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

Summary of conclusions and recommendations

The UK’s Africa strategy

1.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. (Paragraph 33)

2.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. (Paragraph 34)

3.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. (Paragraph 35)

4.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. (Paragraph 36)

5.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. (Paragraph 37)

6.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. (Paragraph 50)

7.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. (Paragraph 51)

8.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. (Paragraph 52)

9.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. (Paragraph 53)

10.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. (Paragraph 54)

11.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. (Paragraph 55)

12.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. (Paragraph 82)

13.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”. (Paragraph 83)

14.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. (Paragraph 84)

15.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 (Paragraph 85)

16.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. (Paragraph 86)

17.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. (Paragraph 116)

18.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. (Paragraph 117)

19.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. (Paragraph 118)

20.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. (Paragraph 119)

African regional organisations

21.The Government should continue to support constructive reforms to the rules-based international order to provide African countries with a voice commensurate with their size and importance. This should include supporting reform of the UN Security Council to better represent Africa. (Paragraph 153)

22.The African Union (AU) is an increasingly effective and influential organisation. The UK is right to focus more resources on it, particularly focusing on peacekeeping, climate change and regional integration. (Paragraph 164)

23.While it has had important successes, the AU faces significant challenges, including organisational capacity, funding and its members’ willingness to pool sovereignty. The UK should continue to seek to help strengthen the AU, while recognising that the AU is one of a range of regional stakeholders with which the UK should engage. (Paragraph 165)

24.The AU–UK Memorandum of Understanding provides an important framework for a reboot of the relationship. Resources and effort should be committed to developing this partnership. Agenda 2063 provides a broad, but useful, framework for engagement. We would welcome further explanation as to how the Government’s work with the AU, and on Agenda 2063, fits into its ‘strategic approach’ to Africa. (Paragraph 166)

25.Bilateral relationships with countries in Sub-Saharan Africa should remain a key part of the UK’s engagement with Sub-Saharan Africa and with the AU. (Paragraph 167)

26.The UK should continue to engage with the regional economic communities (RECs) across Sub-Saharan Africa. RECs are often regarded by their members as the ‘go-to’ institutions to address crises in their regions, and many have made progress towards regional economic integration. The UK should concentrate on those which have significant influence, and develop a more clearly-defined offer for its engagement with them. (Paragraph 183)

27.The Government should discuss with African members of the Commonwealth ways in which its work in Africa could be strengthened. The Government should be open-minded about any African country wanting to join the Commonwealth so long as it fulfils the criteria for membership in terms of democracy and respect for human rights. (Paragraph 199)

28.The Commonwealth’s role in supporting ‘people to people’ contacts is of value, and the Government should continue to support such engagement, including between UK and Sub-Saharan African judges. The Commonwealth’s value in terms of people-to-people contacts underscores the need for a review of the UK’s visa policies. (Paragraph 200)

Sub-Saharan Africa’s economic development

29.Building on the achievements and successes of the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, the Sustainable Development Goals remain an important universal agenda for all countries. (Paragraph 204)

30.The population of Africa is projected to double to 2.1 billion by 2050. Providing employment is already a major challenge facing the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa: 20 million new jobs will be needed every year. The UK should support the UN and its agencies, in partnership with the AU, in their work to both harness the benefits and meet the challenges of population growth in the region. (Paragraph 220)

31.Intra-Africa migration is a longstanding and continuing phenomenon, with over 21 million Africans living in another African country in 2019. We welcome the Government’s provision of technical support to the AU on migration through the 2019 UK-AU Memorandum of Understanding, including support for the implementation of the AU’s Migration Policy Framework for Africa. (Paragraph 221)

32.Agriculture remains the main source of jobs and growth potential in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is a sector highly vulnerable to the impact of the climate crisis, thus magnifying the impact of environmental change on the economies of the region. (Paragraph 233)

