Mark Higham, former Director of the Africa Centre in London – Written evidence (ZAF0020)


I am writing in response to your committees call for evidence on the best ways for the UK to work with the nations of Sub-Saharan Africa as a former Director of the Africa Centre in London (I am also involved in developing the Africa Town project and am a member of the Africa in London Steering Group under the auspices of the Mayor of London). 


Building trust with African countries is key to the future trade and cooperation between the UK and Africa and so the issues raised in the National Audit Office (NAO) Report on the Handling of the Windrush situation needs urgently addressing as it suggests the scale of the problem in African countries could dwarf that of the terrible situation faced by those who came to the UK from the Caribbean. This should include providing an equitable solution for those affected because that is the right thing to do, but also so that it does not blow up and derail relationships at a key stage in the discussions and roll out of improved trade relations. Notable quotes from the NAO report from 13 months ago include: 

"The Department [Home Office] has identified that it holds records on a total of around 171,000 cases of Commonwealth nationals aged over 45 who may have been detained or removed since 2002. Taking into account the 11,800 cases already reviewed, this means the Department has not reviewed around 160,000 les relating to non-Caribbean Commonwealth nationals (Figure 5). The Department has decided that reviewing cases relating to other Commonwealth nations would involve disproportionate effort. Data from the taskforce is not a suficient basis on which to decide that reviewing other Commonwealth cases would be disproportionate. It also has not presented any analysis of the potential costs of the exercise relative to the potential bene ts to individuals affected, to substantiate its assertion about the proportionality of the effort required. This could reasonably be seen to indicate a bigger problem. Given this, we find the Department’s decision not to investigate further surprising.”  NAO Report on the Handling of the Windrush, Dec 2018

“The treatment of people who had a legitimate right to remain in the UK, raises grave questions about how the Home Office discharged its duty of care towards people who were made vulnerable because of lack of documentation. It failed to protect their rights to live, work and access services in the UK, and many have suffered distress and material loss as a result. This was both predictable and forewarned. The department is taking steps to put things right for the Caribbean community, but it has shown a surprising lack of urgency to identify other groups that may have been affected.” Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, Dec 2018

While at the Africa Centre in 2017, we held an Africa & Diaspora Forum launched by the Liberian Ambassador to UK the conclusion was there should be support for: 

From this and other feedback during my time at the Africa Centre and since, I believe that the £160m Africa Town project is a key one for the UK because: 

As a result I believe that the Africa Town project should be supported by HMG to the fullest extent. 

I hope this is helpful for your inquiry and I am happy to expand further on any of these points. 

Yours sincerely, 

Mark Higham, Consultant 

Received 15 January 2020