The UK must learn from France in Africa?
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office know that they need a much bigger footprint in the Sahel but how to do it?
The UK has been adjusting it’s development related policies over the last two years with more emphasis on security and business development and slightly less on older developmental models (DFID will publish on this quite soon). We need more joined up thinking. So this government is on the right track but are they listening closely enough to what Africans want and need most? The French seem to get it right more often than us or so quite a few African countries like Mali and Nigeria seem to think. The Foreign Affairs Select Committee in the House of Commons have published a report on Extremism and Political Instability in the Sahel and West Africa, the Chairman of that committee, Sir Richard Ottaway goes to the heart of the matter:
Meanwhile, the region’s population continues to grow more rapidly than anywhere else in the world. Understandably, more and more young people are beginning to leave in search of a better life, but often with tragic consequences. A minority are drawn into radicalism or religious extremism. My committee’s message is that demography needs more attention as a foreign policy issue rather than solely an international development issue.
We agree with this bigger view, the conversation must be more about Foreign Policy and with more cooperation between government departments: FCO, DFID and BIS. How can UK businesses who have expertise in those African countries affected by insecurity, not least in the high risk areas of the Sahel and the Gulf of Guinea support FCO and regional economic goals to reduce insecurity and promote growth?
Read more of Sir Richard’s timely observations and read the whole report here: There is a stark mismatch between the UK Government’s vision of economic, political and security engagement in Africa’s Western Sahel-Sahara region and the very light diplomatic footprint it actually has on the ground.