Here is how Britain, East Africa can work together
This is an extraordinary moment for all nations as we wrestle with huge, interlinked challenges, including the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change, economic uncertainty and a range of security threats.
To meet these challenges and come out stronger on the other side, we need to work together more closely than ever.
The UK has a unique offer for East Africa – and that is what I have been discussing during my visit to the region last week.
The first element of our offer must be working together to tackle Covid-19.
The UK has been at the forefront of global efforts to develop a vaccine and we used our influence with the World Bank to secure $12 billion of funding to get vaccines to developing countries.
I saw this partnership in action at KEMRI labs in Nairobi, where UK and Kenyan expertise is coming together to do vital testing on Covid-19 vaccines, and vaccines for diseases such as Malaria, Rift Valley Fever and Ebola.
Second, we are deepening our trade partnerships and supporting countries to build free and open economies.
Last January we held our Africa Investment Summit in London, delivering commercial deals between UK companies and African partners worth over £6.5 billion, spanning sectors.
These are all on track. We have signed trade agreements with 15 African countries.
In December, we signed a trade agreement with Kenya, a deal open for other members of the East African Community. There are opportunities for African businesses in the UK.
Third, we are building our partnership on security, a pre-condition for prosperity.
In Kenya I saw how British troops are working alongside African peacekeepers to tackle Al Shabaab’s murderous campaigns and remove improvised explosive devices which destroy lives of innocent Somali men, women and children.
In Sudan, we are supporting the process of bringing an end to decades of conflict and making transition to stability and democracy.
I reaffirmed our support for this with Prime Minister Hamdok and Sovereign Council Chair Lt. Gen.
Burhan. I was also humbled to meet some Sudanese activists whose courage set the country on path to democracy.
UK officials were deployed earlier this month to selected polling stations in Uganda to observe polling and inform our understanding of how processes of election day ran.
We urge the Ugandan government to thoroughly and swiftly investigate all complaints raised.
In Ethiopia, as well as discussing the country’s reform agenda, I visited a humanitarian staging post in Gondar, which delivers aid to conflict-stricken Tigray.
It was heart-breaking to see piles of humanitarian supplies for people who have lost everything. I discussed with Prime Minister Abiy the imperative for unfettered humanitarian access to Tigray.
Those responsible for human rights violations – on all sides – must be held to account, if we are to build a lasting peace.
The UK will continue delivering aid direct to Tigray while also supporting Sudan in accommodating refugees from the conflict.
Fourth, we want to work together to tackle climate change, which is vital for security, resilience and sustainable development in the region.
Its impacts are already hitting East Africa hard, with 2020 bringing floods, droughts, and locust swarms.
The UK was the first major economy to make a legal commitment to reach net zero emissions and double our international climate finance.
We are encouraging leaders to bring forward ambitious, game-changing commitments when we host the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November this year.
Fifth, the UK is a longstanding leader in development – the World Bank said the UK is the only countryto meet the needs of the world’s poorest during the pandemic.
As the largest donor to major global education funds, we support millions of girls across Africa to get a proper education.
Later this year Prime Minister Boris Johnson will co-host, with President Uhuru Kenyatta, a conference to boost funds for theGlobal Partnership for Education.
Our target, working with our partners, is to get 40 million more girls into primary and secondary school and get one third more girls reading by the age of 10 by 2025.
I want to continue to build our partnerships across the region, on all of these vital issues, in the spirit of respect and friendship. - The writer is the UK Foreign Secretary.