CHOKED in debt, disease and poverty, no doubt the notice by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson that the Foreign Office will swallow up the Department for International Development (DfID) is the worst news for Africa.

DfID is a British government department, which was established in 1997 with an obligation “to promote sustainable development and eliminate global poverty.” Fragile states in particular and low-income countries in general remain on top of DfID’s overseas aid agenda especially in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Definitely, DfID is a critical partner to Africa in tackling global poverty and disease, and any shake up in the administration of British overseas aid will have a direct bearing on Africa’s marginalized population. As a result, African governments ought to be prepared for turbulent times heads as the British aid package might shrink and will now be skewed in a manner that advances Britain’s commercial, security and diplomatic aims, which of course is a total departure from the previous rationale.

“We give as much aid to Zambia as we do to Ukraine, though the latter is vital for European security. We give 10 times as much aid to Tanzania as we do to the six countries of the western Balkans, who are acutely vulnerable to Russian meddling,” said Prime Minister Johnson as he justified his decision in the House of Commons recently. Also, the Prime Minister added that British Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab would make the final decision about which countries should receive aid.

From the foregoing, it’s clear that the British diplomatic gloves are off and it’s now a ‘fist fight’. And I can predict that under the revised order, to access aid, “fragile states” and low-income countries, of which most African countries fall under, would strictly be required to satisfy the British government’s demands for transparency, accountability and good governance in the broader aim of securing British commercial, security and diplomatic interests. Literally, this is the British version of “America first” but is Africa ready?

Without doubt, this pronouncement once again puts Africa’s governance methods on the global spotlight and has the potential to subject millions of vulnerable Africans who depend on British aid to indescribable poverty, disease and squalor since their access to aid will now depend on their political leadership’s rapport and compliance with British diplomacy and tolerable governance standards. So the only way out for Africa is to ensure that it puts its house in order by setting up a self-sustaining development agenda if that is possible or simply commit to satisfying the new demands of the British aid card, which are definitely in the offing.

By Former State House press aid George Chellah


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