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Using overseas aid to curb ‘illegal’ migration and organised crime?

by | Oct 4, 2018 | Uncategorized | 66 comments

In August 2018, Theresa May announced that UK overseas aid would be refocused to ‘crack down on illegal migration and organised crime and to support fragile countries in Africa’. She made the statement during a three-day trip to Africa, and you could say that her intended audience included African governments as well as the UK public.

What do you think of her statement? What might be the implications of tying aid to issues like ‘illegal’ migration and organized crime? Why do you think she made this proposal? Who might be for this idea, and who might be against it?

You can read the Guardian article here, but I’m also pasting it below.

May vows to use overseas aid to curb illegal migration and organised crime

by Dan Sabbagh

Theresa May promised that a refocused UK overseas aid programme would go beyond protecting vulnerable people to crack down on illegal migration and organised crime and to support fragile countries in Africa as she detailed her plans to reprioritise development spending.

May said she was talking about a new strategic approach to development which amounted to “not just what we can do to help the most vulnerable people across the world and help lifting people out of poverty, but how can we ensure there is a long, longer term element by working with governments and others to ensure good government in stability in those fragile states”.

The prime minister, who is on a three-day trip to Africa, said she wanted Britain to use its aid programme “to support a major new crack down on illicit finance and organised crime, deploying expertise in financial centres around the world” – and to counter “illegal migration, modern slavery and trafficking in people”.

Her speech came a day after she signalled that while the UK remained committed to spending 0.7% of its GDP on overseas aid, its priorities would be refocused to counter political and terrorist threats. The UK is one of the heaviest spenders on overseas aid, much to the chagrin of the Conservative right, which argues the money would be better spent domestically.

May willvisit Nigeria and Kenya after South Africa, but she has faced criticism for being the first UK prime minister to visit the continent for five years, after David Cameron attended the funeral of Nelson Mandela in 2013. She said she was looking forward to a greater engagement with Africa. “What I’m talking about today is a new partnership for the future recognising the challenges that we both face.”

Development charities sounded a note of caution about May’s proposals. Mark Goldring, the chief executive of Oxfam GB, said: “It’s an uncomfortable fact that extreme levels of poverty are increasing in the countries she is visiting despite recent economic growth. It is therefore vital that the UK promotes growth that supports the world’s poorest first and foremost, and that UK trade interests don’t inadvertently increase inequality.”

The UK also announced it had signed an agreement in principle to roll over EU trading arrangements with South Africa and other southern African countries after Brexit. It represents the first of 40 international trade agreements that the UK has confirmed it would continue after Brexit.


  1. Eleanor Hurley

    A very interesting article, and an intriguing take on May’s speech. The idea of refocusing aid into a law enforcement strategy can be taken in many ways. Some may see it as an external force attempting to police African countries, others as a guardian to protect them. However the aid agencies should not have to be used in this way, as they claim that humanitarianism should be neutral.

  2. Christine Larot

    Theresa May stating that overseas aid will be used to help curb illegal migration and organised crime in fragile African countries is definitely a positive action . However, by going beyond protecting individuals and trying to stop crime would mean more money would need to be spent. The Conservative right would argue that more money should be spent domestically rather than overseas, so would be against this action. By spending more money on overseas aid in Africa it may not necessarily stop illegal migration and organised crime.

  3. leila benarous

    While May’s statement may initially seem like a step towards the further development of African countries, it is clear that the choice to focus on tackling issues such as illegal migration and terrorism is one that inadvertently benefits the UK.Therefore, I question whether these specific issues are being prioritised by our government over providing aid because reducing poverty in African countries offers no large economic benefit to the UK. Economically beneficial based development is a similar idea to what I came across in Naomi Klein’s article on ‘The rise of Disaster Capitalism’ Where in she explains how west funded development in many countries tends to have some kind of financial intensive behind it.

  4. Ysabel Hannam

    I think it is very interesting and telling of the current political climate, that the focus on UK aid is going to move towards illegal migration and organised crime. The topic of illegal migration in particular and migration in general, has been covered in the news a lot, and with Brexit and the European Refugee crisis, illegal migration and organised crime are a clear concern in UK politics, and therefore it is likely high up on the Conservative agenda to be seen to be controlling, managing these areas and supporting other countries that endeavour to do the same. By refocusing aid in these areas, I think, highlights the UK’s priority of its own interests rather than other issues that are likely to be more pressing or important in wider Africa, for example, women’s rights, resource distribution or strengthening infrastructure.

    International aid is normally associated with projects that are more altruistic, in that they help countries deal with issues that that country is facing which may not obviously affect the country giving aid, for example, efforts to protect people from and treat malaria. This is not something the UK faces but many other countries do and international aid supports efforts to eradicate this disease. Using international aid to “crack down on illegal migration and organised crime” seems less altruistic as these effect the UK more obviously. “Cracking down on illegal migration and organised crime” also seems to echo old and current tactics in the UK and US that monitor people’s bodies (especially those marginalised) and limit spaces they are able to enter.

  5. Ellen Kingston

    the question that springs to mind, is how does May intend on executing a development plan which reduces the level of organised crime and illegal migration, whilst ensuring that greater disruption isn’t caused?
    It would seem that without a well informed cultural and historical sensitivity to the issues within the countries that such action is being carried out, the political climate could be altered for the worse. Given that there also appears to be UK trade agreements at stake, i would imagine that the ‘expertise deployed in financial centers around the world ‘are unlikely to carry such an awareness.
    If May wishes to fashion herself as a philanthropic aid-funding leader, whom simultaneously ensures the economic stability of the UK following the uncertainty of brexit, she should be cautious that ‘going beyond’ helping the worlds most vulnerable does not mean their welfare is placed as inferior to her own image.

  6. Elena Marian

    While I do think the focus on longer term development by working with the governments is welcomed, to me it seems that the shift of emphasis in her discourse from the alleviation of poverty to actions against illegal immigration and organised crime reflects a wider concern with these issues in Europe and the US. What I am suggesting is that this reprioritisation does not seem to come from a genuine wish to ‘help countries from West Africa develop’ (whatever ‘help’ and ‘develop’ means) but rather from the fear that terrorists from Africa or more generally ill-intentioned illegal migrants from the continent would eventually end up in Europe. What about diseases, poverty, education, human rights, pollution? Her new approach looks more like a plan to keep migrants away, whereas the welfare of African people from all layers of society is sidelined.

  7. Laura Frampton

    May’s refocusing of the UK oversees aid programme makes me question where the government draws the line between aid and investment (or whether it does at all)? This article makes the entanglement of humanitarianism and politics blindingly obvious. May’s goals of cracking down on illegal migration, and becoming the largest G7 investor in Africa by 2022, are hardly surprising and reflect the mantra of a Brexit Britain; frantically closing its borders, while simultaneously desperately searching for allies in trade.

    To me, a focus on illegal migration, terrorism and organised crime are not reflective of what I imagine to be typical humanitarian concerns, such as; education, agriculture, infrastructure. I wonder how much May’s spending will actually be noticed or felt by the people it is meant to be helping. While I understand it would be unrealistic to expect government’s aid spending to be entirely non-political, I find myself sympathising with Mark Goldring’s comment that it is ‘vital that the UK promotes growth that supports the world’s poorest first and foremost, and that UK trade interests don’t inadvertently increase inequality.’

  8. Mikael Chaudary

    More hypocritical Tory drivel – they constantly harp on about the importance of British autonomy but still clearly recognise the need to exercise soft power such as this. There is no doubt that almost every penny of British aid will ultimately benefit (private) British interests or be squandered by feckless governments. On paper we ought to be proud of committing almost 1% of our GDP to foreign aid, but the reality is that the top down model requires a radical overhaul if, as taxpayers, we want our money to go to those who are in desperate need of it.

