The United Kingdom’s announcement Tuesday that it would stop all direct aid to South Africa by 2015 has provoked consternation and confusion in Pretoria. An official in the foreign ministry says South Africa was not told in advance of the decision, and that the move could “redefine” the two nations’ relationship.
British International Development Secretary Justine Greening said Tuesday that the U.K. is ending direct aid to South Africa, worth about $29 million per year.
Greening said she had consulted with South African officials ahead of the decision and that they had agreed that “South Africa is now in a position to fund its own development.”
However, in Pretoria, South Africa’s capital, officials said they were taken by surprise.
Foreign ministry spokesman Clayson Monyela suggested the decision could have a major impact on British-South African relations.
“The South African government has noted with regret this unilateral announcement by the government of the United Kingdom regarding the termination of the official development of aid to South Africa. It’s a major move with far-reaching implications, particularly on the projects that are currently running, and and it is tantamount to redefining our relationship," he said.
Monyela did not say what that new relationship might entail. The two countries cooperate on a variety of issues and across a variety of platforms, diplomatically and otherwise.
South Africa is Britain’s largest trading partner in Africa. And both countries are home to a significant number of citizens from the other country.
South African officials like to tout their nation’s status as a rising economic powerhouse. The country recently became the newest member of BRICS, a group of emerging economies that includes Brazil, Russia, India and China.
South Africa is also the biggest economy in Africa and is home to a growing black middle class.
But despite those achievements, foreign ministry spokesman Monyela made it clear South Africa is not pleased with the suddenness of Britain's announcement.
“Inasmuch as we appreciate how we are being viewed by the world, including the U.K., that we are a growing economy, influential, a member of BRICS and therefore carry and wield some influence in global affairs - inasmuch as we appreciate all of those things, the key issue we are raising is that there shouldn’t be a space for unilateral decisions and announcements within the framework of the U.K.-S.A. bilateral forum. Things must be discussed, there should be consultation and modalities agreed to," said Monyela.
For now, Monyela said, the government will have to figure out how to continue funding some of the rural development projects the United Kingdom had taken on.
The U.K.'s Greening said that after British aid stops in 2015, the two nations will focus on trade.