project was developed.158

109.China’s ownership of African debt was of concern. Ms Mathews gave the example of Ethiopia, where China was both “the largest foreign direct investor” and was “estimated to hold about half of” the country’s “external debt”.159 Dr Moyo said China purchased African debt on the secondary market to influence negotiations with countries on access to their natural resources or land.160

110.Dr Westcott said China used to be “eager to listen to” the UK on issues relating to Africa, but China was now “much bigger and more influential. All African leaders will go to summits with President Xi and they do not feel that they need to listen to [the UK] any more”.161

111.Ms Mathews said there were “quite strong disagreements” between the UK and China on Africa, including on issues that “the Chinese would see as interference” and the UK viewed as “engagement and necessary change”.162

112.Baroness Amos and Dr Westcott said there were competing and common interests between the UK and China.163 China shared the UK’s interest in “promoting rapid growth in Africa”, but did this in “slightly different ways”. China’s interest in economic growth meant it had a “high interest in stability in Africa”, another mutual interest, “because instability and conflict reduce growth.”164

113.Baroness Amos said China was “respectful” to Sub-Saharan African countries. It was “clear about its economic interests and what it wants” out of its relationships in a way that the UK was not.165

Other countries

114.A number of other countries have increased their engagement with Sub-Saharan Africa in recent years. These include Turkey, India, Japan and countries in the Gulf and Scandinavia.166

115.Russia was “playing an increasing role” in Sub-Saharan Africa.167 Ms Mathews said its trade with Africa had “risen significantly”.168 Dr Westcott said Russia ‘thrived’ “on disorder”,169 and deployed “very small resources very strategically and very effectively.”170 The UK’s interests were “less closely aligned with Russia” than with other countries, including China.171

116.France and the UK have common interests in Sub-Saharan Africa, and in the Sahel in particular. It is time to draw a line under traditional rivalries. The Government should continue to work closely with France on issues of common interest.

117.The UK and the EU are likely to remain largely aligned on policy towards Sub-Saharan Africa. The UK’s departure from the EU means that new methods of co-operation will need to be built up with the objective of engaging with the EU member states and institutions on issues of common interest.

118.The current US Administration is regrettably less engaged on Africa than its predecessors. Should this change, the UK should seek to re-engage with its principal ally on policy towards Africa.

119.The UK and China’s interests in Sub-Saharan Africa are not always aligned, but there are areas where their interests overlap. The Government should continue to engage with China on issues of mutual interest, such as stability in the region. Many African governments regard China as an important partner and source of investment, and the UK should seek to work constructively with China where appropriate, especially through multilateral institutions, on issues such as debt , health , climate change and trade, while defending UK national interests and values.

65 While this report concentrates on Sub-Saharan Africa, this chapter considers issues relating to the UK’s approach to the continent as a whole, consistent with the Government’s ‘strategic approach’.

66 Q 95

67 Since 2017, the Minister for Africa has been a joint DfID and FCO role. Baroness Amos said this was helpful. Q 38

68 Since 1997 there have been 17 separate appointments to this position. Written evidence from Dr Alex Vines OBE and Bob Dewar CMG (ZAF0027)

69 Written evidence from the Royal African Society (ZAF0002). Also see written evidence from Professor Tony Chafer (ZAF0039).

70 Written evidence from Lord Boateng (ZAF0044)

71 Written evidence from the Royal African Society (ZAF0002)

72 Q 36

73 Q 29

74 Written evidence from the Royal African Society (ZAF0002)

75 Q 61

76 Q 29. UK legislation which is part of this accountability framework included the Bribery Act 2010 and the Modern Slavery Act 2015.

77 Q 101

78 Written evidence from the British Council (ZAF0012). It does this through language training, support for skills and enterprise, strengthening civil society and communities, international examinations and qualifications and higher education and science.

