UK-Africa Summit: global Britain, or new colonialism?

UK-Africa Summit: global Britain, or new colonialism?

The UK-Africa 2020 Summit was held in the UK on January 20. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Prince Harry visited the UK on Monday to prepare for global changes resulting from Brexit.

The UK-Africa Investment Summit is part of a series of ‘Africa-Plus-One’ summits. The first such summit was held with France in 1972.

Great Britain announced its goal to become Africa’s largest investor among the G7 countries by 2022, hoping to become the continent’s leading development partner.

Read more about the possibility of the UK’s success and its main competitors on UWI.

Main outcomes

The Department for International Development (DFID) announced programmes totalling £370 million, including support for African countries in the development of green energy, digital technologies (access to internet etc.) and infrastructure projects, as well as financing for education and healthcare, etc. “The announcement came as British and African firms announced £6.5 billion worth of commercial deals today, including: A £25 million investment by Matalan in Egypt to launch eleven new shopping outlets. GSK are investing a further £5 million in their operations in Egypt. Diageo is making a £167 million investment in Kenya and East Africa to support the sustainability of breweries.”

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#NEWS – Harry attended the UK Africa Investment summit. At the request of the British government, Harry met the Prime Minister of Morocco, the President of Malawi and the President of Mozambique 💙 Swipe left for more photo 💙 #princeharry #dukeofsussex #africa #meghanmarkle #duchessofsussex #harryandmeghan #archie #archieharrison #sussexfamily 📷👉🏻 @pa

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London also announced a new venture to create a rich pipeline of infrastructure projects through the participating parties (Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda and the African Development Bank).

During the summit, 27 commercial deals were signed off on. A number of massive companies were present including Aggreko, Airbus and Rolls Royce. Oil and gas contracts were also signed.

The UK announced the “Growth Gateway,” a service to help African, UK and other international businesses/

Declaration on coal

Johnson announced that Britain is ending its promotion of thermal coal mining and coal power plants overseas. London willd instead focus on supporting a switch to low-carbon energy sources.

“We regularly generate more of our electricity from renewables than from fossil fuels, regularly. And we have almost entirely weaned ourselves off coal. But there’s no point in the UK reducing the amount of coal we burn if we then trundle over to Africa and line our pockets by encouraging African states to use more of it. Is there?

We all breathe the same air, we live beneath the same sky, and we all suffer when carbon emissions rise and the planet warms. So from today, the British government will no longer provide any new direct official development assistance, investment, export credit or trade promotion for thermal coal mining or coal power plants overseas.”

He proposed a transition to low or zero-carbon alternatives for Africa, which will help “to extract and use oil and gas in the cleanest, greenest way possible.”


Johnson told African leaders that Britain would be more open to migrants from their continent after Brexit is concluded.
The parties also discussed:

-Garbage deals

– A $53 million investment in the port of Mombasa

Womens’ empowerment

Colonialism in new colours

Although Johnson’s speech attempted to address the people of Africa as equals, the speaker’s eloquence itself can be traced British colonialist arrogance. British deposit models and trade patterns still reflect an old, paternalistic view of Africa.

Johnson said: “We have no divine right to that business. This is a competitive world. You have many suitors. Some of you may be off shortly to sample the delights of Davos. But look today at what we have to offer, look around the world today and you will swiftly see that the UK is not only the obvious partner of choice. We also are very much the partner of today, of tomorrow and decades to come. Because the truth is, in 2020 the UK is the ultimate one-stop shop for the ambitious, growing international economy.

And of course we want to build a new future as a global free trading nation, that’s what we are doing now and that’s what we will be embarking on, on the 31st January this month.”

Meanwhile, Britain realizes that it is losing influence on the continent in a highly competitive environment and has decided to do what it can to take advantage of its exit from the European Union.

Johnson continued, saying that “Africa is the future and the UK has a huge and active role to play in that future.”

“We want the UK to be the investment partner of choice for African businesses and their governments. Our world-leading expertise in finance, tech, and innovation should make us the obvious choice and mark the UK and Africa out as natural partners for mutual prosperity,” added International Trade Secretary Liz Truss.

