UK to end aid to drought-hit Kenyans in 2024

British funding of a 10-year-old aid package to drought-hit communities in Kenya is to end in 2024 as part of a new economic partnership with the country, the Guardian reports.

The Ksh 20.5 billion (£143m) programme, which has helped 600,000 vulnerable people in emergencies via direct cash transfers – a system criticised by some Conservatives as the equivalent of exporting the dole – is the first UK aid project of its kind which will be wholly taken over by a government in Africa.

In an interview with the British newspaper on her first visit to the continent as secretary of state, Penny Mordaunt said Kenya was a “profound success story” that had “stepped up and taken responsibility” by investing in its own people.

Last week, Mordaunt warned Britain would cut aid spending to developing countries if they failed to invest in their own people. Setting out her priorities as a new development secretary, she said she would focus increasingly on helping developing countries “stand on their own two feet” and pledged to use aid as a “Brexit-ready proposition to boost trade and investment with developing countries” in a mutually beneficial relationship.

Speaking in Nairobi at the weekend, she said Kenya was a perfect model of this. “Kenya is an example of a country which I think is doing the right thing.”

“There will be other nations who have said: why would they invest in vaccinations and start building up particular services because the international community is going to do it for them? That doesn’t help them transition out of extreme poverty or start building the public systems that they need to look after their people.”

Helped by DfID-backed reforms that have increased access to credit for the country’s 50 million people from 25% to 75% in a decade and removed trade barriers by cutting customs clearance times, Kenya has jumped 30 places in the World Bank’s ease of doing business rankings in the last three years.

Block 5

On her visit, Mordaunt travelled to Marsabit, one of four counties devastated by east Africa’s drought, to see how the DfID-backed cash transfer system was saving lives.

The Hunger Safety Net Programme (HSNP) uses satellite imagery of drought-hit vegetation to identify the needy, while biometric fingerprint technology guards against fraud. The Kenyan government, which currently provides 65% of its funding, is now using it to identify disabled families.

Mordaunt spoke to women from the drought-hit communities, including the mother of a severely disabled nine-year-old boy. They told her the money – about Ksh 5,738 (£40) every two months for those qualifying as vulnerable – had changed their lives by helping them feed and educate their children and set up businesses. The scheme is also being used to help 71,000 severely malnourished children.

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The secretary of state also said research showed that cash transfers, which critics have likened to exporting the dole, helped local economies offer dignity to recipients. They were better at supporting the needy than traditional humanitarian aid, “which is not as effective in reaching people it needs to and doesn’t yield anything other than alleviating that crisis”.

“Here it’s yielded a social protection system which the government in short order will be taking over completely,” she said.

DfID will continue to help fund the programme for the next five years, and has provided another Ksh 2.8 billion (£19.8m) for 2018, when it expects the drought to continue.

Mordaunt has expanded cash transfers in other areas, including to help Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

She said DfID would continue to alleviate humanitarian crises and assist people in need, as well as building in sustainability for the future.

“Using our heads in deciding how to spend that money doesn’t also preclude using our hearts,” she said.

The development secretary, who took over in November from Priti Patel after she was forced to resign, also heard from British businesses about how DfiD-backed improvements in trade had helped them tap into the Kenyan market.

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She also announced a scaling up of support to trade across east Africa, providing Ksh 30.3 billion (£211m) to TradeMark East Africa, an aid programme helping remove trade barriers created by high costs of imports and exports.

The UK is the fifth largest exporter of goods to Kenya and trade between the two counties is worth more than Ksh 143.5 billion (£1bn) a year.

Story credit: The Guardian

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