Jeremy Hunt sets out vision for UK to be ‘partner of choice’ across Africa

Jeremy Hunt is beginning a week-long trip to Africa with the goal of boosting trade and diplomatic links as the UK seeks post-Brexit allies.

In his first trip to Africa as Foreign Secretary, Mr Hunt will seek to increase the UK’s presence in French-speaking parts of the continent where it has previously played a more minor role.

With the UK set to leave the European Union, Mr Hunt said he wanted to work “within and alongside” African nations to tackle international threats and forge new opportunities.

The trip takes in five countries – Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Kenya.

As part of the drive to expand British influence, the UK is funding a new almost £4 million English language programme in French and Portuguese-speaking countries aimed at reaching 7.5 million young people a year.

The English Connects programme will be launched by Mr Hunt in Senegal’s capital Dakar.

The Foreign Secretary will also announce an agreement between the two governments, committing to strengthening trade and economic co-operation with up to £750 million available from UK Export Finance to support British firms trading with Senegal.

Mr Hunt said: “Africa is a continent growing at an extraordinary rate, full of transformative potential.

“In a future where Britain is no longer a member of the EU, I want us to work within and alongside African nations to make sure, together, we combat the threats we all face, and capitalise on the opportunities open to people wherever they live.

“To do this, I want to set out the stall for the UK to be the new partner of choice across Africa.”

The UK has already announced the opening of new embassies in Francophone Niger and Chad and officials said they would also “expand our footprint” in Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali and Mauritania.

The English Connects language programme will begin in Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire and Mali before expanding to cover Niger, Cameroon, Gabon, Guinea, Djibouti, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola.

It is backed by £1.5 million of British Council funding and £2.4 million of Foreign Office money over two years to 2021.

Moses Anibaba, the British Council’s regional director for Sub-Saharan Africa, said: “I cannot think of a better time for the UK and Africa to be forging new connections based on mutual interest and prospects.

“English Connects is a groundbreaking, innovative programme that responds to the high demand for English in non-Anglophone countries in Africa, and helps fulfil the aspirations and potential of young Africans.”

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