  9. Elisabeth McCormick

    It seems positive that the UK is committed to spending money on overseas aid, yet I find the focus of illegal migration and organised crime interesting. In light of the fact that Macron’s investment in Africa was strategic, May will have to show how such investment will create positive results for the UK in order to keep the extreme right of her party happy. Could it be possible then that this move has an ulterior motive?
    The Prime Minister’s speech could have been construed as condescending. May is investing money in countries, with the belief that the UK will be able to tackle issues such as modern slavery and trafficking better than the authorities within those countries. Similar to the arguments against capacity building discussed in the lecture, there is an undertone that UK knowledge of dealing with such problems is superior, taking a form of neo-colonialism – of Western ideas of right and wrong being exported through development work.

  10. Lucille Corby

    My immediate reaction to this article was to question what Theresa May meant by ‘cracking down’ on illegal migration and how she plans to do this. To me, this suggests making borders more hostile and scrutinising people who are travelling from countries that are typically the origin of such illegal migrants, which is very problematic. It makes more sense to me that the root cause be addressed – why are these people in a position whereby they are so desperate that they are forced to migrate illegally? Another element of her statement I found questionable was that she claimed that her aim was to ‘ensure good government’… should she really be able to decide what constitutes ‘good government’ and who is she to enforce her ideas of what this is upon other governments? I would argue that although on a surface level the intentions appear to be good, if we dig a little deeper we would perhaps find that there is an element of pushing Western ideals of how governments and society should be run, without really considering what would be best for these individual countries – and who are we to decide what is best for them anyway? It also appears to me that rather than trying to do good for these countries, Theresa May is simply trying to address problems that could then go on to affect the UK (such as illegal migration and terrorism), so really it’s a strategy for self-protection in the guise of a noble kindness and support towards other countries.

  11. Melissa Crane

    Considering relationships with Africa have been somewhat neglected by the UK over the last few years, this would appear to be a positive step. It is difficult however to imagine the refocusing of aid into law enforcement, both being very different areas. Smith and de Mesquita (2011), demonstrate how aid workers being hauled into political agendas has often had an undesirable outcome, it is not unusual for political strategies to result in aid becoming ineffective. May is undoubtedly making an attempt to strengthen security relationships before departing from the EU, this would appear to be a move that prioritises the agenda of the UK, rather than assisting Africa with pressing issues such as disease and distribution of resources. Hopefully May’s attempts will have some positive effects for Africa, but it is difficult to avoid viewing this issue with cynicism and caution.

    Bueno de Mesquita, B., & Smith, A. (2011). The dictator’s handbook: Why bad behavior is almost always good politics. New York, N.Y.: PublicAffairs.

  12. Daisy Courtauld

    Global politics today must be approached critically to analyse the motivations behind governmental action. As Foucault says, we live in an age of irony, where it is assumed that politicians are lying to us.

    I commend May’s commitment to addressing structural issues, such as state instability, and the need to produce a long-term approach (in an era when politicians seem to live in the short-term, thanks to a desire simply to be re-elected). However, this emphasis on state stability is clearly a self-interested one, when considered in light of the continuing uncertainty over the terms of the Brexit deal. The Conservatives need to look beyond Europe to start forging trade relations, despite this potentially increasing inequality, as Mark Goldring warns.

    Furthermore, rather than really unpacking the issues that encourage people to migrate, she is only focusing on ‘illegal’ migration, which has become a buzzword in British politics with the assumed negative connotations. In the fast-paced era we live in, people often don’t have time to really move beyond the trigger words found in news headlines, like illegal migration and terrorism. Thus, politicians adopt this language to promote the illusion that they are working to protect and benefit British citizens.

  13. Soriyah Carnegie

    I think this article, as well as the speech in question are very interesting, both in their use of language and the very core of May’s speech; in many ways I think it draws attention to the issues that ‘aid’ grapples with so often.

    As we discussed last week, Aid pursuits are often done in such a way that those engaging with it are able to portray the aid as apolitical, partly through the de-historicising of current socio-economic conditions. Although the ‘aid’ in this context is explicitly political (with the use of organisations like G7 etc), it remains de-historicised. There is no question as to how and why countries such as the ones in question were led to be in such predicaments: there is no mention of colonial pasts and the very current exploitation of resource extraction in West Africa by Chinese and American corporations. Perhaps if these kinds of aid pursuits were being conducted in the historical contexts of the current socio-economic conditions of these countries, as well as without the erasure of the current exploitative activities, it may not be considered ‘aid’ but rather ‘reparations’.

    I also think this article and May’s speech inadvertently shed light upon the issues that aid doesn’t deal with. By not dealing with the root cause of the issues at hand (government corruption, political disenfranchisement, especially as she is liaising with government leaders etc), these aid pursuits become nothing more than the standardised, non-contextualised aid packages that they send to all non-western nations, and with it, notions of the west and the rest and the cartesian dualisms that such models are dependent upon.

    Above all of this though, I think the most patronising and frankly enraging aspect of this article was the idea that May wants to aid in ‘lifting people out of poverty’? What?

    -As of September 2018, over 5 million children in the UK are said to be living in impoverished conditions.This is part of the 14 million people living in poverty in the UK.

    -Tory austerity policy has been linked to over 100,000 unnecessary deaths since its implementation due to public funding cuts to health and social care.

    – By 2020, the poorest 15% of British people are set to lose just under 10% of their income, whereas the richest 15% are going to lose under 1% of theirs.

    Who exactly is being lifted out of poverty?

    The Tories are exceptionally dexterous in their othering of poverty. They appear to love the idea of helping these poor ‘others’ out of poverty and setting them up to be more like us. Which is interesting considering the increasing rates of poverty in the U.K. with teachers and NHS workers suffering pay freezes and increasing number of parents skipping meals to feed their kids.

    I think the socio-economic and political state of our country is embarrassing and entirely unnecessary, and to try to lead and contribute to developmental aid projects in other countries, while we’re contending with such gargantuan domestic issues is patronising, both to the countries in question and to those of us bearing the brunt of the failed economic and social policies that we’ve been subject to. These aid projects are an interesting and ineffective distraction to the car crash Tory policies have left in their wakes.

    Her whole party can do one.

  14. Gwen Baynham

    At a first glance this article seems to be promoting a positive development for such a fragile countries in Africa. However, these bold statements seem quite strategic with Brexit deals currently in motion. The article concludes that the UK have “signed an agreement in principle to roll over EU trading arrangements with South Africa and other southern African countries after Brexit”. This suggests that tackling these issues of illegal migration and organised crime will not only be beneficial to these suffering countries but is also in the best interest of the UK.
    Attempting to reduce organised crime will in turn result in less risk of terrorist threats which would would be just as advantageous for Theresa May to protect her country and those who are in trade. Subtle hints of a Brexit negotiation throughout the article seem to suggest that the redevelopment is strategically prioritising the safety of UK when entering into trade deals with Southern African countries as oppose to having the safety of vulnerable people at the forefront of the aid programme. Brexit deals are under constant scrutiny by the British public, so by May turning her attention to overseas aid work seems to be a way of glossing over this intricate process.

  15. Jonathan Boyd

    What I find most about May’s speech, and the coverage of it, is the rhetoric that surrounds it. Illegal immigration and organised crime are pressing matters but are perhaps more of an immediate threat to Europe and ‘Western’ countries, especially so when discussed in the media. Tackling illegal immigration and organised crime could sway popular opinion toward May, as she wishes to strengthen national and governmental security by extinguishing the problem at its ‘source’. Unfortunately, like most politicians, no concrete solutions are given. The vagueness in this redirection of UK development aid allows for a fail safe. If no big promises are given, how can people be angry at May? In addition, the persistent idea that growth and progress can cure all problems unilaterally speaks more of the Conservative governments ideology, than what is best for poverty stricken countries. There are a multitude of factors that play into problems we see in Africa and other countries, so solely tackling illegal immigration and organised crime allows other issues, such as disease epidemics, water access, gender inequality etc. to be swept messily under the rug.