33.There are opportunities and demand for infrastructure development across Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly for renewable energy infrastructure. Raising debt via international capital markets has become an increasingly important source of finance. The Government should continue to work with the London Stock Exchange Group in this area, particularly in support of local currency bond issuances. (Paragraph 237)

34.Corruption, tax avoidance and evasion, and illicit financial flows continue to deprive citizens and governments of Sub-Saharan Africa of much-needed funding for development. The UK should seek to ensure that UK businesses operate to the highest possible standards in the region. In particular, this should include compliance with the Bribery Act 2010, the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (the Ruggie Principles) and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative global standard on oil, gas and mineral resources. (Paragraph 249)

35.The Government should use its influence in Sub-Saharan Africa to pressure countries in which politicians and officials are themselves guilty of corruption to enact and implement reforms. The Government should make such reforms a central component of its relationship with the countries in question, in particular its aid and trade relationship. (Paragraph 250)

36.The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) has the potential to transform the continent’s economy, by boosting intra-African trade and supporting industrialisation and diversification. (Paragraph 269)

37.The COVID-19 pandemic has already had a negative and disproportionate impact on economies in Africa. Export markets have dried up, remittances have fallen, currencies have depreciated and the continent has experienced capital flight. Significant economic support from international partners will be needed to prevent the continent’s economic gains over the last two decades being reversed. (Paragraph 285)

38.The contraction of the global economy due to COVID-19 will have a negative impact on UK trade with and investment in Sub-Saharan Africa and on UK aid, given that the UK’s 0.7% development assistance target is tied to Gross National Income. (Paragraph 286)

39.The Government should continue to encourage other countries to maintain their official development assistance (ODA) commitments to Sub-Saharan Africa to avoid exacerbating the impact of the crisis. (Paragraph 287)

40.The Government should support the AU’s call for a two-year standstill for African countries’ public and private debt, and engage with major creditors to the continent in support of this objective. (Paragraph 288)

41.Some countries are likely to need debt relief, in addition to the two-year debt standstill sought by the AU. The Government should work with the AU, the IMF and the World Bank to understand which countries need debt relief, and seek to play a constructive role in their international efforts to secure this. (Paragraph 289)

42.The Government should continue to work with the AU on its response to the economic impacts of COVID-19 in Africa. (Paragraph 290)

43.We commend the Government for its additional funding to the African Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, and its work in support of the Global Vaccines Alliance Summit on 4 June 2020. (Paragraph 291)

44.Access to a vaccine for COVID-19, should one be successfully developed, must be available on the basis of need. The Government should continue to work with international partners—including through Gavi, the Vaccines Alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness—to ensure any such vaccine is made available to developing countries, including those in Sub-Saharan Africa. (Paragraph 292)

The UK’s economic relationship with Sub-Saharan Africa

45.The UK is a major donor of Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Sub-Saharan Africa. The Department for International Development’s approach to funding and its expertise is well-respected. (Paragraph 309)

46.We regret the decision to merge the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development (DfID). The UK’s commitment to spending 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) on international development, DfID’s expertise in overseas aid and the separation of aid spending from UK foreign policy priorities are part of the UK’s international influence. (Paragraph 310)

47.We request urgent confirmation that UK ODA will continue to be administered with the promotion of the economic development and the welfare of developing countries as its main objective, in line with the definition of ODA agreed by the Organisation for Co-operation and Development’s Development Assistance Committee. (Paragraph 311)

48.The reorganisation of Whitehall departments does not change our conclusions and recommendations on the value of UK ODA to Sub-Saharan Africa. We seek assurances from the Government that the creation of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office does not represent a change to the UK’s approach to ODA to the region. (Paragraph 312)

49.The UK’s commitment to spend 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) on international development should be maintained. Given that the UK’s ODA is fixed at 0.7% of GNI, the Integrated Review will need to consider the impact of the expected decrease in the overall ODA budget as a result of the negative economic impacts of the COVID-219 crisis. (Paragraph 313)

