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Aid cuts for ‘priority’ African region “outrageous and hypocritical”

23 September 2021

New official figures show that British aid to several conflict-hit East African countries is being slashed by a half or more despite the Foreign Office describing the region as having “clear national strategic interest” for the UK. The cuts affect countries including Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Somalia and South Sudan.

As well as conflict, the countries affected suffer from humanitarian crises and the effects of climate change. The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, responsible for British aid, says all of these challenges are “priority” areas for targeting UK aid.

Last year, the then-Foreign Secretary wrote to the International Development Committee – the body that scrutinises UK on behalf of Parliament - to state that direct country-to country (or ‘bilateral’) UK aid would be provided where the UK’s economic, security and development interests align.

It is widely accepted by development professionals and diplomats that human development and security often go hand in hand. The attribution of development aid and the deployment of security assistance, to promote stability, are often linked.

East Africa is described by the Foreign Office as a region “where the UK has a long history of engagement, a unique role”. In at least two of the countries affected by the severe aid cuts – Kenya and neighbouring Somalia - the British army conducts military training of local forces.

In the case of Somalia, a full-scale war against extremism has been taking place for over a decade. In Mozambique, in recent years, an extremist group has caused widespread unrest in the north of the country. Both countries suffer from displacement of civilians and extreme development challenges.

However, figures for direct (‘bilateral’) UK aid show the following cuts:



2020/2021 Financial Year Allocation (£m) 

2021/2022 Financial Year Planned Allocation (£m) 







South Sudan 















Source: Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, Annual Report and Accounts 2020-21 

The Chair of the International Development Committee, Sarah Champion MP, said:

“This is outrageous and hypocritical. These cuts completely undermine the stated objectives of the government that say East Africa is a priority region for aid.

“The region is suffering from a series of acute humanitarian crises, together with ongoing complex development challenges. These are exacerbated by conflict and the impact of climate change. UK aid is needed more than ever.

“What’s more, the government has just completed a major review of its strategic security and foreign policies. That was supposed to reassure us it has a grip on these things.

“But where is the strategy here? Where is the rationale? We call these countries ‘priorities’ for UK aid, and in some cases even send our troops to help train their security forces. Then we turn round and slash the development money they get. It just doesn’t make any sense”.

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Image: Parliamentary Copyright