- After ten years when humanitarianism and the Department for International Development (DFID) dominated UK engagement with sub-Saharan Africa, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is now expected to lead on Africa issues once more.
- This reflects an important, and growing, recognition that development objectives can best be pursued with reference to UK interests in Africa, but also an extremely strong, and potentially controversial, focus on boosting UK trade. It is still unclear how Africa sits as a priority within FCO, and UK strategic thinking, including within the National Security Council.
- Despite some additional capacity announced by the UK coalition government, the FCO is stretched in its coverage of Africa, with UK diplomatic engagement in large areas increasingly relying on micro posts staffed by one or two UK diplomats. Such widespread use of micro posts is unprecedented and untried.
- The UK has a growing resource of expertise in its African diaspora communities. They increasingly pursue active political and economic roles in many African states as well as in the UK, with many bilateral links now far deeper than official links would suggest. The FCO needs to engage better with such groups if it is to maintain its relevance and improve its expertise and advice.