Études de l'Ifri
Great Britain and Africa: Boris Johnson's strategic reversals Etudes de l'Ifri, May 2021
In 2020-2021, Prime Minister Boris Johnson undertook to fundamentally change the operational mode and strategy of relations between the United Kingdom and the African continent bequeathed by his predecessors since 1997.
He first put an end to the autonomy and power of the great Department for International Development (DfID), by merging it with the Foreign Office. Deciding to make the granting of aid political, he also reduced its amount on the grounds of the recession hitting the country but against British legislation itself.
His strategy for external deployment, adopted in March 2021 and based primarily on an “Indo-Pacific tilt”, has marginalised the relationship with Africa to which Theresa May had wanted to give new impetus in the perspective of the Brexit in 2018. While taking up her concept of “Global Britain”, her successor now seems to want to limit ties with Africa to business relations, highly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, as well as minimal participation in security efforts on the continent.
This note analyses such reversals in a historical perspective of the end of a relational cycle. It concludes that Boris Johnson’s very personal policy towards Africa is too reductive not to be amended. In particular on aid and fundamental rights, it neglects the complexity of British positions towards this continent. By reaffirming the strength of the strategic relationship with the United States, it will also have to adapt to the new African policy of the Biden administration.
La Grande-Bretagne et l’Afrique : Les retournements stratégiques de Boris Johnson
European Aid for Development