UK’s five offers for East Africa to come out stronger from current challenges

Monday February 08 2021
Work together.

Working together we can come through the current challenges and seize the opportunities of the future — for the benefit of us all. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGA


This is an extraordinary moment for all nations as we wrestle with huge, interlinked challenges, including the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change, economic uncertainty and a range of security threats. To meet these challenges and come out stronger on the other side, we need to work together more closely than ever.

The UK has a unique offer for East Africa — and that is what I have been discussing during my visit to the region last week, meeting leaders in Kenya, Sudan and Ethiopia.

The first element of our offer must be working together to tackle Covid-19. The UK has been at the forefront of global efforts to develop a vaccine and we used our influence with the World Bank to secure $12 billion of funding to get vaccines to developing countries.

I saw this partnership in action at Kenya Medical Research Institute labs in Nairobi, where UK and Kenyan expertise is coming together to do vital testing on Covid-19 vaccines, as well as vaccines for diseases like Malaria, Rift Valley Fever and Ebola.

Second, we are deepening our trade partnerships and supporting countries to build free and open economies. Last January we held our Africa Investment Summit in London, delivering commercial deals between UK companies and African partners worth over £6.5 billion, spanning sectors including infrastructure, energy, retail and tech. These are all on track.

We have signed trade agreements with 15 African countries. In December we signed a trade agreement with Kenya and that deal is open for other members of the East African Community to join. There are enormous opportunities for African businesses in the UK, as a significant market for goods from across the region. For example, when we drink tea or coffee or buy flowers in the UK, there is a high chance that they come from East Africa.


Third, we are building our partnership on security, which is a pre-condition for prosperity. In Kenya I saw how British troops are working alongside African peacekeepers to tackle Al-Shabaab’s murderous campaigns and remove the improvised explosive devices which destroy the lives of innocent Somali men, women and children.

In Sudan we are supporting the process of bringing an end to decades of conflict and making the transition to stability and democracy. I reaffirmed our support for this vital transition with Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and Sovereign Council Chair Lt-Gen Abdel Fattah Burhan. I was also humbled to meet some of the Sudanese activists whose courage set the country on the path to democracy.

UK officials were deployed earlier this month to selected polling stations in Uganda to observe polling and inform our understanding of how the processes of election day ran. We urge the Ugandan government to thoroughly and swiftly investigate all complaints raised.

In Ethiopia, as well as discussing the country’s reform agenda, I visited a humanitarian staging post in Gondar which delivers aid to conflict-stricken Tigray. It was heart-breaking to see the piles of humanitarian supplies for people who have lost everything. I discussed with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed the imperative for unfettered humanitarian access to Tigray. Those responsible for human rights violations — on all sides — must be held to account, if we are to build a lasting peace.

The UK will continue delivering aid direct to Tigray while also supporting Sudan in accommodating refugees from the conflict.

Fourth, we want to work together to tackle climate change, which is vital for security, resilience and sustainable development in the region. The impacts of climate change are already hitting East Africa hard, with 2020 bringing floods, droughts, and locust swarms.

The UK was the first major economy to make a legal commitment to reach net zero emissions and double our international climate finance. We are encouraging leaders to bring forward ambitious, game-changing commitments when we host the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November this year. That must include supporting Africa nations’ work towards resilience and adaptation, and building green, clean and thriving economies.

Fifth, the UK is a longstanding leader in development — the World Bank said the UK is the only country to meet the needs of the world's poorest during the pandemic. As ‘Global Britain’ we want to go further, supporting vital causes which can change lives for the better around the world. Our support for girls’ education is a good example.

As the largest donor to major global education funds we support millions of girls across Africa to get a proper education.

Later this year Prime Minister Boris Johnson will co-host, with Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, a conference to boost funds for the Global Partnership for Education. Our target, working with our partners, is to get 40 million more girls into primary and secondary school and get one third more girls reading by the age of 10 by 2025.

I want to continue to build our partnerships across the region, on all of these vital issues, in the spirit of respect and friendship. We share many aims and values — from supporting open, democratic societies to tackling climate change and championing sustainable development.

Working together we can come through the current challenges and seize the opportunities of the future — for the benefit of us all.

Rt Hon Dominic Raab, MP, is UK’s secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs and First Secretary of State.