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UK government announces US$1.9 billion in initiatives at first UK-Africa Investment Summit

The UK government announced £1.5 billion (US$1.9 billion) worth of initiatives to boost trade and investment, create jobs and mobilize an additional £2.4 billion in private investment during the first UK-Africa Investment Summit. £400 million (US$523 million) of initiatives relate to the UK's international development assistance budget. 

The summit was opened by the UK Prime Minister and attended by high-level representatives from 21 African countries, UK businesses representatives and government ministries, and members of the UK royal family. The summit was publicized as the start of a new, post-Brexit partnership with Africa based on trade, investment, shared values, and mutual interests.

Development assistance programs announced include:

  • A new facility to develop local currency bonds in Africa with the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation (IFC);
  • £200 million to support basic trade infrastructure in southern Africa;
  • £38 million for a Climate Compatible Growth Fund to help African governments access UK expertise to enable a shift to more sustainable power sources; 
  • £45 million to improve digital access and skills and support female employment; and
  • New funding to boost the flow of private financing into African projects supporting girls’ education, healthcare and climate resilience.

The summit was criticized by some for its focus on the UK's trade opportunities, for lack of transparency, and for insufficient involvement of civil society. Critics also questioned whether it was appropriate for Department for International Development (DFID) to have invested a reported £15 million (US$20 million) in hosting the summit, given its focus on trade. 

The Labour party’s shadow international development secretary, Dan Carden, wrote a highly critical piece in the New Internationalist magazine, noting that the summit indicates UK development assistance policy will not be driven by evidence of how to best fight global poverty, but by "naked free-market ideology and the interests of British business".

News article - Devex

Op-ed - The New Internationalist

Press release - UK government

Press Release - DFID

United Kingdom

UK bans use of international development assistance for coal projects

During his speech at the UK-Africa Investment summit Prime Minister Boris Johnson commited to stop using UK development assistance and export credits for coal-related projects in partner countries. Environmental groups have welcomed the announcement while also calling for the government to go further and commit to not funding oil and gas related projects.   

News article - Inews

United Kingdom

To understand ramifications of potential UK development assistance merger, look to Australia's history, warns former Australian Foreign Affairs Minister

Alexander Downer, former Australian Foreign Affairs Minister, argued against the amalgamation of the Department of International Development (DFID) with the UK Foreign Office, a move currently being considered by UK government officials.  He reccomended that DFID, if placed under the Foreign Secretary, should remain a separate institution.

Downer drew a parallel between the UK's possible restructuring of its development assistance mechanisms and the 2013 merge of Australia's development assistance agency, AusAID, and its Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

This move, Downer says, did not improve Australia’s foreign policy or its delivery of development assistance, as proponents claimed it would. Instead, it involved substantial disturbance and the loss of many talented development officials. Downer was Minister for Foreign Affairs for 12 years. In that role, he was responsible for Australia's development assistance program.

Letter to the editor - The Times

Australia United Kingdom

Report shows majority of UK government departments failing to meet ODA transparency targets

A new report by Publish What You Fund, an NGO focused on transparency in development finance, reports that the majority of UK government departments responsible for disbursing official development assistance (ODA) are not on track to meet the government's 2020 transparency target. 

In 2015, the UK government announced a new cross-government strategy for administrating ODA. To counteract concerns that channelling less money through the Department for International Development (DFID) would reduce transparency, the government committed to ensuring that all departments disbursing ODA would have a 'good' or 'very good' ranking according to the Publish What You Fund Aid Transparency Index by 2020.

The report, commissioned by the UK government to track progress, shows that only 3 of the 10 relevant departments are meeting the target: DFID, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) is rated as the least transparent. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) was rated as 'fair'. 

Report - Publish What You Fund

News article - Devex

United Kingdom

Amid ongoing debate over governance of international development, UK considers scrapping International Development Minister post

According to several UK newspapers, the UK government is considering transferring management of the Department for International Development (DFID) to the UK’s foreign minister and dispensing with the cabinet post of International Development Minister.  This differs from an earlier cited plan for a full merger DFID and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), which received considerable backlash.

