UK to end SA aid for trade

2013-05-01 00:00

SOUTH Africa’s role as an emerging player in the global political sphere could be why the United Kingdom plans to end development funding to the country.

This is according to South African Institute of International Affairs senior researcher Alfredo Tjiurimo Hengari.

“The issue does not talk to the socio-economic challenges South Africa is facing. It speaks to the overall position of South Africa within the global economy such as in the Brics, where it is an important player among the developing countries,” Hengari said.

He also said the partnership between South Africa and China has grown over the years.

“Very soon the bilateral relations between South Africa and China will be stronger than what it is with its traditional partners,” Hengari said.

Yesterday, UK International Development Secretary Justine Greening announced that funding to South Africa would come to an end in 2015.

The BBC said Greening told a conference of African ministers and business leaders in London that the UK’s relationship with South Africa would now be based on trade and not development.

“South Africa has made enormous progress over the past two decades, to the extent that it is now the region’s economic powerhouse and Britain’s biggest trading partner in Africa,” she said.

“We are proud of the work the UK has done in partnership with the South African government, helping the country’s transition from apartheid to a flourishing, growing democracy.

“I have agreed with my South African counterparts that South Africa is now in a position to fund its own development.

“It is right that our relationship changes to one of mutual co-operation and trade, one that is focused on delivering benefits for the people of Britain and South Africa as well as for Africa as a whole.”

The British Embassy in Pretoria said it was not taking any media calls on the announcement and declined to comment on projects funded in the country, including in KwaZulu-Natal.

According to media reports, the UK’s aid programme to South Africa is currently worth £19 million (some R266 million) a year.

The announcement appeared to surprise and upset the Department of International Relations and Co-operation, which put out a terse statement that would have caused ripples in diplomatic corridors.

Spokesperson Clayson Monyela said the South African government noted with regret the unilateral announcement.

“This is such a major decision with far-reaching implications on the projects that are currently running and it is tantamount to redefining our relationship,” Monyela said.

He said the UK government should have informed the government of South Africa through official diplomatic channels of their intentions and allowed for proper consultations to take place.

“This unilateral announcement no doubt will affect how our bilateral relations going forward will be conducted,” he said, referring to a bilateral forum planned for later in the year.

He said there would be serious implications on projects under way.

“If you stop funding it means you stop the projects. That will mean something will have to be done by the government.”

Monyela dismissed the notion that the country’s diplomatic relations with China and other Brics countries — Brazil, Russia and India — could have been a factor in withdrawal of funding.

“We always had relations. It’s not a new thing,” he insisted.

In November last year, Britain reportedly unveiled plans to end its aid programme to India in 2015 as well, citing economic growth. Future support would be limited to sharing skills.

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