The British Council – Written evidence (ZAF0012)

18 December 2019



  1. Summary
  2. British Council
  3. British Council in Sub-Saharan Africa
  4. Strengthening resilience
  5. Driving prosperity
  6. Creating the conditions to allow the full participation of women and disabled persons in society
  7. Promoting and protecting an equitable and inclusive rules-based international system
  8. Conclusions and recommendations

1. Summary


1.1 In 2013 the African Union announced its 50-year vision for future generations and the continent, laying out seven ‘Aspirations’. In February of this year, HMG and the African Union released a Joint Communique outlining the basis for their partnership and support of the African Union’s 2063 Vision for a ‘peaceful, integrated and prosperous Africa’. The British Council works with UK Government to ensure the UK’s presence in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is reflecting the demands of the region, whilst bringing value to the UK. The work of the British Council in the region is most closely aligned to and supportive of two out of the seven Aspirations laid out in the vision, but also contributes more holistically to the other listed:



1.2 British Council’s longevity in SSA makes it a well-known and trusted partner in the fields of culture, education and language learning. It supports shared priorities and a relationship based on mutuality and partnerships.


2. British Council


2.1 The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create friendly knowledge and understanding between the people of the UK and other countries. We do this by making a positive contribution to the UK and the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust. This enhances the security, prosperity and influence of the UK and, in so doing, helps make the world a better, safer place.


3. British Council in Sub-Saharan Africa


3.1 British Council has offices in 19 countries across SSA: Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Its work is not constrained by country borders and it creates opportunities and builds connections across the continent. Since launching its strategy, it is increasing reach and impact in new African countries through partnerships, digital and flexible business models. This means that it will also have impact in countries where there are no offices such as Angola, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, DRC, Eritrea, Gabon, Guinea, Lesotho, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.


Image 1: British Council offices in Sub-Saharan Africa


3.2 British Council’s sectoral focus aims to provide young Africans with opportunities to fulfil their potential, whilst at the same time facilitating more profound and meaningful engagement with counterparts in the UK through:

(1) English

(2) Skills and enterprise,

(3) Strengthening civil society and communities

(4) International examinations and qualifications

(5) Higher education and science


4. Strengthening Resilience


4.1 The British Council believes resilience can be defined as a set of capabilities that equip people to survive and thrive in the face of hazards. Resilient individuals are ‘self-starters’ who take advantage of and create opportunities for themselves and others.


4.2 The British Council also works with young people across the region to make connections, provide skills and create opportunities so that they are less likely to become marginalised. Those particularly at risk are displaced peoples, where consistency of education is crucial and language is likely to be a barrier. UNICEF (2016) has recently argued that language is a factor in conflict because it is both a tool for access to cultural and material resources, and an expression of identity.


4.3 We have identified five interconnected ways in which language is an essential component in enhancing the resilience of individuals, communities and institutions.


  1. Developing home language and literacy: creating the foundations for shared identity, belonging and future study.
  2. Access to education, training and employment.
  3. Learning together and social cohesion: language-learning activities as a basis for developing individual resilience, ensuring dignity, self-sufficiency and life skills.
  4. Addressing the effects of trauma on learning: language programmes as support and as a means to address loss, displacement and trauma.
  5. Building the capacity of teachers and strengthening educational systems: building institutional resilience through professional training for language teachers.


5. Driving Prosperity


5.1 Africa’s working-age population will grow by approximately 450 million people—about 3 per cent per annum—between 2015 and 2035 but only 100 million of these can hope to find decent work[1]. Three-quarters of new entrants to the labour market will work in self-employment or in microenterprises.  Interviews with African employers show that their main complaint about youth is that they lack “employability” skills, not technical skills[2].


5.2 This is also backed up by British Council research. The British Council polled 11,000 young Africans and found the potential benefits of SSA’s growing youth population are unrealised; two thirds of non-student youth are unemployed, discouraged, or vulnerably employed. Even when jobs are available, youth often do not have the skills required by employers, despite gains in education access over the past several decades. Women are particularly impacted, often facing greater barriers to accessing opportunities and earning equal pay.[3]


5.3 Tackling this skills and employment gap among the youth bulge is therefore critical for the region to be able to reap its demographic dividend and protect against a crisis of the educated unemployed.


5.4 Ensuring that young men and women are given entrepreneurial, technical, vocational and practical employable skills is key to British Council’s work on skills, social and creative enterprise. Access to business development support services and capital for the growth of social enterprises ensures a better transit to productive employment and entrepreneurship, as job seekers and job creators, leading to inclusive prosperous economies.


5.5 To achieve this, we draw on the UK experience and apply it to the local context: 1) working with skills and training institutions to deliver technical and vocational training for the youth in the key growth sectors 2) providing access to business development support services to help the youth scale up and sustain their social enterprises and entrepreneurship, supporting decent employment.








6. Creating the conditions to allow the full participation of women and disabled persons in society


6.1 In order to achieve systemic and prolonged growth, it is key to ensure that those groups that are traditionally marginalised are able to meaningfully contribute to decision making. The British Council works across Sub-Saharan Africa to enable groups such as women and disabled persons to fully participate in society.













7. Promoting and protecting an equitable and inclusive rules-based international system


7.1 The British Council supports local governments’ justice and anti-corruption goals. The case study below demonstrates a positive working model of how it works with local governments on their anti-corruption and justice agendas.


8. Conclusions and recommendations


8.1 The British Council supports both UK Government and the African Union to achieve their shared priorities. It contributes to a modern relationship with the Continent based on equal partnership, reciprocity and one that addresses the challenges and opportunities for both SSA and the UK.


8.2 Engaging with the growing youth population is crucial in order to reap the demographic dividend and will be instrumental in shaping the future of the continent and its relationship with the UK. Partnerships to drive prosperity and strengthen resilience must be designed with the local context in mind to protect against problems, such as a growing cohort of the educated unemployed.


8.3 The British Council encourages a continued focus and work in education, enterprise and creative collaboration. In all programming, the British Council acts on under-representation and encourages enabling the full participation of women, disabled persons, and other traditionally marginalised groups in society.


                                                                                                                Received 18 December 2019

[1] Foresight Africa 2019, Brookings Institute

[2] Youth Unemployment in Sub-Saharan Africa 2014, Deon Filmer and Louise Fox

[3] Next Generation Africa Overview, British Council 2018