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confidentially speaking

The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 18th March 2021

Britain picks its African allies

Blue Lines

The Integrated Review of Britain's Foreign and Defence policy, announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on 16 March, carries mixed messages for Africa. Beyond its tilt towards south-east Asia, Britain wants to boost relations with a narrow band of African countries. The review ranks Africa second to the Indo-Pacific region as a 'dynamic' player and promises to 'revitalise' economic relations with the continent.

British officials have been saying privately that the trade and investment focus will be on a select group of states but until now not been explicit about which ones. South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia and Ghana are the priorities when it comes to 'our shared prosperity goals, our democratic values and our security interests', with Nigeria and East Africa singled out as partner priorities. All bar Ethiopia are former colonies of Britain and all are already major trading partners with it.

Kenya is promised a 'Strategic Partnership' focused on trade, climate change and security cooperation. Elsewhere, Egypt and Morocco are mentioned only in terms of climate change policy, while Sudan and Somalia are priorities for security and counter-terrorism.

Just as significant are the omissions. The review makes no mention of Zimbabwe or Congo-Kinshasa, both countries where Britain thought it had, or wanted, influence. Nor do any other francophone or lusophone countries figure in the plan.