  16. Elizabeth Ryalls

    The article suggests that May is proposing to “go beyond” helping those in need. However, if she takes on the role of policing the developing countries that the UK should be helping I doubt she’ll be able to continue humanitarian aid in its traditional sense. I could be wrong, but I think that a refocus of aid will mean that a large number of people go without help and are forgotten about as a consequence. I do, however, see the point that humanitarian aid is often held back due to corruption and terrorism in developing countries and that it is better to teach a man how to fish than to fish for him.

  17. Matilda Ransome

    In this article, it appears May’s sole interest lies in helping to support fragile countries in Africa through the crack down on illegal migration and organised crime, yet in a separate statement made by the Prime Minister, she was unashamed to admit that, “our development spending will not only combat extreme poverty, but at the same time tackle global challenges and support our own national interest” (May, 2018). I believe in emphasising this she is trying to keep the conservatives happy, who would rather spend no money on overseas aid, whilst trying to appear interested in helping those who need it most. Although I am glad May is seemingly trying to maintain a relationship with Africa, after spending just 3 days there, can we trust her to be making appropriate calls on crack downs when we know there is another incentive behind this? In conclusion, I believe the agenda behind these statements is largely influenced by UK interests rather than being about aid aimed at helping some of the world’s poorest people.

  18. Jake McGratten

    I think May will have to, to the extent of her power, contribute aid while at the same time not widen inequalities further by ‘investing’ in these countries. Hopefully her Overseas Aid programme will target people who investment will benefit most while at the same time not offer opportunities to those who already have an advantage. I think we often forget that these countries which May plans to invest in are home to both economically and socially advantaged people as well as disadvantaged people. Obviously if she increases investment in these areas then new employment opportunities will arise for local people, I just hope that these employment opportunities will be accessible to the people who need it most. If these new jobs only benefit those people who have been lucky enough to have good educations then surely this will only widen the gap between rich and poor, educated and uneducated.

  19. Matilda Trevitt

    May’s concerns with ‘illegal’ persons shows the extent of transnational governmentality that we discussed last lecture. The fact that an individual so seperate and detached from the lives of most West Africans wants to deploy her power to police their bodies is all to familiar yet remains shocking.
    Poverty in the UK has worsened under Conservative rule, this leads me to feel that May’s claim to be committed to alleviating those from poverty to be insinsere. Also, to ‘go beyond’ protecting vulnerable people seems to me a strange way to phrase a sensitive subject.
    Furthermore, the goal that the UK should be the largest G7 investor in Africa by 2022 highlights the blurred boundary between aid and development. This sounds like a race for ‘developed’ nations to claim Africa, as they must see a potential for profit, which for me, is reminiscent of the colonial ‘rush for africa’. What do these nations have to gain? Could humanitarian aid a guise for increased state control?

  20. Annabelle Swift

    As one of the world’s biggest spenders on overseas aid at 0.7% GDP, the speech by Theresa May may indeed have warmed some hearts. Those on the conservative right in an ideal world would not be spending a penny on international projects. So the fact that the ‘reprioritisation’ of the development spending is in fact going to be directed towards improving our own national security by tackling illegal immigration and terrorism is probably a welcome compromise. As many of my peers have already alluded to, I find it hard to imagine that this change of tack is coming from the goodness of Theresa May’s heart and may instead have deeper roots in her desire to remain in favour with the political right.

    My skepticism comes not only from the unclear link between how counter-terrorism in the UK comes under the same umbrella as what is generally thought of as ‘international aid’ – in my opinion these are two quite separate problems (although I may have misinterpreted this). Regardless, Africa is a whole continent with different cultures and politics, and a whole range of imperative issues ranging from disease to gender inequalities and extreme poverty … aid is usually given in order for suffering populations to retain some form basic human dignity and get access to necessities, and I believe our 0.7% GDP would be better spent on attempting to alleviate the prevalence of preventable communicable diseases that are ravaging so many parts of Africa but especially in the West African countries that May seems so concerned about. Whilst yes, these countries are unfortunately subject to much civil unrest and terrorism, I can’t help but think the issue is being prioritised because of the self-interest of the UK.

    It is unfortunately another classic example of the Eurocentric politics practised in the West, in which the Global South suffers unnoticed until the we get involved for our own gain. As in the case of the Ebola epidemics that devastated several West African countries in the three years leading up to 2016, substantial aid and especially media attention to the crisis of epidemic were only really given in any sort of substantial quantities when volunteers returned home with the disease and suddenly it threatened our boarders and our own national security.
    Although I think it is a genuine positive that Theresa May acknowledged the need for long term intervention in order to tackle some of the structural inadequacies that facilitate disorder, it seems to be the West trying to push their norms of governing onto Africa – these countries are not ‘naturally underdeveloped’ as many of us are led to believe; the legacies of colonialism and the social and political attitudes towards the Global South (and especially Africa) that have persisted for centuries all contribute to the structural violence that many African countries suffer under.
    We must consider what is best for these countries and not what serves our own best national interests.

  21. Eleanor Brooker

    A very interesting article. I find it intriguing how a focus on UK aid may shift towards illegal migration and organised crime. I do however find that although the article seems to promote a positive development for the fragile countries in Africa initially, actually tackling these issues seems to be inexplicably linked to creating the best outcome for the United Kingdom. Especially currently, what with the ongoing Brexit negotiations, I cannot help but wonder whether we cannot really trust May in this otherwise seemingly positive stance towards helping those in need, especially considering she spend only 3 days in the countries in question. If there are to be alternate incentives towards this strategy, then it could be an attempt to conceal problems that are occurring currently in the UK, by turning her attention to overseas aid.

  22. Nathan Bromley

    What is wrapped up in the spiel of forming new relationships and being so kind and charitable to our less fortunate others is clearly nothing more than a political facade for the purpose of bettering May’s appearance, overseas political or economic interests.

    The reference to illegal migration and organised crime is clearly a nod towards tackling the perceived ‘threat’ of terrorist migrants whether this is grounded in any sort of truth or not. The use of the word ‘fragile’ clearly shows her position as one of sympathy, possibly due to the general consensus of ‘sympathy’ towards Africa and its perceived hopelessness. The move seems like an attempt to in some way satisfy the left with continued aid spending, yet pleasing the conservative right by allocating the spending towards more ‘practical’ means.

    The fact that the countries decided to be ‘fragile’ are also those “waging a battle against terrorism” is a clear divergence from the real issues of poverty but towards more militaristic and strategic spending which actually defeats the object and defies the definition of aid spending. Trade interests are clearly another motive in the move, in that the UK has explicitly agreed to extend trading deals with many of the countries mentioned. Development of these states is therefore beneficial to the UK as new markets for trade.

  23. Francesca Fiennes

    It is quite clear, following the restructuring of the UK’s overseas aid programme, that Theresa May acknowledges an importance of the aid budget by making it a political priority. However, the nature of the restructuring seems to be ill-aligned with the traditional efforts of aid agencies, and perhaps strategic for the UK government.

    Further, she over-categorises in an almost ‘imperialist’ sense, the continent ‘Africa’. There are issues across a number of fields in specific and nuanced geopolitical hubs across the whole continent. Goldring, the leader of Oxfam, already makes the insinuation that there are political and economic motives for the programme, instead of it assuming a more neutralised governmentality that aid programmes intend to operate. The usage of terms such as ‘illegal migration’ and ‘organised crime’ seems to be reminiscent of issues that Theresa May regards as also facing the UK, almost aligning two wholly separate political climates and identifying common ‘threats’ between the continent of Africa, and the UK. Hence, critics of May’s new programme could argue that there are more pressing issues in the UK that need the UK government’s attention, such as child poverty, homelessness, mental health, sexual violence etc.

