Press release

“Aid must not be used to simply oil the wheels of British business”

Commenting on Prime Minister Theresa May’s speech this morning in Cape Town, pledging £4 billion in support for African economies, Christine Allen, director of policy and public affairs at Christian Aid, said:

“Aid must not be used to simply oil the wheels of British business, but instead should prioritise the needs of those it is intended to benefit – the poorest and most marginalised.

“Africa has indeed suffered from lack of investment. But it is important to remember that, historically, it is domestic investment and public finance that has created the type of development that best serves those in need.

“Christian Aid believes UK investment into Africa must meet key principles, including creating decent jobs, a near-zero carbon economy, increased tax collection to pay for precious public services and reduced inequality. Small and medium sized businesses are the engines of innovation and job creation across Africa and we should be seeking to support such enterprises and avoid any possible ‘crowding out’.

“Africa as a continent is already facing some of the worst impacts of climate change. Any economic development path must be clean and green. The City of London has a poor track record of investment - banks on the UK delegation are among the largest lenders to polluting coal plants - so the PM should ensure there are clear guidelines to bring about rapid divestment from fossil fuel infrastructure and instead support renewables and promote energy access for the poor.

“Aid has been marred for years by donor countries putting their own priorities ahead of the needs of the countries and people who should benefit from that aid. This distorts the purpose of aid and while there may be some areas of overlapping interests, progress does not always involve ‘win-wins’. It would be wrong to put British interests first in ways that harm the poorest. Any attempts to do so will raise questions about how aid policy is being developed and in whose interests.

“It's far from clear that huge multinational companies need incentives and subsidies from the UK aid budget to invest in Africa - we must be very careful aid is not used to help export failed investment models such as public private partnerships that are costly, create debt and do not meet the needs of the poor. The purpose of aid, enshrined in law, is to tackle poverty.

“The answer to Africa’s problems must be rooted in global solidarity and self-determination, not in a renewed form of imperialism.”