Why UK development programmes in Kenya are crucial for global prosperity and stability
Earlier this year, I joined the Coalition for Global Prosperity and CAFOD, the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development on a trip to Kenya, to see first-hand the impact the UK is having through its development programmes. Together we visited communities in Marsabit County in Northern Kenya, who are experiencing the worst drought in forty years. This humanitarian crisis on the Horn of Africa is now one of the worst in the world, and in Kenya alone, over four million people have been affected by the drought with 4.5 million now at risk of starvation.
I have always believed that as Members of Parliament, we have a special responsibility to ensure that all taxpayers money is being well-spent, in line with our country’s interests and values. That is exactly what I saw in Kenya. Through its development work, the UK is helping people in dire need respond to the effects of a crisis that, if not addressed, could destabilise the region. As Pope Francis has said, ‘‘Poverty, decadence and suffering in one part of the earth are a silent breeding ground for problems that will end up affecting the entire planet.”
But it is not just because of the moral case for doing so, that I think the programmes that I saw are so important. It is also in our national interest to ensure that partners like Kenya, Commonwealth members, with whom we share long and meaningful ties by way of language, shared values, legal systems, governance and traditions, know that we are committed to their development and a shared vision of the international, rules-based order. And that is exactly the argument put forward by the Coalition for Global Prosperity today in their new report ‘Outcompeting Strategic Challengers’.
The strategic imperative for this could not be more important. A country like Kenya is already one of our key strategic partners on the African continent, and our shared commitment to the international order has been particularly evident in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which the Kenyan government has been steadfast in opposing with us at the UN. We also know that many of our global competitors, most notably China, have a very different view of the international system, indeed the recently published refresh of the Integrated Review describes competition with China as an epoch-defining challenge. And in places like Kenya, we already see how China is working to expand their influence, with the Chinese government and its intermediaries spending vast sums of money to cultivate their influence.
And unlike the UK and our allies, both in Europe and across the Atlantic, China does not share a commitment to transparency, good governance or our belief in the importance of individual rights. As such, now is the time for us to demonstrate to Kenya, and our other partners in Africa, that we are the right partner to help them achieve their ambitions, help them develop and become more prosperous, more resilient to shocks and a bulwark of regional stability.
As the Coalition’s report sets out, we are right to ensure that allies of ours like Kenya, whose global importance will increase significantly in the decades to come, have a meaningful alternative in partners like the UK. Through our development work, not just aid, but also through trade, security and shared diplomatic endeavours, we can deliver in our mutual interests, whilst also helping people in real need, like those I met in Marsabit.
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