    This articles raises the question ‘conduct of conduct’ – who is deciding what needs attention in terms of aid funding/programme restructuring? Does aid exist somewhere between one countries aims and a continent’s needs?

  24. Helena Buckley

    May’s promise to revise Britain’s aid focus to support structural change which can target the causes of issues, is a good one. However, crackdowns on organised crime often result in violence and must be handled with care. Further focussing on illegal migration has a clear benefit to her parties standing in the UK and is part of the fashionable rhetoric. All the refocussing suggested is very top-down, something which often fails in development efforts. It is interesting to note that in fact, the priorities of aid are being refocused around perceived threats of the UK, diminishing, in a way, the idea of aid and ‘doing good’ – and being self-interested instead.

    Also, we must look at the context of the speech and her need for trade deals with Africa to ensure Britain can function post-brexit. Merely investing in Africa is clearly not going to help the poorest – globally we can see as businesses grow, so do inequalities.

  25. Valentina Colo'

    After dancing with schoolchildren in Cape Town and promising long-term commitment to ‘crack down illegal migration and organised crime’ and financial support to African fragile economies, Theresa May hoped she could pass herself off as that kind of philanthropic hero that has such a hold on contemporary audiences. However, hers is nothing like philanthropism in my eyes, but colonialism disguised. The first visit to Africa by a UK leader in the last 5 years was a business trip, with a whole team of entrepreneurs and company representatives in tow, rather than a courtesy call. And May is ready to start an investment plan in Africa to counterbalance the destructive effects of Brexit on the British economy. Not surprisingly, in fact, she aims at three of the biggest African economies (Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria), all ex British colonies and all already British military bases.
    She is not fighting poverty since introducing foreign capital will not but increase income inequality. And she is not fighting terrorism either because the solution could not be as simple as to introduce more money and more soldiers in the countries primarily affected (eventually the World will learn that wars such as that in Afghanistan do not save civilians from terrorists, children from poverty or women from oppression). And this kind of talk certainly does not help to seriously tackle the problem. To ‘help them at home’ is a convincing policy for those who still believe that humanity problems can be bounded within a State. But it is a dangerous one, too. To ‘crack down illegal migration’ is not only an impossible task, given the absence of humanitarian corridors for the safe movement of people, but it is also the wrong target. Using the force, building walls, investing in developing countries’ infrastructures or making deals with dictators in the South of the World does not stop migration, and I think history has already largely proved it. All May is able to do and, to my knowledge, willing to do is nothing more than to put blinders on the World’s eyes and to pretend that deploying financial expertise would heal centuries of exploitation and oppression. The responses are generally two and both are ridiculous in my opinion: from one side the acclamation of those picturing Africa as the ‘needy’, unstable continent with one generally spread problem that ‘strong’ countries such as Britain could easily solve by investing more capital, and from the other those complaining about Britain’s negligence of its own poor. I think this is History repeating itself and I would not name it other than Imperialism. With France and Britain contending the place of mayor G7 investor I cannot but see a new Berlin Conference, with the only appearance of China among those carving up Africa. And eventually, the ones who would benefit from ‘aid’ will be those able to make deals with the new capitalists. It won’t be the South poor, and neither will it be the North poor. The market’s interests never aim to safeguard social equality. And this is the danger of neoliberalism, a system that makes more victims than it could actually aim to heal. I do not see a ‘solution to poverty’ in such a way of investing. Africa is a country rich of resources and local governments should encourage those sectors that would allow for a sustainable and inclusive growth. And we should be careful in considering ‘aid’ something disinterested. It could hardly be so, especially when the ‘charitable donor’ is an ‘ex’ colonial empire.

  26. Jessica Brown

    It seems apparent to me that May’s intentions are not truly to help the marginalised in specific countries of Africa, but instead to positively impact her plans for Britain under the premise of international ‘aid’ and altruism. Undoubtedly, policies enacted to ‘crack down’ on illegal immigration and terrorism will better benefit the British borders and politics than people of Africa – it seems unlikely to me that May will be interested in going to the root of the problems and seriously trying to enact long-term change, no matter what she said in her statement. In addition, it seems audacious to me that she thinks Britain can – and should – police other countries, especially when she does not refer to these countries by name for the majority of her speech, instead referring to ‘Africa’ as a whole. This insinuates to me that she is very far removed from the cultural, social and other contextual factors that will be significantly influential in the impact of policies imposed on and in these countries. It also seems to me that her vagueness is intentional; she is perhaps trying to appeal to both the political right and left of Britain through announcing she will be working on illegal immigration and providing aid to those in poverty simultaneously. Although, as discussed above (and by my peers in other comments) it seems unlikely that those in poverty will benefit much from the ‘aid’; instead it is more likely that the wealth gap will increase in the countries May intends to ‘help’.

  27. Chloe Prior

    The statement made by Theresa May on first impressions sounds very promising. However, after reading Sabbagh’s article in the Guardian, my opinion slightly changed.

    May’s intentions seem positive (realising the need to protect the vulnerable and lifting people out of poverty) yet, also seem slightly misleading. Sabbagh’s article states that she is trying to help with ‘challenges that we both face’, here it sounds like May is putting her needs, hand in hand with those who require aid. Suggesting that she is trying to benefit off of this need to provide aid to those in poverty as well through tackling some of the same issues she faces in the UK. The issues such as ‘illegal’ migration and organised crime are important, but these also highly impact the UK and there are other issues also affecting the ‘fragile countries in Africa’ which could be considered a lot more important.

    I think that she made this proposal with good intentions to try to tackle the problem form a larger perspective (‘longer term’) as one of her aims was to ensure ‘good government in stability’. Although, personally I don’t think that trying to improve their government through simply just funding it would eliminate all of the problems of poverty, etc. Especially, when the ‘extreme levels of poverty are increasing’.

  28. Lauren Howie

    An investment in Africa’s law enforcement may bring sanctuary for the vulnerable people of Mali, Chad and Niger. However, it could be implied that these actions have ulterior motives for Britain. By investing in Africa’s stability, Britain have indirectly ensured their own economic prosperity for after the collapse of the EU. As the article points out, the UK has already overtaken France in its provision of humanitarian aid to African countries. This suggests that May is using aid as a mechanism for solidifying the UK’s ties with Africa and as a result, enabling the UK to produce new partnerships in an ever more competitive trade market.

    Consequently, this strategic, altruistic application of humanitarian aid may induce further inequality for African citizens. It could therefore be stated that plans to reduce ‘illegal migration’ and ‘crime’ are not projects of humanitarian aid but outcomes of financial greed and exploitation.

  29. Gabija Kucinskaite

    A promise to support a ‘crack down’ on the global issues, such as ‘illegal migration, modern slavery and trafficking in people’ and ‘waging a war against terrorism’ similarly requires a deeper investigation. As already noted by many comments of my peers, the party’s messages are big on goals and not so big on the details of how exactly this is going to be achieved. This broad listing of global problems somehow raises the question whether it’s a thoroughly planned, evidence-based strategy that is required for a sustainable, long-term, and locally-based support, or is it more likely to be a political gesture that plays for the benefit of the philanthropist.
    The doubt increases as the plan is justified by labels such as ‘Africa’, ‘terrorism’, and ‘immigration’. While the first one credits the whole continent (and the population of approximately 1.6 million people) to be in need of UK’s support, the other two articulates moral reasoning which would justify UK’s role as the provider of aid. Little attention, though, is paid to the ‘root’ causes of the issues of immigration or terrorism, nor to UK’s own role when defining each of them as ‘problematic’: for instance, does crossing borders become ‘illegal’ when the receiving country can no longer benefit from it economically? Are immigration/terrorism truly the top priorities among the countries that among the countries that are going to receive UK’s support? Hence, it remains questionable whether the plan, focused on such ambitious goals and expressed in such drastic labels, will actually benefit the countries that are in question, or will it only extend the same moral barriers between ‘us’ – the providers of aid -, and those ‘vulnerable’ and ‘fragile’ that are in need of that aid. The former version, in my opinion, seems to be more likely as Conservatives are (1) currently falling short of their voter’s support; (2) and are entitled to find new trade partners to support UK’s economy after its separation from the European Union.