79 Written evidence from Lord Boateng (ZAF0044). We note that the British Council is in talks with the Government over long-term emergency funding as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. Cristina Gallardo, ‘British Council faces financial ruin due to coronavirus’, Politico (21 May 2020): [accessed 24 June 2020]

80 HC Deb, 26 February 2019, cols 145–148

81 Written evidence from Lord Boateng (ZAF0044)

82 Q 29

83 Written evidence from Dr Alex Vines OBE and Bob Dewar CMG (ZAF0027)

84 Written evidence from the Royal African Society (ZAF0002)

85 Q 29

86 Q 36

87 Q 9

88 Q 41

89 Written evidence from Lord Boateng (ZAF0044)

90 Q 37

91 Q 2

92 Q 61

93 Q 2

94 Prime Minister Theresa May, Speech in Cape Town, 28 August 2018: [accessed 24 June 2020]

95 Q 119

96 The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Department for International Development, the Department for International Trade, the Department of Health and Social Care, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Home Office, HM Revenue and Customs and the Ministry of Defence.

97 Q 36

98 Q 119

99 Q 12

100 Q 119

101 Written evidence from Dr Alex Vines OBE and Bob Dewar CMG (ZAF0027)

102 Written evidence from Lord Boateng (ZAF0044)

103 Q 81

104 Q 74

105 Q 12

106 Written evidence from the FCO (ZAF0003)

107 Q 12

108 An additional 62 staff will be from DfID and 33 will be in other Government departments.

109 Q 15

110 Written evidence from Lord Boateng (ZAF0044)

111 Q 14

112 Q 120

113 Written evidence from the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Africa (ZAF0007)

114 Written evidence from Lord Boateng (ZAF0044)

115 Q 29

116 Q 29

117 Q 12

118 Written evidence from APPG for Africa (ZAF0007)

119 Q 120

120 Written evidence from James Duddridge MP (ZAF0057)

121 Prime Minister Theresa May, Speech in Cape Town, 28 August 2018: [accessed 24 June 2020]

122 Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Speech at Africa Investment Summit, 20 January 2020: [accessed 24 June 2020]

123 Q 137

124 Q 124

125 HM Government, ‘PM outlines new review to define Britain’s place in the world’ (26 February 2020): [accessed 24 June 2020]

126 Written evidence from Lord Boateng (ZAF0044)

127 Written evidence from Professor Tony Chafer (ZAF00039)

128 Q 74

129 Written evidence from Dr François Gaulme (ZAF0033)

130 Written evidence from Professor Tony Chafer (ZAF0039)

131 Written evidence from Professor Tony Chafer (ZAF0039) and written evidence from Dr François Gaulme (ZAF0033). The CFA franc zone consists of 14 countries split into two groups: the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU, including Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte D’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo) and the Central Africa Economic and Monetary Union (CAEMC, including Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon). These countries, using the CFA franc, had their currencies pegged to the French franc and then later the euro. In December 2019 France and the countries of WAEMU announced that the eight west African countries would reform the CFA franc into a new currency, the eco. Landry Signé, ‘How the France-backed CFA franc works as an enabler and barrier to development’, Quartz Africa (7 December 2019: [accessed 24 June 2020]

132 Written evidence from Professor Tony Chafer (ZAF0039)

133 Written evidence from Professor Tony Chafer (ZAF0039)

134 Written evidence from Professor Tony Chafer (ZAF0039)

135 Q 34

136 Q 13

137 Q 81

138 European Commission, Joint Communication to the European Parliament and the Council: [accessed 24 June 2020]

139 Written evidence from Dr Andrew Edward Yaw Tchie (ZAF0032)

140 Q 33

141 Q 33

142 Q 34

143 Written evidence from Dr Andrew Edward Yaw Tchie (ZAF0032)

144 Written evidence from Paul Melly (ZAF0027)

145 Q 34

146 Q 34

147 Written evidence from Dr Andrew Edward Yaw Tchie (ZAF0032). This had also been the case for the EU and France.

148 Written evidence from General Sir Richard Barrons KCB CBE (ZAF0030)

149 Written evidence from Dr Andrew Edward Yaw Tchie (ZAF0032)

150 Q 29

151 Q 25

152 Written evidence from Dr Andrew Edward Yaw Tchie (ZAF0032)

153 Q 64

154 Q 25

155 Q 68

156 Q 67

157 Q 3

158 Q 3

159 Q 25

160 Q 66

161 Q 34

162 Q 27

163 Q 29 and Q 45

164 34 (Dr Nick Westcott)

165 Q 45

166 Written evidence from the Royal African Society (ZAF0002), Q 61 (Professor Tim Murithi) and Q 31 (Dr Nick Westcott)

167 Q 34 (Dr Nick Westcott)

168 Q 25

169 Q 31

170 Q 35

171 Q 34

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