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Vol 46 No 14

Published 8th July 2005

Unkindest cuts

Whitehall promoted the big push for Africa but is now cutting back its diplomatic staff and budgets there

As British ministers congratulate themselves on hoisting Africa fleetingly to the top of the international agenda at the Group of Eight summit on 6-8 July, the British foreign service is cutting back its diplomatic operations in Africa. The government's capacity to monitor and guide African policy - on such delicate matters as the arms trade - will be constrained by sharp cuts in the two Africa directorates in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Their budget is frozen at the level of 2004 and the staff is being reduced. Since January 2004, six Africa desk jobs have been lost, a 25 per cent cut. Three top experts are going, two of them to retirement; one, Ann Grant, ex-head of Africa Command, was the FCO's most experienced Africa diplomat and now works for a bank.

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