The dynamics in S.Africa-UK relationship - CNBC Africa

The dynamics in S.Africa-UK relationship

Southern Africa

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South Africa's and the UK's relationship has changed for the better despite a dark history. PHOTO: Getty Images

“Historically, of course, there is the legacy of colonialism, which has cast a long shadow on how Britain operates in Africa. However, recently we’re seeing an increase in the focus on trade compared to aid and security. It’s taking us away from the idea that we should be spending money on aid simply as a way to try and bring Africa out of poverty and looking to some other means to do so,” Tom Savory, senior consultant at Africa Practice, told CNBC Africa.

“The private sector is increasingly being seen by parliamentarians and a lot of academics in the United Kingdom and in the West as a way to try and help bring Africa out of poverty, and also of course to expand Western economies.”

South Africa, like many other African countries, have placed focus on attracting investment rather than aid, as in some cases, aid comes with conditions that, according to Savory, have not always been favoured by the recipients.


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“There’s strong criticism relayed over the years with the conditions that have come [with aid], and in fact many people would say that aid has actually entrenched historical elites and not actually delivered on the promises over a number of decades,” Savory explained.

“The United Kingdom is very proud of the record that we’ve got in aid, and the current conservative and liberal-democrat coalition, [and] is very pleased to be spending 0.7 per cent of gross national income on aid. However, the way it’s spent is what’s important.”

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The United Kingdom (UK) government has since been looking to invest into indigenous companies in the continent or in companies that are partnered with British firms.

“Primarily we’ve seen this through the high level prosperity partnerships, which are five countries that have been chosen by the British government for a particular focus. These countries are seeing the UK Department of International Development joining forces with the UK trade and industry, and also the foreign office,” said Savory.

“[This is] to spend money on a new way that’s not about putting pressure on governments to spend money in a certain way, but it’s about empowering the private sector to make profit, create jobs, and to improve the livelihood of Africans.”