50.UK development assistance is supporting the development of the AfCFTA and helping to improve the business environment and address trade barriers. The UK should offer any form of technical assistance which facilitates achieving the AfCFTA’s objectives. This support has benefits for both Sub-Saharan recipient countries and UK businesses seeking to do business in the region. (Paragraph 324)

51.We would welcome further information from the Government on how it will fund Aid for Trade for Sub-Saharan Africa after Brexit, and how it intends to reallocate its funding and direct support that has been channelled via the EU for Aid for Trade projects after the transition period ends. (Paragraph 325)

52.We welcome DfID’s support for the agricultural sector in Sub-Saharan Africa, and its recognition that this sector is critical to growth and job creation. We were told that an update to the DfID conceptual framework on agriculture would be helpful, to reflect the changes to the sector, and ask the Government to give this consideration. (Paragraph 331)

53.Further technical assistance to support improvements in agricultural productivity should be a high priority for the UK’s development work. (Paragraph 332)

54.We welcome successive Governments’ work to support public health initiatives in Sub-Saharan Africa. While direct budgetary support for governments in the region may be necessary in some cases, it can often lead to corruption. The Government should only employ this approach where there are no other options. (Paragraph 343)

55.We welcome the UK’s provision of development assistance to mitigating and adapting to climate change in the region, particularly in support of low-carbon development. The most significant contribution the UK can make, in addition to action to decarbonise its own economy, is to ensure that the COP26 meeting in Glasgow in 2021consolidates and strengthens the Paris agreement on climate change. Support from the UK to enable African countries to ramp up the substitution of renewables in place of oil and coal exports and use would also help combat global emissions, while not disadvantaging African development as it grows. (Paragraph 354)

56.The Government should consider how it can learn from its successful climate programmes, and those of other donors, and deliver them more widely across the region. We urge the Government more actively to employ science and technology in its work to combat the effects of climate change in Sub-Saharan Africa. (Paragraph 355)

57.The UK’s CDC Group is a leading development finance institution in Sub-Saharan Africa. It will be central to scaling up investment in the region. (Paragraph 373)

58.Although we understand and support the objective of providing smaller amounts of funding to SMEs in the region, we remain concerned about CDC Group’s investment in private equity funds. We are not convinced that enough has been done to seek alternative ways to invest in smaller companies. (Paragraph 374)

59.It is essential that CDC Group is able to demonstrate the development impact of its investment in Sub-Saharan Africa, to ensure that it generates jobs which have a meaningful and sustainable impact on economic development. (Paragraph 375)

60.Leaving the EU provides an opportunity for the UK to re-cast its trade relationships with African countries and remedy some of the defects in the EU’s Economic Partnership Agreements. We were surprised to hear that no detailed work had yet been done to identify ways in which the UK could offer better access to African exporters than was possible when the UK was in the EU. This gap needs to be filled in the UK government action plan on Africa for which we have called in paragraph 84. (Paragraph 415)

61.There is appetite within Sub-Saharan Africa to improve trade with the UK; the UK should explore these opportunities with countries in the region. African partners are working to develop the AfCFTA and are likely to seek new agreements which are consistent with this planned continental agreement. (Paragraph 416)

62.In its post-Brexit trade policy, the UK should explore ways of giving better access to Africa’s agricultural exports and supporting the processing in Africa of a greater proportion of its agricultural products. (Paragraph 417)

63.UK trade with and investment in Sub-Saharan Africa has flatlined over the last decade. The appetite of UK businesses is uncertain, and a concerted effort will be needed by the Government if it is to deliver on its goal significantly to increase trade with and investment in the region. (Paragraph 430)

64.The UK–Africa Investment Summit was a high-profile beginning to this initiative, but concerted follow-up will be required. The Government should set out the steps it is taking in this regard. (Paragraph 431)

65.The Government must ensure that its provision of export credits is consistent with its commitments to tackling climate change. It should match its announcement at the UK–Africa Investment Summit that it will no longer invest in new coalmining or power production projects with similar commitments on gas and oil. (Paragraph 432)

