The world is changing fast. Globalisation and age of information have brought policy making closer to the people. Twitter is both the new battleground and negotiating table. As the UK’s most senior diplomat, I have over 10,000 Twitter followers (though my Ministry’s cat @DiploMog has five times as many). Foreign policy development should be, and increasingly is, a real conversation.
For the UK, this is an exciting time as we seize the opportunities presented by leaving the European Union. Britain will be more engaged and outward-looking than ever before.
As Rwanda implements its 2015 referendum changes, the UK is similarly delivering on our 2016 referendum result. Leaving the EU gives us the opportunity to forge a new future for the UK — one where we are free to control our borders and co-operate with others as an independent country. We will introduce Bills in Parliament for new immigration and customs arrangements, and the Great Repeal Bill will transpose all EU law into UK law, providing certainty for businesses on the day that the UK leaves the EU.
Africa matters profoundly to the UK and Brexit will enhance this connection. Our diplomatic network of 36 African Posts, 19 British Council offices and 16 DFID offices positions the UK as Africa’s key partner for building a safer, healthier, more prosperous world. May’s launch of Rwandair flights to London is already deepening our trading and cultural relationships. Beyond Rwanda, Africa is home to 18 other Commonwealth countries with a strong affinity to the UK. Our shared legal frameworks, systems and institutions mean the UK is well-placed to support good governance, the rule of law and economic development on the continent.
The British Government has enhanced our commitment to the world’s poorest. Last month, the UK’s Ministers for International Development and International Trade announced a joint commitment to 48 of the world’s poorest countries, including Rwanda, to secure existing duty-free access to UK markets after Brexit and provide new opportunities to increase trade links. The UK is one of Rwanda’s largest and most effective development partners, supporting the most vulnerable Rwandans to improve their livelihoods and wellbeing.
Following the UK’s general election in June, the Prime Minister appointed Rory Stewart as the United Kingdom’s Minister for Africa, representing both the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development. This brings together our efforts in diplomacy, trade and development in one place for a 21st century relationship.
I agree with Minister Stewart that Africa is an extraordinary continent with so much potential. We need to build relationships with mutual respect and learning between Africa and the United Kingdom. We want a renewed UK-Africa partnership based on our shared interests of security, migration and prosperity and with youth at its heart.
Sir Simon McDonald, PUS, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, LondonFollow https://twitter.com/SMcDonaldFCO