Economy, Globe, World

Does the UK aid budget promote poverty in Africa?

According to a recent report, the British Government is channelling taxpayers’ money into large corporations through the Department for International Development (DFID), worsening the food poverty crisis in Africa.

Benjamin Serra

The report (from charity War on Want) shows that senior UK government officials have personal links with large corporations such as Unilever and Syngenta.

The government also supports a network of companies known to deposit funds in the tax haven of Mauritius.

Chronic food poverty affects almost 870 million people worldwide, according to the latest UN estimate.

The Department for International Development (DFID) was created by the British government with the express purpose of alleviating poverty.

In spite of the fact that one of its objectives is to encourage development in the poorest regions of the planet, the DFID is using taxpayers’ money to promote the interests of multinational corporations in Africa.

In order for poorer regions to develop, it is necessary to support small-scale farmers and rural communities. However, according to the report by War on Want, the DFID is channelling aid funds to multinationals such as Unilever, Syngenta, Monsanto, SABMiller and Diageo, above all in sub-Saharan Africa, condemning small-scale producers to poverty and hunger in the long term.

As large corporations continue to control more of the world agriculture market, smaller farmers and indigenous communities become increasingly vulnerable to hunger.

Africa, where the number of people in food poverty has increased by 20 million in the last four years, has become one of the most important markets for large multinational producers of seeds, crops, herbicides, pesticides and chemical fertilisers.

Leon Brittan

DFID’s support for agribusinesses who produce these products, along with genetically modified crops, brings about a situation of dependency. The small-scale producers who use the seeds, are then dependent on these companies and obliged to produce crops for the corporations.

The study also highlights the numerous personal connections existing between members of the British government and corporations such as Unilever.

The UK/Dutch multinational, responsible for brands such as Knorr, Lipton, Dove and Lynx amongst others, has taken part in numerous initiatives brought forward by the DFID.

DFID’s current director of policy, Nick Dyer, started his career at Unilever prior to his post at DFID, and Douglas Brew, Director of foreign affairs for Africa at Unilever worked at DFID for nine years as regional manager for Africa.

Similarly, three former Conservative ministers have recently joined Unilever’s board as non-executive directors. They are Leon Brittan, a government minister throughout the 1980s and subsequent European commissioner; Lynda Chalker, former minister for overseas development; David Simon, former trade minister; and Sir Malcolm Rifkind, former foreign secretary.

With the support of Monsanto, one of the most prominent agribusinesses in the world, and Syngenta, manufacturer of fungicides, herbicides and insecticides who also produce maize seeds and genetically modified bananas, the DFID is creating an environment in emerging markets where smaller producers are losing control and the private sector is taking over.

Diageo and SABMiller are other companies who, along with the above, form part of the Southern Agricultural Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT), a project which aims to generate 2.1 billion dollars from the agricultural production of 350,000 hectares in the region: a project which in any case would only benefit those farmers who own large portions of the land.

The actions of the DFID are also questionable from the point of view of supporting large multinationals over small producers. It has been proven that the organisation is allowing certain companies to avoid paying tax, funds that would go a long way towards supporting smaller farmers and the development of agriculture.

Through a network of companies registered in Mauritius, the DFID allows the companies to avoid taxes that they should be paying. These include the Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund (EAIF), which aims to develop private infrastructure in Sub-Saharan Africa with a forecast spend of £100 million until 2015, and GuarantCo, who are committed to financing infrastructures in vulnerable countries.

The publicly funded actions of the DFID can have only one outcome, the privatisation of agriculture in Africa.

As a result, farmers are losing control over the production of their food supply, condemning them to hunger and poverty. This is the absolute opposite of the objectives this government-lead institution is supposed be following.

(Translated by Claudia Rennie – Email:

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