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Sub-Saharan Africa: Public Services and Governance

Volume 788: debated on Tuesday 23 January 2018


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how much Official Development Assistance they will spend on supporting sustainable public services and good governance in sub-Saharan Africa over the next two years.

My Lords, we know that the way in which power is shared and used in many sub-Saharan African countries can provide a major boost to or constraint on the provision of essential public services and inclusive growth. The UK is working to support more inclusive societies, with open and accountable institutions and peaceful political processes that are better able to meet the needs of their citizens and sustain development over the longer term.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply and draw attention to my entry in the register of interests. Does he acknowledge that, in the past few years, humanitarian assistance has doubled, the commitment to private sector development is due to increase dramatically, more development spending will go to departments other than DfID and the value of the pound has fallen by 20%? In these circumstances, can the Government give an assurance that they will maintain their commitment to sub-Saharan Africa, and in particular to sustainable services, especially in health, education, equality, social security and good governance, because these are absolutely essential to delivering the sustainable development goals and ending absolute poverty?

I can certainly give that assurance. Over the past few years, the amount going to overseas development assistance has steadily increased in sub-Saharan Africa in those areas of governance. I think the total is now in the region of £1.1 billion. That is very important because, as the noble Lord knows from his time as chair of the International Development Committee in the other place, it is essential to get that governance right so that economic growth can occur and countries can eventually stand on their own two feet.

My Lords, given the central importance of good governance to conflict prevention and conflict resolution, will the Government ensure that the objective of the sustainable development goals, in particular goal 16, which the UK did so much to include in the SDGs, will be reflected in the forthcoming security review, in the wider interests of security for the UK and elsewhere?

My Lords, the pursuit of SDG 16, on peaceful and inclusive societies, is extremely important for the process. One of the things that we recognise throughout Africa—and, indeed, throughout the world—is that, by and large, conflicts are manmade and their impact on the female population is worse. Therefore, the Secretary of State announced last week a national action plan to engage women in peacebuilding and peace security, focusing on two or three countries initially in sub-Saharan Africa because women, as well as being victims, can also be part of the solution to negotiating sustainable peace in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere.

My Lords, both noble Lords in their questions raised the important issue that an increasing amount of ODA is being allocated to departments other rather than the Minister’s own. I know that he can be extremely proud of DfID’s record of transparency and accountability, but can the same be said of other government departments? What are the Government doing to ensure that the FCO, which funds a lot of these programmes, follows the same level of transparency as DfID?

That is very important. Following on the programme that was initiated under the previous Government, we set up the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund, for example, which is a cross-government approach that recognises that the issues are often not just development or humanitarian but involve security, and, in the Middle East or in sub-Saharan Africa for example, there is a diplomatic and political part to it as well. So it makes sense to have all the departments working together, but they must do so in a transparent way that meets the required standards set out in the aid strategy and is also overseen by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact.

My Lords, given both the recent political instability and the current consultation on reforming the constitution in Burundi, and the forced displacement of more than 400,000 people, how do the Government intend to support sustainable public service through ODA in countries such as Burundi where conflict is preventing the basic functions of governance?

I pay tribute to the right reverend Prelate for his long-standing work in Burundi and his advocacy for peaceful solutions. We are supporting initiatives there. We are helping the refugees, 400,000 of whom, as he said, have fled to neighbouring countries —Tanzania and Rwanda, for example. We are also supporting democratic institutions leading up to the elections, which we hope will take place in 2020 and offer some hope for stability in that country.

My Lords, is not Zimbabwe a good example of what the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, was suggesting? The new President of Zimbabwe is looking for friends. Are we active enough in the Foreign Office at the moment in seeking ways of introducing longer-term development to balance humanitarian aid?

When the opportunity came, after the former President Mugabe left office, one of the first there was Rory Stewart when he was a joint Foreign Office and DfID Minister. I know that the new Africa Minister, Harriett Baldwin, will be looking to make a visit early on. It is precisely the type of country that has been locked into instability for too long, and yet has immense potential in terms of education and its natural resources, which can be liberated.

Is the Minister aware that there appears to be a growing consensus among international donors that development is stalling in sub-Saharan Africa because of a failure of governance and weak institutions? Does the Minister agree that ODA should prioritise institutional reform over good governance, providing the capacity to deliver change, following the fundamental principles of the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness set out as long ago as 2005?

Those principles are actively supported by the African Union, which is meeting in Addis this week. It has on its agenda the eradication of corruption and the upholding of democratic principles. Of course, it will always be better if it makes the case rather than anybody else. I would also say that we should remember that some of the fastest-growing economies in the world last year were in sub-Saharan Africa, such as Ethiopia and Tanzania. We also need to focus on the immense economic potential in those countries.