  30. Calypso April

    Although May claims that the redistribution of UK aid money to “crack down on illegal migration and organised crime” is part of the UK’s commitment to “support fragile countries in Africa”, I question whether this could be seen as the primary motivation for May’s actions. Migration, both legal and illegal, is an issue that has dominated recent UK political discourse, and this change of direction in terms of aid distribution seems to reflect Conservative party policy more than anything else. Although it is difficult to separate aid work from politics, this move makes no attempt to dichotomised the two, since policing the movement of people is such an obvious reflection of Conservative ideals.

  31. Rebecca Seaford

    This article details how Theresa May plans on refocusing the UK’s aid budget, still staying at 0.7% of GDP, away from primarily poverty-related issues and towards counter terrorism, illegal immigration and organised crime. This focus is a move away from more traditional development programmes such as investing in infrastructure, health and education. While aid focusing on these issues could potentially help the African countries referred to in the article, there is also a question over whether this decision has been made more for national interest than helping ‘fragile states’. Even more questionable is if this was a party-political move by May, as the article refers to how the right of the Conservative party would prefer to spend the aid budget nationally, so if May commits to it being spent on counter terrorism and illegal immigration that might appease those who are against it. This is, in my opinion, even more likely considering the political climate, and the current Conservative split over the Brexit negotiations. I think this shows that development projects can be used by political leaders as bargaining chips. This is further supported by later on the article the discussion over trade deals which highlights the wider purpose of change in direction of the aid budget. Overall I think this shows that humanitarianism and development are not top priorities for the government at the moment, trade and political moves are more important, perhaps even proving to be detrimental to the development of these countries.

  32. Khadija Mahmood- Sabir

    This article is very interesting and, in my opinion, it shows that May has good intentions of trying to support Africa in reducing illegal immigration and organised crime. As the UK is one of the biggest contributors to foreign aid, I think it’s important that the UK continues to support vulnerable people due to the power and resources the country has compared to a lot of other countries. It seems to be a positive step in establishing and maintaining relationships with other countries. However, the conservatives may have a point in trying to use this money more domestically. Especially due to the unambiguous consequences that may result after Brexit, perhaps it’s better to also focus on the needs of the UK too.

  33. Ariadni Fischer

    A “waging battle against terrorism” is not what I usually think of as a humanitarian strategy or priority. What I am used to linking with the term “humanitarianism” is usually poverty, medical aid, education.
    As an aspiring social thinker, after reading the article I tried to find the ulterior motive, the political agenda. It is not irrational to assume that by targeting illegal immigration and terrorism the prime ministers’ plan is mostly aimed at protecting her political party if not the United Kingdom from the side-effects of the current political instability of these African countries. May’s ideas echo previous strategies such as the US “war against terrorism” that used terrorism as a pretext to assert power. Evidently, if that is the real motive behind this said philanthropical action then it should not be considered as such.
    As an optimistic person who wishes to live in a world where people are not forced to immigrate and/or live in constant danger, the UK’s promise to tackle these issues can only be seen as a positive action.
    The United Kingdom as many other western governments have a long history of pretending that the humanitarian aid they provide has only had positive outcomes and did not primarily benefit them. If these new priorities are met and do in fact improve well-being without generating further impediments then I guess that no matter the initial intentions this humanitarian action will be deemed successful. It is unrealistic to expect a political figure to suggest a policy or aid that is not political in its core. What is important is that the advantages caused are greater the disadvantages.

  34. Ella Sinclair

    It seems that what May is considering as humanitarian aid varies from what I would perceive as such. This is due to the way in which May speaks about ensuring long term good government stability in ‘fragile states’. This seems to collide with the neutrality of aid organisations. Because of this, I think this article is interesting as it can be interpreted as an example of government through aid and thus I think the article highlights relevant issues surrounding aid. Are some localities being controlled through the guise of aid? Does this matter if these areas are made ‘better’? Who decides what’s considered as ‘better’? Although what May seems to be saying in the article, concerning prevention of human trafficking and modern slavery are certainly issues which must be dealt with, I think one must always be ware of ulterior motives and keep in mind the former queries.

  35. Sophie Holden

    It is interesting how May is reprioritizing the development budget, bringing the fight against terrorism into the sphere of development and aid is a definite step away from traditional development concerns. Although arguably in the interest of protecting the most vulnerable people in a particular society, using the UK’s aid budget to combat terrorism could be considered a strategic move that will ultimately benefit the UK.
    The proposal also addresses ‘illegal’ migration a highly political issue of great concern to many in the UK. May’s proposal to combat ‘illegal’ migration suggests she may be extending the reach of her power beyond the UK to help reduce illegal migration before it becomes a challenge to the UK directly. As suggested aid spending abroad is seen as problematic to the conservative right, perhaps by using the aid budget on areas such as illegal migration that inadvertently affects the UK, May is attempting to appease those who critique development spending. As suggested by Goldring it is integral that May does not lose sight of the fundamental objectives of development spending by inadvertently increasing inequality through investment.

  36. Georgia Alexiou Papagianni

    The redistribution of aid towards this goal is indeed worrying, like many of the comments above have mentioned. Tackling “illegal migration and organised crime” in collaboration with “fragile” states, as Theresa May stated, will not support strategies of good governance or promote human rights of more vulnerable populations. Rather, this move further establishes British intervention in the continent in non-humanitarian approaches. In the case of human trafficking and slavery, aid is certainly needed, however, it is conflated with illegal immigration. British politics give the impression of taking the dangerous and inhumane path that Australian politics took a decade ago with refugees. By “cracking down” illegal migration, May not only dehumanises less privileged populations, but also constructs the “illegality” of migrants, thereby creating a problem that needs to be solved offshore.

    In a world where Mediterranean sea rescues are considered a crime and an Italian mayor is charged on the pretences of smuggling, this deviation from humanitarian aid could only lead to more deaths and apathy towards human rights violations.

  37. Emily Norman

    Theresa May’s future plans for development aid in Africa seem to focus on furthering the UK’s national interests with regards to immigration, security and the neoliberal ideology. Her desire to “deploy expertise in financial centres around the world” indicates a political agenda of spreading Western ideas of free trade and capitalism.

  38. Uschi Lebersorger

    In the article May asserts that she wants to counter “illegal migration, modern slavery and trafficking in people”, and reading this makes me wonder for what aims is this new re-focus in overseas aid for? I personally think it suggests a financial/ trade benefit for the UK and African countries as Brexit Britain is desperately searching for trade allies. The choice to focus on issues such as illegal migration and terrorism seems to be a self-protection strategy by May to stop illegal migrants coming to the UK, therefore her attentions were not wholly altruistic. It is a known fact that when Western countries fund development there is often some kind of financial/ political incentive for the country sending the money behind it. This re-focus ignores the other pressing issues in Africa at the moment in need of international funding such as healthcare, women’s issues, human rights, education, poverty, resource development etc. I would therefore agree with Mark Goldring that it is “vital that the UK promotes growth that supports the world’s poorest first and foremost, and that UK trade interests don’t inadvertently increase inequality”.

  39. Sarah Keogh

    Theresa May’s speech and recent visit to Africa highlights some key points when it comes to mixing foreign governments and aid. In this context May is using foreign aid as a political tool and we must always be aware of the underlying political motives and narrative. It’s possible to draw a link between “illegal migration” and organised crime in Africa to an obvious domestic issue in the UK, most obviously in the form of “illegal migration”.

