The British government has announced the initial £30 million (Sh3.9 billion) funding for security and development projects in Africa, in what could be seen as the first step to cement alternatives in the wake of Brexit chaos.
UK Minister of State for Africa Harriett Baldwin announced on Thursday the projects form part of a programme to invest in the continent and strengthen relations with the African Union.
“From our support to observers ensuring free and fair elections in Nigeria and Senegal this weekend to the crucial training of our armed forces in Kenya, the UK’s partnership with African countries continues to help empower and upskill people across the continent; and this funding will allow us to boost those efforts,” she said in a statement released on Thursday by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
The money will be used to train peacekeepers in Kenya, assist in programmes promoting free and fair elections, as well as help implementing the Continental Free Trade Area Agreement to improve intra-Africa business.
The UK signed an agreement with AU Chairperson Mahamat Faki on how the funds will be channelled.
She added: “Our new partnership will also cement our relationship with the African Union, building on growing economic ties to forge new opportunities for young people and reinforce our close bonds.”
The funding could be part of Prime Minister Theresa May’s pledges made during her Nairobi tour last August to support war on terror and bolster business dealings in Africa.
In Kenya, Britain runs a military training centre in Nanyuki called the British Army Training Unit Kenya.
In 2016, Kenya and the UK signed the new Defence Cooperation Agreement worth Sh7.5 billion a year, and it consists of one of Britain’s largest military centres outside the UK.
British trainers routinely offer short-term training to soldiers “to help build the capacity of national military forces, ensuring a number of states across Africa can respond appropriately and proportionally to threats afflicting them such as terrorism, poaching, human rights violations and emerging humanitarian crises”.
Ms Baldwin said the funding will be disbursed in tranches over the next three years and will include programmes to tackle climate change and allow “the UK to support African-led ambitions with British expertise to create more opportunities and more jobs”.
The UK may be reacting to the chaos on how to exit the European Union following the Brexit referendum vote in 2016.
Though voters agreed to leave the union, a definite agreement on how to exit without adversely affecting trade relations has been problematic.
In Africa, the UK faces competition from China, which is offering loans without political conditions and is involved in most infrastructure projects.
During her tour of South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria last year, Ms May said her government will not attempt to counter Chinese hegemony, but will offer a better alternative.
“So, while we cannot compete with the economic might of some foreign governments investing in Africa, what we can offer is long-term investment of the very highest quality and breadth,” she said in Cape Town.
In Nairobi, she argued that 220 British firms have directly invested in Kenya: in finance, insurance, energy, agriculture and other areas worth £2.7 billion, creating jobs.
She also argued the UK imported (Sh38.5 billion) more than it sold to Kenya (Sh30 billion).
Some of these exports were done by UK firms operating in flower firms. The Chinese on the other hand sold Sh390 billion worth of goods to Kenya.