the future looks bleak under Liz Truss as political myopia reigns

the future looks bleak under Liz Truss as political myopia reigns

Britain has a new prime minister Liz Truss. For African leaders wondering what a new administration could mean for UK-Africa relations, the view must be rather grim.

British politics have been completely turned inward for the last two (conservative post-Brexit) prime ministers. Theresa May as well as Boris Johnson. He shows little sign of change. Looking at the shifts in the UK’s relationship with African countries over the past three decades, I don’t see much of a prospect for African issues to be on the political agenda. And there is little chance of an active African policy, whether on a continental or regional level, until the next general election.

Elections must be held by January 2025but it will most likely be sooner.

Aid levels are unlikely to be restored. It is also unlikely that British aid will be turned over to an independent government agency. In addition, British politicians are unlikely to look beyond domestic and European crises. As a result, Africa is likely to feature in high-level British politics only when it is in the narrow interests of the government.

However, UK policy will still have an impact on the continent. Breaking promises due to climate emergencies and continuing aid cuts will take a real toll on many vulnerable African states. Unfortunately, their voices are unlikely to be heard in return.

Change of priorities

Africa and the UK lack the close (some consider too close) formal political, economic and military ties of Franco-African relations. However, Africa has been a much larger part of Britain’s political conversation in the past.

Establishment of an independent ministry of aid – Department of International Development – Labor government in 1997 was a key platform for building relationships.

It also played a key role in raising African politics and issues within the UK government. With both prime ministers Tony Blair (1997-2007) and Minister of Finance Gordon Brown (2007-2010), interested in the prospects and development of Africa, close ties were established. Relations with civil society representatives have also been strengthened through the Department for International Development.

Transition to conservative government in 2010 (originally as part of the coalition) little has changed. Indeed, the increase in aid spending to 0.7% of gross national income – an increase of 1 billion pounds sterling – expansion of the Department for International Development. At that time, other departments focused on internal affairs faced serious cuts in their budgets.

First Conservative Minister for International Development, Andrew Mitchell (2010-2012), had longstanding interests on the continent. He developed close relationships with key leaders including Paul Kagame of Rwanda. He also maintained close ties with, among other things, the Ethiopian government. Prime Minister David Cameron (2010–2016) was also interested in Africa, indicating his desire for a strong UK global role.

After the Brexit referendum in 2016However, Africa has eluded its shaky but tangible place in British political discourse. Liquidation of the Department for International Development and its inclusion in the new Department of Foreign, Commonwealth and Development in 2020and subversive aid to British self-interest led to the departure of many experienced staff members who maintained relationships with African political and civil society leaders.

It also removed Africa’s key ally from the UK debate. Recent discussions around Africa have focused on the expulsion of some migrants. to Rwandahardly the basis of high-level relationships.

And it’s hard to imagine past governments remaining silent on the Ethiopian crisis, as the most recent conservative administration did.

The farm offers little chance for change

Prior to her elevation to the post of Prime Minister, Truss was Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and development minister. She had little interest in development, anti-poverty politics, or building relationships based on mutual respect and dialogue. In fact, in my opinion, it contributed to the undermining of British aid to British diplomatic and economic interests.

Her world tours as a minister did not include visiting Africa.

It is true that agreements have been signed with the South African Customs Union and Mozambique. in 2019. But they offer little comfort in exchange for a new and strong friendship.

More importantly, British politics and the attention of the new prime minister will be firmly riveted on the domestic cost of living and the inflationary crisis, the potential new conflict with the UK’s European Union neighbors (one of the UK government’s own initiatives), and the conflict in Ukraine. Next on the agenda will be China and trade deals with the rest of the world.

It is unlikely that Britain’s limited attention will leave much room for African issues and politics.

An argument can be made that African issues can be heard in government, given that most of the highest government institutions will for the first time be led by ministers with African heritage. new chancellor, James Cleverly, has a mother from Sierra Leone; Department of Foreign, Commonwealth and Development will lead Quasi Kwartengwhose parents emigrated from Ghana in the 1960s, and who wrote (slightly critical) book on the history of the British Empire; and the parents of the new Minister of the Interior, Suella Bravermanarrived in the UK from Kenya and Mauritius.

Never before have there been so many people in leadership positions with direct links to Africa.

However, in my opinion, this is unlikely to have any significant significance. None of the ministers has much experience in promoting closer or deeper ties with the continent. And despite Kwarteng’s criticism of the legacy of British colonial occupation, all three have joined the Conservative Party’s culture wars, which view criticism of the glorious British past as a betrayal.

Danger Ahead

There is a real danger that the UK will pursue a policy that actively harms African countries. Restoring UK aid to previous levels is becoming a vanishingly small possibility, which means cuts to vital welfare programs for some of the world’s most vulnerable communities.

Calls for renewed investment in fossil fuel production and possibility of backtracking on emissions pledges in response to the energy price crisisundermine efforts to mitigate the impact of the climate emergency.

African leaders and civil society organizations hoping that the new broom will lead to new relationships are likely to be disappointed. British political myopia and stares will continue, and global engagement will be framed as something to be done where it benefits the UK. Africa may have to wait for a new government and a resurrected Department for International Development to restore a strong and close relationship.

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