    It could also be argued that illegal migration, terrorism and high levels of crime are symptoms of deeper economic and political issues that need addressing. However i’m unconvinced by overseas governments being able to effect positive change in an impartial manner; when leaders such as May are inherently loyal to the political leanings of people in another country thousands of miles away.

  40. Lucie Bataller

    It looks like with Brexit, Theresa May is looking for a new economic partner. And Africa seems to be the solution to her. She is talking about helping very few countries in Africa in development and politics, but in reality it looks more like she is trying to solve what she thinks is a problem in the UK. By ‘controlling’ illegal migration, she intends to offer a financial aid to African countries in order for them to deal with people leaving the country to rejoin Europe. It is not aid, she only talks about stopping migration in her country, not the causes of these migration in Africa.

  41. Karolína Dušková

    This article is an excellent brief illustration a mechanism of an aid provided by an institution of government. However, in this particular case, a dictate on what this financial help should be primarily used gives an impression of two sized help. Some of the words of Theresa May could be slightly interpreted as ‘I will help you but I am expecting something in return’. Or in another way, it might be seen as an interfering of politics, governments of the states with a promise of financial aid and a way of ensuring its future profit from this exchange. On this example, we might be asking if it is not a case when the help ends and someone’s else interest profiting and benefiting from this aid starts. Not only in the means of relations of the United Kingdom towards African states, but also a relationship of the United Kingdom towards other countries in the post-Brexit Europe.

  42. Jessica Dawson

    Theresa May’s speech in Africa is deeply ethnocentric; focusing upon issues affecting Britain in a bid to appease Tory colleagues and supporters. One of the driving forces of Brexit was hostility to legal and illegal migration into the UK and fear surrounding terrorism at home and abroad. Thus, when Theresa May talks about tackling illegal migration and terrorism she is addressing the UK audience back home. Additionally, it’s obvious that Theresa May’s main reason for being in South Africa is to discuss a Trade Deal for post-Brexit Britain; again, ethnocentric motivations behind her visit and speech.

    When emphasising that the UK will be the largest G7 investor in Africa, warning bells of imperialism / colonialism being to sound. A ‘race for Africa’ is potentially happening again, just under the guise of humanity. The representation of Africa as ‘fragile’ in need of Western help is an old rhetoric used to justify both colonialism and international aid intervention. Despite being in South Africa and seemingly addressing a South Africa audience, Theresa May is reducing the continent of Africa as a fragile, poverty-riddled place that needs ‘saving’ from ruin: a rhetoric that has a history of detrimental effects upon Africa. Also, what does ‘good government’ mean? One may infer that she means a democratic, capitalist-driven government, and this alone is Western nations imposing their ideals on other nations: a form of imperialism in itself.

    Lastly, in relation to Anthropological work on humanitarian aid, Theresa May’s speech has ‘put the nail in the coffin’ on A-political international aid work. By vowing that the government will invest in aid work, Theresa May has publically drawn governments, politics, humanitarianism and aid into the same bubble, in which aid work in Africa cannot extract itself from.

  43. Ieva Barzdziute

    The idea of refocusing overseas aid on illegal migration and organised crime in fragile countries in Africa can be understood in many different ways. While this proposal may seem to be a positive step towards protecting vulnerable countries in Africa, it appears to me that instead of being concerned about what problems the countries in Africa are actually facing, Theresa May’s choice to focus on issues such as illegal migration and terrorism seems to affect UK more obviously. For me, priority to counter political and terrorist threats seems like avoiding what is actually at stake in Africa – why people are in the position that they have to migrate illegally? Suggestion that a new partnership is needed “recognizing the challenges that we both face” suggests that both – vulnerable countries in Africa, as well as the UK, experience exactly the same challenges. However, I believe there are other, more urgent issues in Africa in need of funding and these issues (like diseases, education, poverty) are not the ones that challenge UK in the same way as Africa. It seems that the strategy underneath this so called ‘aid’ is not to help the countries in need (by dealing with the root cause of the issues at hand), but to protect the UK. It is no necessarily bad, however, I wouldn’t call it ‘overseas aid’ since it primarily benefits aid provider.

  44. Luca Santangeli

    Even if May does have an interest in protecting vulnerable countries and see the issues she focuses on as important to their safety, her statement and approach is problematic. One must take issue in her mention of illegal immigration and crime. The statement is very suggestive of the fact that May is linking these issues to issues in the UK. May is using aid as a political tool to crack down on issues she believes are affecting the UK, rather than in the best interests of the countries. One must also take issue with the lack of consultation with the countries being supported on what is beneficial to them. Surely the people who live with the challenges are the best ones to say what is needed to help them.

  45. Tessa Keijzer

    This article talks of “illegal migration and organised crime”, which the United Kingdom should help certain countries face, says Teresa May. What I wonder is whose agenda is being pushed forward here? Has there been demand for those issues to be brought to the front lines? She says we want to lift people from poverty. Why Theresa May feels she needs to get involved in another country’s policies seems strange. Is this maybe a relatable cause, as the United Kingdom faces similar ‘threats’ with migration and terrorism? On the other hand, what is development aid then, another governmental agency? Isn’t it supposed to be neutral and believed to be innocent in conflicts? In the article the chief executive of Oxfam Great Britain mentions that the promotion of growth in poorer countries is essential, but how would this new initiative do this? It seems to be ironic to want to tackle a problem somewhere else that isn’t tackled in her own country. One of the aims of development aid is in itself ‘development’, so is focusing on issues of terrorism and migration the way to this?

  46. Nooa Karlo

    Questions about resources and spending always rouse interest. It’s interesting to think about how ‘illegal migration, modern slavery and trafficking in people’ currently is and will be defined in the future by those in power both in theory and in practice. Who will these definitions end up benefiting? Furthermore, what is exactly meant by a good and stable government? Maybe I’m getting stuck on words here. But it’s obvious that this move isn’t just about making the world a better place. It’s understandable that decision-makers in the UK want to ensure the future stability of their nation (and themselves), and surely nobody is surprised by the pushing of a capitalist agenda, but to use the guise of ‘helping’ and most importantly the economic resources that should be going to more or less selfless aid to escape the repercussions of bad government at home is quite questionable.

  47. Ximena Altamirano

    A very interesting article that I think highlight some of the major issues with development. While it is true that many of the problems development programs try to tackle stem from issues at the political and economic level, in cases like this one cannot help but think that interest in working with these governments to ‘protect them from political threats’ is mainly on the benefit of the investing country, as it seems that trade interest is more important than population welfare. This goes on to show how development is just another form of business, as evidenced by the desire of the UK to be the ‘largest investor in Africa’, where is just one government competing against the other and securing financial partners and the states in need become pawns in the developing game.

  48. Maddie Lablaine

    You can see that May is trying to conduct a positive outcome though dealing with crime and illegal migration, however with the worlds focus at the moment being on illegal migration and attempting to deal with it, it may appear that May is failing to recognize other aspects that have to be developed, for example education which I still believe has to be prioritized, as in turn that would reduce illegal migration and organized crime. She has a good idea, but I believe there must be a balance between bottom up and top down aid in order to provide the most benefits, as it seems May has only the political leaders interest in mind, not everyday people.

  49. Zara Raffeeq

    Firstly, I feel the rhetoric in this article is problematic. The phrases ‘fragile countries in Africa’ and ‘help lifting people out of poverty’ scream white saviour complex to me. Despair and instability are not the full reality of the whole continent of Africa and to make these sweeping generalisations is tactical and damaging.

