Skip to main content

Africa: Partnerships

Volume 832: debated on Thursday 14 September 2023


Asked by

To ask His Majesty’s Government, further to the Foreign Secretary’s speech on 1 August, what plans they have to deliver successful UK partnerships with countries in Africa.

My Lords, His Majesty’s Government are committed to developing long-term, diverse partnerships and to strengthening our offer to African countries to help reduce poverty, tackle climate change and progress towards the UN’s sustainable development goals. Our offers provide principled partnerships, working with likeminded allies, where appropriate, on issues that matter to our African partners. Together, we will build long-lasting partnerships with African countries and institutions that will lead to a free, safer, more secure, more prosperous, healthier, greener and open continent.

My Lords, I welcome the Foreign Secretary’s commitment to partnering with African countries to assist them to reach their full economic potential. How will the Government use the SDG summit taking place next week to set out clearly how they will overcome the linked challenges of climate, nature and development, in order to be able to keep to their commitment?

I thank my noble friend for that question. The UK Government are committed to developing long-term, diverse partnerships and to strengthening our offer to Africa to reduce poverty, tackle climate change and reinvigorate progress towards the UN’s sustainable development goals. The year 2023 is the halfway point of the SDGs and, despite significant progress, sub-Saharan Africa is the most behind. The SDG summit provides an important opportunity for the world to recommit to delivering SDGs.

My Lords, is the Minister aware of the Wales-Lesotho partnership, under the name Dolen Cymru? For 20 years, it has helped establish and then develop educational and health links with the people of Lesotho. It is supported by the Welsh Government. Do the UK Government co-ordinate their work in Lesotho with that organisation? If the Minister does not have the answer to hand, perhaps he could write to me.

I thank the noble Lord for his question. It will not surprise him to hear that that is not something I have in front of me. I will be more than happy to take it back to the department and to write to him, as he suggested.

My Lords, I have a particular concern about Sudan. The conflict there has now fallen off the media headlines. The cuts in overseas development aid have made a big impact there. What will partnership look like in the light of those cuts? We hope that they will one day be restored. Secondly, how are the UK’s diplomatic efforts in Sudan being reinforced at a time of greatest need?

I thank the right reverend Prelate for his question. In May this year, the Minister for Development and Africa announced that the UK would provide £21.7 million in humanitarian aid for Sudan as part of our contribution at the UN Horn of Africa pledging summit. This followed an earlier announcement of £5 million to help meet the urgent needs of refugees and returnees in South Sudan and Chad. The UK is also working through the African Union-led core group to end the hostilities, to push for urgently needed humanitarian access and to secure a viable peace process.

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that one of the most recent, striking acts of African partnership has been the decision of the G20 to admit the entire African Union—all 55 members—to its councils? This is a dramatic move and a reminder of how the world has changed. Will he outline how he thinks it will affect the priorities of the G20? Has he noted that 21 of the new G20 members are Commonwealth members, with several more applying? Will he undertake that we will give maximum support to the rest of our fellow members if they wish to form a caucus within this new group?

I thank my noble friend for his question. I think it will make a substantial difference to the ability of Africa’s voice to be heard at the highest possible level. The Government continue to work closely with all countries in Africa. It is to be hoped that this will deliver the changes we need.

My Lords, there was a great deal of emphasis in the Foreign Secretary’s speech in Lagos on population change. It will increase to 2 billion by 2050. Some 25% of the population of Africa will be under the age of 25. There was no comment, either in the speech or in anything that the Minister has said, about the threat that this rapid population change will pose to the economic, social and political order. Will the Minister tell the House what the UK intends to do in its relations with African countries to address this threat, particularly in the context of climate change?

I thank the noble Baroness for her question. With regard to the final point made by the noble Baroness about climate change, the UK is contributing $1.8 billion for South Africa’s Just Energy Transition Partnership of the total $8.85 billion being provided by the international partners group. This includes France, Germany, the US, the UK and the EU. The UK is also backing a new project with Senegal, announced in June, which is worth €2.5 billion. We continue with our commitment to support countries with ambitious energy transition plans. We believe that is one of the ways in which we can help those countries.

My Lords, since this is the first time I have asked the Minister a question, I welcome him to his brief. For partnerships to be effective, does he agree that we need reliable and sustainable relationships? It is regrettable that in eight years of this Government there have been eight Ministers for Africa, and the last time a British Prime Minister made a bilateral visit to an African nation was five years ago. At that time, Theresa May promised that

“by 2022, I want the UK to be the G7’s number one investor in Africa”.

It is not. We have broken that promise. Does the Minister agree that, if we are to have partnerships, we first need to keep our promises?

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, for his opening comments. I agree that it is vitally important that strong partnerships are established, and lasting relationships built. On trade, where partnerships are very strong, UK export finance has provided more than £3.5 billion for projects in Africa since 2020. The UK was the first non-African country to sign an agreement with the African continental free trade area. This is a signal of our readiness to generate new trade and investment opportunities for Africa and for UK business. The Prime Minister will personally host the UK-Africa summit, which aims to create opportunities for mutual prosperity, inclusive growth and job creation.

My Lords, just thinking of the African situation alone, is it not somewhat counterintuitive that the United Kingdom branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association should be having its budget restricted and its work made more difficult when such a positive contribution could come from there to bring some extra democracy to the continent of Africa?

I thank my noble friend for his question and for his work within this organisation. It is vitally important that it continues to do that good work. Clearly, budgets in some cases have been reduced. I do not have the details in relation to that organisation regarding its budget, but I will certainly take that back to the department and write to him in the coming weeks.

My Lords, the Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi on 4 September evidenced the determination of African countries to work together to set out a positive agenda for driving green growth. However, the debt burden and rising interest rates increasing the cost of borrowing from capital markets are inhibiting the huge potential for green growth in Africa. What are the Government doing across Whitehall with international partners to reform multilateral development banks so that the growth potential is fully realised?

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Collins of Highbury, for his question. The UK is a partner for African countries that are disproportionately affected by climate change. I will give some examples of the work that we are doing in relation to this, which demonstrates our commitment to supporting those countries. We have ambitious energy transition plans, providing £1.8 billion of international partners group finance, and we are delivering on our commitment to double international climate finance to £11.6 billion by 2025-26. The UK has supported the “room to run” guarantee to the African Development Bank, which is expected to unlock up to £2 billion-worth of new financing for projects across the continent and £200 million to the African Development Bank and the climate action window.