What is Theresa May’s new approach to African aid?

PM arrives in Cape Town intent on overtaking the US by 2022 as the largest foreign investor in Africa, as part of a three-day trade mission

Theresa May Africa
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Prime Minister Theresa May has announced a plan to use the UK’s aid budget to increase investment in Africa in the wake of Brexit.

The PM is currently at the start of a three-day trade mission to South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya, where she intends to build ties with African nations in the run-up to the UK exiting the EU.

In a speech in Cape Town today, she stated her wish for Britain to overtake the US to become the G7’s leading investor in Africa by 2022, the London Evening Standard reports.

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May said she was “unashamed” about Britain benefiting from its foreign aid spending. She warned that “greater conflict and an increased susceptibility to extremism” would emerge if jobs were not created on the continent.

“I can today announce a new ambition: by 2022 I want the UK to be the G7’s number one investor in Africa, with Britain’s private sector companies taking the lead in investing the billions that will see African economies growing by trillions,” she said.

“I am unashamed about the need to ensure that our aid programme works for the UK. So today I am committing that our development spending will not only combat extreme poverty, but at the same time tackle global challenges and support our own national interest.

“I want to put our development budget and expertise at the centre of our partnership as part of an ambitious new approach – and use this to support the private sector to take root and grow.”

The Daily Telegraph says there is “no doubt” that Africa – the world’s second-largest continent with the world’s second-largest population – “presents an enormous opportunity when it comes to trade”, adding: “Its economy is due to exceed $5.6 trillion within the next decade, and its workforce is expected to surpass China’s by 2035.”

However, The Independent says that May’s commitment to deploy aid money to support the private sector is likely be questioned by charities and NGOs already concerned about the government’s approach.

The UK’s overseas aid budget totalled £13.9bn in 2017, an increase of £555m on its 2016 budget, according to the BBC.

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