    Secondly, May’s shift of focus to ‘Crack down on illegal migration and organised crime’ are clearly British concerns; you just need to look to the British media to see it is flooded with negative diatribes around migrants. Furthermore, what does ‘crack down’ even mean? I struggle to believe she has an ounce of compassion when she uses words like ‘crack down’ about ‘illegal’ migrants who are often fleeing the most volatile environments. Her cultural insensitivity is blatant. May is clearly not approaching this from an apolitical stance, her words scream investment to me. Does she truly believe that deploying expertise in financial centres’ is going to provide money to those who need it the most, especially when this article also notes the changing trade agreements the UK have just announced . Her aims seem to reflect the current political climate of the UK, giving the impression that this aid will be self serving.

    The fact that she said the UK should become the largest G7 investor in Africa for 2022, gave me the sense that this is all a competition by these Western Countries to prove who is more philanthropic. Which to me, makes me feel as if these countries are still operating under a somewhat colonialist mentality, through suggesting that Africa’s socio-economic problems can only be solved by Western Intervention.

  50. Lama Chmayaah

    Overseas aid should certainly be considered a positive matter, given the UK has the resources required for it and there is definitely a need for it. Theresa May’s decisions and actions, helping and visiting these countries could be even applauded by some. However, this article, and May’s words specifically, show that the work to help other countries can be viewed as a competition by the UK, one against the US and France, and one against the actual countries in need of help. Not only is this political strategy being used to promote the country, but by investing in one more country, it is expanding its power over others. Despite her supposed good intention, the idea is very problematic. What should simply be about aid is turned legal and financial.
    Could we even say that May is abusing of the countries’ poverty and struggles?
    The article allows us to shed light upon these matters but it would be interesting to see the point of view of the other side.


    The proposal by May suggests that the focus of the UK overseas aid programme would shift from promoting economic development to maintaining regional political stability. This statement ostensibly does not directly promote the development of poor areas, but according to the current international situation, I think this is a long-term plan, Britain hopes to fundamentally help Africa’s underdeveloped Countries. Stable development is based on a stable society, while a stable society requires a stable government, and if illegal immigration and organized crime cannot be effectively controlled, none of the above aims can be achieved. And after African countries have the capacity to stabilize, the UK’s investment here will be more reported.
    On the other hand, long-term investment means that in the short term, the UK will find it hard to make a profit from the investment, or that the bailout won’t be very obvious in the short term. Thus, May’s move is easily opposed by opposition parties and the economic Sector. At the same time, because of its focus on politics, the programme could be the international community’s suspicion of interfering in other countries ‘ internal affairs.

  52. thembi adams

    The differing targets mentioned by May such as aid, development, policing of illegal persons and the relationship between the UK and Africa on their own may seem reasonable however one cannot fail to hold some scepticism in the ways in which them seem to be linked. Aid in essence is solely an altruistic operation however when economic fact such as trading agreements come into play, ulterior motives become apparent and one wonders who this speech is aimed at.

  53. Alexander Mills

    An extremely thought provoking article; it is an interesting idea to commit aid to fight illegal migration and organised crime overseas. Arguably it is a more effective use of aid money as it represents real change in a nation, rather than short term help. It would be interesting to see the results of this techniques, as it also has the potential to cause the relationship between countries to break down.

  54. Nikita Urmila Vadolia

    The article explains the way May’s government aims to improve how UK foreign aid is spent. May wants to tackle different issues with this reconfiguration of development schemes to counter issues such as terrorism, long-term economic stability in developing nations, illicit finance, organised crime, illegal migration, modern slavery and human trafficking. May’s new initiative aims to move away from merely eradicating poverty in Africa and instead aims to orient aid to support long-term growth in Western and Southern Africa.

    Former International development minister Priti Patel is known to criticise ways in which aid is spent and her views undeniably reflect the Conservative Party’s aim to redirect foreign aid to serve the national interest. Weary of this narrative is, Mark Goldring who raises his concerns in hoping that ‘UK trade interests don’t inadvertently increase inequality.’

    Indeed, most aid efforts in the past few decades have focused on reducing poverty in Africa, but what are the motives behind the change? The efficacy of reducing poverty in Africa is unmentioned in the article, perhaps the shift to increasing economic prosperity in Africa is indeed motivated by the promoting of national interest. Evidently, the UK’s political climate is teetering on uncertainty and so few believe May’s new development initiatives are purely altruistic. Regardless of whether past foreign aid initiatives in Africa were successful of not, May’s trade trip almost reflects colonial Britain’s agenda to enforce development within African colonies in the interest of strengthening the British empire, not to the same extent of course, but old habits seem to die hard. With the gift of aid to developing countries, global power and influence were the reciprocated goods. With May’s trade trip in August 2018, the return of trade deals is expected and thus the morality of this aid, with its complex power relations, is cast into doubt.

    Perhaps we should stand back from normative judgement. What May seems to be promoting is a win-win development scheme. Indeed, there is an increasing assertion in Western countries that aid must work in favour of national interest and we are yet to see how the Africa-UK relations play out. All things considering, I believe that with national self-interest at the forefront of aid-trade negotiations, the development plans are likely to be skewed to benefit the UK and Africa, as an emerging economy, may be taken advantage of.

    Moreover, it is a contested idea that economic growth does much to reduce poverty, could May thus be appraised for her new strategic approach to improve conditions of Western Africa? Such plans like curbing illicit finance and illegal immigration is an important strategy to support development in African countries and re-centering the flow of money to ‘vulnerable people’. However, I feel that the narrative of foreign aid towards gravely needs to change. With talks of ‘lifting people out of poverty’ and ‘deploying expertise’, the UK’s savior complex should only fuel the resentment that exists between certain African countries to it’s former coloniser. Who is providing the expertise to such complex issues? It seems that UK foreign aid is coercing rules of civility, governing African nations and how they should conduct politically and economically but with conditions of expected trade deals. I see May’s initiatives as an investment into securing Britain’s stability, thus it seems unlikely that all trade initiatives and their possible outcomes will ultimately be mutually beneficial.

  55. Tom Hemington

    The speech described in this article merely serves as further evidence that the idea of ‘development’ as an apolitical concept is a fallacy. May’s repositioning of the UK’s aid programme will ensure that as many of its outcomes will benefit the UK (as the Conservatives see it) as possible, and, as Mark Goldring points out, quite probably at the expense of those who are most in need (note May’s choice to list illegal migration ahead of modern slavery and people trafficking in her list of what she wants the aid programme to try and counter).

    Further, I feel that it is also telling that two of the world’s largest economies, the UK and France, are now vowing to vamp up aid spending in Africa only after the Chinese government has demonstrated there is money to be made and political influence to be gained in investing in Africa, an ‘emerging market’. With all of this, is it so foolish to wonder whether her intentions are as pure as she implies?

  56. Lauren Tunnicliffe

    This is an interesting article and on the face seems positive, but I’m skeptical (as I am of most things coming out of May’s mouth). How will the govt. distinguish between ‘supporting’ and enforcing their own ideals of what government should look like? I have a fear that relationships like this will ultimately turn exploitative, and as others have mentioned, will turn into the UK policing African countries from afar.
    As well, the term ‘lifting people out of poverty’ seems not only patronising in language, but also hypocritical in practice considering the disruptive changes the UK benefits system is currently undergoing, leaving millions on waiting lists for benefits they should have already been receiving. While I support the concept of international aid/development/support if and when it is done with great care, this smacks of the Tory government desperately searching for friends after burning many of their international bridges. May seems awfully concerned with poverty when she can use it to her own advantage (surprise surprise).

  57. Momoka Sato

    It is interesting article. By reading this article, I knew that it is same situation in Japan that conservative right demand to use national budget domestically.
    I can imagine May’s purpose to announce this statement in two ways; to maintain international aid by using the strategy to calm right-wingers complain or to implicate that aid worker should make profits for their donor country. In first assumption, I can suppose that May considered the opinion from right-wingers and emphasize that international aid is beneficial not only for ‘fragile’ countries but for own country.
    If May indicate a latter one, the policy to make ‘partnerships’ with African countries can be characterized as ‘intervention to African countries’ or ‘appearance of post-colonialism.’

