Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May announced a major aid package for African countries yesterday aimed at helping them insure against the costs of natural disasters such as drought – but charities accused her of ignoring the real needs of the world's poorest people.
Britain will spend around £30 million over four years buying premiums with British insurance companies. The aim is to shift the financial burden of responding to humanitarian need on to insurance companies rather than using Britain's aid budget.
The companies would be able to continue working directly with African countries after the end of the scheme, enabling them to make a profit.
The scheme was laid out at the G20 summit in Hamburg yesterday. 'We must not forget that progress in Africa benefits the UK at home,' Mrs May said. 'Our international aid work is helping to build Britain's trading partners of the future, creating real alternatives to mass migration, and enhancing our security.'
However, charities criticised the move for focusing on the economy rather than on people's material needs.
Max Lawson of Oxfam told The Guardian stimulating growth could help the fight against poverty. 'But it is important to recognise that growing economies will not automatically provide people with enough food to eat or life-saving medicines – especially as Africa is home to some of the most unequal countries on Earth,' he said. 'We urge the government to set out in practical terms how it will ensure those who most need our help will reap the benefits of this initiative.'
Christian Aid said the announcement 'ignores the real demands of Africans' and accused May of 'pandering' to the US on climate change.
Spokesman Mohamed Adow said: 'Theresa May's announcement of major funds for industrialising Africa is badly flawed because it makes no mention of climate change.
'When G20 leaders were focused on showing a united front on climate change against Donald Trump, Theresa May has let the side down. The UK seems to be deliberately editing climate change out of her statements for fear of losing Trump's approval. This kind of pandering to the USA does nothing for Britain's standing in the world.'
He continued: 'Today's announcement from the UK may look like a generous offer, but unless it helps develop clean jobs that the poorest can access, it will not truly help Africa. All future jobs and infrastructure need to be adapted to climate change – this should have been at the heart of the UK's announcement.'