66.Education is an important UK sector for UK–Sub-Saharan African trade The visa regime for potential students from the region is unduly onerous and requires reform. (Paragraph 433)

67.We welcome the decision to suspend English language tests for visas for Chevening scholars. We recommend that the Government should: move away entirely from English language tests for visas for both Chevening and Commonwealth scholars; expand both of these schemes; and, where English language tests may be required for visas for undergraduate and post-graduate students, they should be carried out in the student’s country of residence, or online. (Paragraph 434)

68.Remittances from the UK to Sub-Saharan Africa are given too little profile in the narrative of the UK’s economic relationship with the region. Remittances from the UK exceed aid and charitable giving to Sub-Saharan Africa, and provide essential economic support. (Paragraph 447)

69.We welcome the Minister’s acknowledgement of the importance of remittances from the UK to Sub-Saharan Africa and the May 2020 UK-Swiss ‘global Call to Action’ on remittances, to address the projected fall in remittances as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. We would welcome more information on the actions the Government is taking to facilitate the sending of remittances to Africa from the UK diaspora through this initiative and to avoid disruption, and whether it is exploring the possibility of remittance matching. (Paragraph 459)

70.The Government should work to lower the cost of remitting money to the region, including the use of its powers over competition policy, consistent with the SDGs. It should review the application of the EU Payment Services Directive after the EU transition period ends and consider how it could support greater competition in the market for money transfer companies in Sub-Saharan Africa. (Paragraph 460)

71.The Government should explore co-funding and support for the AU’s new African Diaspora Finance Corporation. (Paragraph 461)

72.We heard that the UK’s Sub-Saharan African diaspora is not consulted and engaged in a consistent manner. Representatives of the diaspora are an essential resource in delivering the Government’s plan to increase trade and investment with the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa. The Government should embed consultation with the diaspora into policy making towards Sub-Saharan Africa, in particular with regard to trade and investment. (Paragraph 478)

73.The Government should give consideration to how and in what ways it could better encourage diversity on UK boards. It should work proactively with diaspora communities to make progress in this regard. (Paragraph 479)

Peace and security in Sub-Saharan Africa

74.There remain significant challenges to peace and security in Sub-Saharan Africa. These challenges are likely to be exacerbated by wider trends affecting the region, including population growth, weak states, violent ideologies and the climate crisis. (Paragraph 493)

75.Insecurity in the Sahel threatens the welfare of millions of people across the region, and risks spilling over into neighbouring countries. We welcome regional and international efforts to stabilise the region. (Paragraph 521)

76.It is vital that the international response to instability in the Sahel is not overly focused on conflict management, nor overly securitised. To achieve a lasting peace, it will be essential to address the underlying causes of conflict, including climate change and economic inequalities. (Paragraph 522)

77.We welcome the UK’s increased attention to instability in the Sahel, and the Government’s decision to contribute UK troops to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali. However, the Government’s wider strategy in the Sahel is unclear and the UK risks being unable to add value in a highly contested space. We would welcome further information from the Government on its objectives in the Sahel. (Paragraph 523)

78.As the UN Security Council penholder for Somalia, the UK has a position of particular influence, supported by its provision of aid and active diplomacy in support of stability. The UK should continue to support preparations for Somalia’s first one-person-one-vote elections this year—although there is doubt as to whether these elections will now be held—and to engage with its international partners in support of AMISOM. (Paragraph 531)

79.Nigeria faces multiple security challenges. The UK should explore how its security and defence partnership with Nigeria, agreed in 2018, can be utilised to best support stability in Nigeria and the wider region. (Paragraph 542)

80.We welcome Minister’s condemnation of the abduction and continued captivity of Leah Sharibu and other Christian and Muslim school children by Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa, and his assurance that the Government will continue to engage with the government of Nigeria to support urgent action to secure the release of all those abducted by insurgent groups in Nigeria. (Paragraph 543)