  58. Ziyad Said-Wardell

    Both the article and Theresa May’s speech make sweeping generalisations about ‘Africa’, as If it is one homogeneous place that has the same issues across the whole continent. Furthermore, it seems May is angling to give Britain the best position for trade with African nations, rather than policies that will bring about effective change in the area.

  59. Sharada Kamble

    If we were to grant May the benefit of doubt, the question that arises, and should be answered, is how, if at all, is terrorism/illegal migration affecting poverty in Africa?

    From my experience of reading ethnographic work and studying anthropological writing, I have often been struck by just how complex any given issue may be. We often see the root cause of any problem, in this case poverty, may, in fact, be lying in something seemingly disconnected, such as terrorism or illegal immigration.

    The May government, and the decision makers behind this decision to refocus aid, needs to answer whether this decision serves to help the purpose of alleviating poverty. Does terrorism/illegal immigration hinder air work or development within the continent itself? Does it affect the social fabric of society, thus serving to make development projects difficult to carry out or sustain? On what basis was this decision taken?

    Or, as it does seem prima facie, is this decision primarily rooted in the aspiration to excercise soft power on the African peoples and government in the coming years to better manage UK’s own problems of immigration and terrorism? Who this decision really seems to benefit at the end remains to be seen in the coming years.

  60. Harry McWhirter

    One of the stated aims of aid organizations is to remain apolitical, and this of course goes against that aim. In her article, ‘Transnational Humanitarianism’, Ticktin talks about a rise of militarism and security in aid organizations, and this is a very clear example of that. However, it also holds an interesting comment about May’s government. The Conservative government frequently and clearly uses Foucault’s principle of governmentality, and they use private (or charitable) organizations to achieve this. This use of aid agencies also connects to the rhetoric surrounding internet security, and the idea that social media chats require a ‘backdoor’ to allow government access.

  61. Freddie Gilbey

    May’s policies seem problematic and encompass a very ethnocentric mode of international aid as self-interested especially in light of Michael Golding’s criticism’s that such monetary aid in fact exacerbates income inequality despite economic growth.

  62. Mollie Eadsforth

    May’s new approach to development in ‘Africa’ only serves to homogenise a hugely complex space in which a multitude of different cultural fabrics and colonialist historical legacies collude. In over-simplifying and over-politicising deeply social issues such as ‘terrorism’, May over-simplifies the diverse social environment within which these issues arise and in doing so runs the risk of making matters worse.

  63. Freddie Gilbey

    There seems to be a very ethnocentric slant to May’s concept of aid, whilst the money being invested comes from the coutnry’s coffers and therefore self interest is expected it seems like an uneasy marriage between external aid and self interested foreign trade, especially perspectives susch as golding’s that income inequality has if anything increased whilst the economy grows show’s that packaging the money as charitable is an attempt at PR.

  64. Roxane Dougall

    A link is often made between illegal migration (and organised crime) in Europe, and poverty/bad living conditions in African countries, often assuming that one is directly caused by the other. In my opinion, by ‘cracking down’ and reinforcing laws against illegal immigration and diminishing actual aid towards these countries, May would be adding more to the problem instead of focusing on a possible solution. More aid and help towards these countries, in order for them to grow economically, as well as other assistance, could be of more help. Simply employing aid funds on very politicised issues such as immigration can result in more of a controversy than an actual improvement. Of course these issues should not be ignored, but I don’t believe that they should be the main focus.
    Obviously, it is not as simple as this (simply increasing aid towards these countries won’t necessarily stop organised crime or make them safer for the people living in them, and as the article itself states, some countries, having received aid and improved their economy,have not shown a noticeable impact on crime or immigration, so maybe there should be more focus on why this is and how to solve it, and not on introducing a very political agenda into the realm of foreign aid?), there are many other factors to bear in mind and it is a very delicate matter, which I believe has not been handled correctly.

  65. Ben Gleadell

    This intention laid out by Theresa May seems very philanthropic at first glance. But I question the extent to which this intention sources from a pure desire to help others. It seems that a crackdown on illegal migration goes hand in hand with recent discourse on Brexit – perhaps this is an intention to satisfy the demands of the Conservative right? Whilst terms like investing and strategic seem to reflect self-interest rather than charity.

  66. Isabella Blackley

    It is clear that this article does three things: reveals post-Brexit initiatives, contributes to a discourse on Africa as vulnerable and highlights Britain’s refusal to acknowledge the historical contexts of ‘less economically developed countries’ and the role that Britain has had to play.

    Post-Brexit initiatives are first hinted at in reference to illegal migration: a matter of contestation in Brexit Britain. The decision to fixate on a matter like this opposed to the government corruption, or lack women’s rights in the African countries named appears to be a political tactic to get post-brexit Britain on board. I would even go further in saying that, the use of this buzzword highlights the impossibility of apoliticism when it comes to aid: in that it is being used to further the discourse on the drawbacks of migration. The second point I would like to make in relation to targeting illegal immigration is that May has decided to depict certain kinds of people as vulnerable: who counts as vulnerable to May? Do illegal migrants fleeing their war-torn countries not fit her criteria? Perhaps Africans who are not a product of war (that Britain is involved in) are more deserving?

    Following from this theme of vulnerability, this article does it’s best to present Africa as a continent that needs help. I would say that throughout the article there is an ambiguity as to whether May would like to see Africa as the object of aid or as the object of investment – the reference to Macron makes this unclear. Nonetheless, not once does May make a reference to how Britain could aid African industry or promote an engagement with African governments to create better public policy, it is all about how Britain can wriggle into Africa, and do her a favour. This is extremely reminiscent of the colonial atrocities that Britain and other western powers committed against Africa and I will address this issue in a later point. For the time being however, I am curious as to how the discourse on Africa as ‘vulnerable’ , functions in relation to the discourse on Brexit. As the author of the article mentions, initiatives that don’t focus on Britain unnerve the conservative right so how does May intend to go forward with an involvement with Africa? Well, it is simple really, present an economic investment in Africa as aid and: “Bob’s your uncle!”, the good old, charitable British people are in support. This is not to say that aid work has been all bad, and that Theresa May does not have good intentions but the history speaks for itself: good intentions don’t always lead to good outcomes. The documentary ‘The Trouble with Aid’ really highlighted to me how Britain’s charitable nature often does more harm than good. Thus, with the historical context of colonialism and the negative effects that aid work has had, it makes it hard for me to trust that Britain can save Africa.

    Similarly what this speech, and the article in general does, is highlight Britain’s refusal to acknowledge the historical contexts of ‘less economically developed countries’ and the role that Britain has had to play. It is evident that terrorism, illegal migration, modern slavery and human trafficking are not the only causes for the poverty in particular parts of Africa. Africa has been exploited by outsiders for over a century, through the Atlantic Slave trade, Colonialism and Capitalism. It follows then that the conditions that Theresa May wishes to address are but a product of the underdevelopment of Africa by her country, and its allies.

    Of course however, this is not something likely to be addressed. Theresa May ignorantly attempts to relate to the struggles of Africa by saying she aims to partner with Africa, “recognising the challenges we both face”. It is clear here that Britain wants to conceptualise itself as a natural powerhouse and facilitates this naturalisation by refusing to acknowledge the tragedies of its colonial past. Deceptively acting like a close friend to Africa, the UK ignores it’s colonial past so as to protect the national identity of tolerance, reinforce the sanctity of the monarchy and ultimately, maintain power: economic, cultural and social capital. To me, if May did wish to recognise the challenges that Africa faces, reparations would be the only way forward, but it seems that putting Africa on a level playing field with Europe is something Britain is not prepared to do.


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