Removing the International Development Minister post and giving the Foreign Minister dual responsibility for both departments is seen as preferable by many NGOs, as it allows DFID to retain its expert staff. There are, however, concerns that this change would link UK development assistance too closely to foreign policy, and commercial and political objectives could exert greater influence over development funding decisions.

The reforms are expected to be part of a wider shake-up. An official announcement is likely in February, following the scheduled departure of the UK from the European Union (EU) on January 31, 2020.

News article - Devex

United Kingdom

UK government promotes British investment in African initiatives for healthcare and agriculture

The UK government has released a series of Youtube videos highlighting how British companies, often with the help of UK development assistance, are investing in enterprises across the African continent.

The videos highlight companies such as NMS Infrastructure, which helps to build hospitals in Africa, and Blue Skies, a company supplying  UK retailers with fresh fruit through sustainable investments in Ghana, Egypt, South Africa, and Côte d’Ivoire.

The videos are part of the UK government's aim to promote British investment in Africa and have been released ahead of the UK-Africa Summit in London, on January 20, 2020.

Press release on healthcare initiatives - UK government

Press release on fruit suppliers- UK government

United Kingdom

UK development assistance oversight body criticizes efficacy of government initiative against sexual violence in conflict

The UK’s development assistance oversight body, the Independent Commission on Aid Impact (ICAI), has published a review criticizing the government’s initiative to prevent sexual violence in conflict.  The ICAI review notes that while the initiative has achieved some successes, including the creation of an international protocol to secure convictions, it's effectiveness has been limited by lack of political leadership, and insufficient funding and staffing. The ICAI assessment found that the initiative suffered from a lack of overall strategy and would have benefited from an additional focus on learning and systematic inclusion of survivors in the process.

The initiative was launched in 2014 by the then Foreign Secretary, William Hague, and Angelina Jolie, Hollywood actress and Special Envoy to UNHCR. 

News article - The Guardian

Full report- ICAI

United Kingdom

DFID's latest evaluations report shows major focus in the last year on assessment of private sector and economic development programs

The UK Department for International Development (DFID) has published its 2018-2019 annual evaluation report. The report reveals that the largest share of evaluations focused on two thematic areas: private sector development (27%) and economic development (27%). Geographically, the majority of evaluations focused on Africa (54%).

The report noted that following a review of DFID’s evaluation approach in 2019, the department is focusing on four key shifts:

  • More real time monitoring of country level program outputs and beneficiary feedback;
  • More support to adaptive programming at country level;
  • Increased focus on a limited number of strategic, rigorous evaluations at central/regional level; and
  • Better co-ordination across evaluations, through the use of evidence gap maps, and improved sharing of findings.

Evaluation Annual Report 2019-2019 - DFID

United Kingdom

Effectiveness of UK development assistance called into question amid escalating quarrels between critics and supporters

The UK government’s decision to consider a potential merger between the Department for International Development (DFID) and its Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has reignited the debate on the effectiveness of UK development assistance with critics and supporters both clamoring to be heard. A raft of highly critical articles in the Daily Mail and Daily Express newspapers make the case for radical reform of UK development assistance, claiming UK taxpayers' money is being wasted with funding going to corrupt or wealthy countries. 

 In contrast, supporters of UK development assistance -- representatives from UK NGOs, religious groups, and the current and some former international development ministers -- have highlighted the UK's successful track-record on development. They argue that maintaining DFID as a stand-alone department is necessary to ensure its expertise is retained. 

Commentators expect the government to announce its decision on whether DFID might be merged with the FCO in February of 2020 after the UK has exited the European Union on January 31. The potential merger is being considered alongside a series of other potential reforms aimed at improving government delivery. 

News article - The Guardian

News article - Daily Mail

News article - Daily Express

News article - The Telegraph

United Kingdom

UK government seeks to expand its definition of development assistance to include some defense spending

The UK Prime Minister’s office is reportedly considering redefining how the UK counts its development assistance contributions, to enable the inclusion of some defense spending.

According to the article, Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s Chief Special Adviser, proposes deviating from the international definition of official development assistance (ODA) set by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). A more expansive definition would make it easier for the UK to achieve its targets on development assistance and defense spending. As part of a commitment to NATO, the UK has committed to spending 2% of its gross domestic product on defense. 

News article - Daily Express

United Kingdom