81.We are concerned by reports of a deteriorating security situation in Cameroon and of human rights abuses against the Anglophone community, in addition to the closure of schools for four years and the displacement of civilians by the conflict. (Paragraph 554)

82.The UK should work within the international community, including regional and sub-regional bodies, to promote an approach which would ensure the restoration of the long-standing autonomous rights of Anglophone Cameroonians and the end of human rights abuses. Such an approach would need to enlist the backing of key stakeholders, including France. (Paragraph 555)

83.Conflict-driven migration, often from countries already hosting migrants, has a particularly high human cost. The high number of refugees hosted in the region, often for long periods, pose significant challenges for development and stability The Government should continue to explore how it can support Sub-Saharan African countries which host significant migrant communities. (Paragraph 560)

84.Women and girls play multiple roles in conflicts across the region, including as victims, participants, and in governmental responses to insecurity. (Paragraph 569)

85.Women and girls are central to the prevention and resolution of conflict. The Government should continue to champion their rights in its work on peace and security in Sub-Saharan Africa. (Paragraph 570)

86.The UK has been a leader in international efforts to prevent sexual violence in conflict. This work has, however, suffered from a lack of senior political leadership in recent years. The Government should review its work in this area and consider carefully the issues raised in the Independent Commission for Aid Impact’s recent report. (Paragraph 582)

87.We welcome the Government’s support of the use of UN-assessed contributions to fund AU-led peacekeeping missions. We would welcome more information on how the Government plans to use the 2019 UK-AU Memorandum of Understanding to support further security co-operation. (Paragraph 604)

88.The UK and its international partners have too often focused on addressing the immediate consequences of conflict, to the detriment of efforts to tackle the underlying conditions that allow conflict to emerge. The Government should, in its Integrated Review, consider how the UK can best use its resources and influence to develop longer-term strategies to prevent conflict, and above all to prevent genocide, and support regional partners. (Paragraph 619)

89.As part of efforts to support regional partners to take the lead in conflict prevention, management and resolution, the Government should review its approach to military training. It should consider whether the British Army should accompany the militaries it is training on some missions. The Government must be mindful that militaries in the region themselves sometimes contribute to instability and human rights abuses. (Paragraph 620)

90.We reiterate the conclusion of the 2016 report of the International Relations Committee, The UK and the UN: Priorities for the new Secretary-General, on the “critical” importance of pre-deployment training to improve operations and “act as a preventative measure against misconduct”. This is relevant to training for the UK’s partners in Sub-Saharan Africa, and in the context of UN missions. (Paragraph 621)

91.The Government should consider ways to better engage local Sub-Saharan African partners, including civil society groups, in its conflict prevention work. (Paragraph 622)

92.Revisions to the Development Assistance Committee’s rules on ODA to help support peacekeeping efforts have been helpful. There could be value in further revisions to support work on addressing the underlying causes of insecurity in Sub-Saharan Africa, but the Government should be careful in proposing further changes to ensure that the function of ODA remains supporting poverty reduction in developing countries. (Paragraph 630)

Human rights, democracy and governance in Sub-Saharan Africa

93.We recognise that some African countries have had a difficult relationship with the International Criminal Court. We believe that the court remains an important part of the rules-based international order. In this context, we welcome the agreement of the new Sudanese government to cooperate with the court regarding former President Omar al-Bashir. (Paragraph 653)

94.The Government must continue to afford significant importance to human rights in its relationships in Sub-Saharan Africa. At the same time as the UK pursues new economic opportunities and seeks to tackle security challenges, human rights remain critical. (Paragraph 662)

95.The Government should consider support for accountability, human rights, the rule of law and anti-corruption as a package that helps build the necessary conditions for democracy to function in Sub-Saharan Africa. Organisations such as the British Council, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, and UK-based NGOs and charities make an important contribution to this agenda. (Paragraph 663)

96.The Government should seek to use its participation in the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali to promote freedom of religion and belief, LGBTQ+ rights and issues relating to the human rights of women and girls. (Paragraph 664)

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