Among the priority countries of the post-Brexit United Kingdom are Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa and Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya and Uganda.

Global Britain

Given that Britain today produces almost nothing and has become more of an educational and financial centre, it requires resources, supplies and control over conditional “colonies.” Behind the country’s leaders’ beautiful words about partnership there is a cruel reality: London, especially after Brexit, wants to strengthen itself and again become the wealthy island of the global ocean.

The term “global Britain” has become popular in recent years. This terms showcases the geopolitical and economic strategy (in its purest form globalist, while at the same time remaining isolationist and selfish) of the United Kingdom today. This concept was first discussed in the National Security Strategy and the Strategic Defence and Security Review in 2015, and has become increasingly relevant. Johnson made an unobtrusive reference to the idea in his speech to the African Summit.

Brexit and British influence in Africa

Britain is afraid it was losing Africa… and for a good reason: it is telling that only 16 African leaders attended the Summit, out of a possible 54 (far fewer than at the Africa-China events).

Realizing what it stands to lose, since the 2016 referendum, the UK has been increasing its diplomatic presence in Africa: opening new embassies, replicating the royal family visits in the media, mobilizing soft power, expanding economic ties, strengthening military presence (see other UWI articles for more details).

The new domestic political realities of Britain will likely have an impact on geopolitics. In the new world, the isolated but self-sufficient country will be separated from continental Europe while at the same time remaining connected by global networks with other regions of the world (some experts call this network policy “new colonialism”).

Soft power

The British government will not be able to provide the same level of financial support to Africa as China or the US, but it can make the most of its cultural ties and provide support in key areas, including governance and institution building. Great Britain’s strength is in soft power, including its diplomatic presence across the continent. That is why the BBC opened its largest office outside the United Kingdom in Nairobi in 2018, netting £289 million from the government.

It is important to consider the language and education of many African dignitaries, many of whom studied in the UK and then returned to senior positions in the country. In addition, English was common on the continent and legal systems were based on English law.

China’s competition

London considers China to be its main competitor in Africa. China currently ranks 5th in terms of investment in Africa. According to the UK Department for International Trade, bilateral trade with Africa in the second quarter of 2019 ended at $46 billion. At the same time, Africa’s bilateral trade with China, the continent’s largest trading partner, was $208 billion in 2019.

No amount of summits will help make Britain competitive with China. The last summit in 2018 in Beijing was attended by twice as many African presidents as the UN General Assembly in New York.

Over the past decade, the Chinese have also been more active in diplomacy. For example, between 2008 and 2018, their delegations visited 43 of the 55 African countries, while British leadership visited only 23. Prior to Teresa May’s tour, London’s last major visit was in 2013.

China’s secret is that it does not impose its vision on African countries internal structures over details such as human rights and womens’ empowerment. China acts pragmatically to enable government deals, it helps its companies feel safe investing in African countries, cuts tariffs and implements domestic reforms.

Britain wants to tell the Africans how and what they should do, while China is adapting and simplifying trade procedures at the government level.

The fear of a “Chinese threat” is often discussed, but London has not forgotten about its other major competitors, particularly Russia. A recent summit in Sochi brought together more than 40 leaders from across the African continent, putting the events at the center of global attention.


In general, African trade with the UK is actually in decline. Today, only 2% of UK imports of goods and services come from Africa. The fact that not even half of African leaders attended the London summit speaks for itself.

The African continent is home to the largest number of poor people in the world: over 700 million. Research centres point out that by 2050, a quarter of the world’s population will be living in Africa and that the continent has begun to show growth over the past year. The continent is still shaken by civil wars, the constant threat of coups and humanitarian emergencies: yet, despite this, the material rich continent has a chance to achieve economic prosperity and become a center of power in the emerging multipolar world. To that end, it is time, first and foremost, to rid ourselves of colonialist principles and build diplomacy and trade on an equal basis.

This includes preventing London from treating the continent as a profitable resource while the children of the countries’ leadership (both in Africa and around the world) attend prestigious schools where they absorb Anglo-Saxon culture.

United World International

Independent analytical center where political scientists and experts in international relations from various countries exchange their opinions and views.

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June 2024