UK pledges over $190m in aid on East Africa tour

Britain is seeking to strengthen trade ties with the African continent after slashing the foreign aid budget last year and leaving the European Union.

UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab wrapped up a three-country tour of Kenya, Sudan and Ethiopia on Friday after pledging millions in aid to various projects in the region.

Raab pledged almost $55m to Sudan to provide 1.6m people with “direct financial support” and almost $73m to finance affordable housing in Kenya.

His trip to Khartoum on Wednesday is the first visit to Sudan by a British foreign secretary in over a decade.

It demonstrates the UK’s support for Sudan’s transition to democracy after the ouster of Islamist autocrat Omar al-Bashir in 2019, the embassy said.

Raab met with Sudan’s Prime Minister, Abdalla Hamdok, and the chairman of the ruling council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.

The meetings add further weight to the prime minister’s drive to bring Sudan “out from the cold” by reengaging with multilateral institutions and rebuilding bilateral ties.

Sudan hosted the US treasury secretary earlier this month where Washington committed to a lending deal with Khartoum, that will help it repay outstanding debt to the World Bank and secure a debt relief programme to avert economic collapse.

The UK’s foreign secretary met Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta on Wednesday and committed to supporting his initiative to provide 100,000 affordable homes.

Raab also announced a further $65m to support climate change mitigation strategies in Kenya.

“We have a strong partnership with the UK …and our meeting has sought to reflect on these areas of cooperation,” said foreign affairs cabinet secretary Raychelle Omamo.

In the final leg of his tour, Raab visited a World Food Programme warehouse in Ethiopia’s northern city of Gondar that is responsible for distributing humanitarian aid such as food and sanitation supplies to those displaced by the Tigray crisis, the Foreign Office said on Saturday.

“The UK is providing £11.4 million ($15.6m) of humanitarian support – with money for healthcare and clean water, as well as shelter, nutrition kits and protection for children. This is in addition to a £94 million package to support Ethiopia’s response to the triple threats of Covid-19, climate change and locusts, which are having a devastating impact on the country,” it said.

The aid pledges to Africa come after Britain slashed its foreign aid spending commitment to 0.5% of gross domestic product from 0.7% last November, sparking uproar from development agencies.

Raab’s rapprochement also comes as the UK strives to forge stronger ties with key markets in Africa after leaving the EU.

The two countries signed a trade deal in December that upheld previous EU arrangements like duty-free access for Kenyan exporters to the UK market.

Raab’s trip coincided with the UK’s Africa Investment Conference on Wednesday where Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it is “my ambition for the UK to be Africa’s investment partner.”