UK funding to Kenya could double by 2014

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BY ALISTAIR FERNIE

The UK Government has announced how it will spend a 35 percent increase in its global support to development over the next four years.  As the head of the British aid programme in Kenya, this is a proud day for me.  Although the global economy, including in the UK, has faced harsh challenges over the last couple of years, Britain has reiterated its commitment to spending 0.7 percent of Gross National Income as aid by 2013. 

Our International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell explained to the House of Commons a detailed plan for how that money will be spent to change lives and deliver results.  And he has decided that Kenya should be one of 27 countries that will benefit from this increasing budget.

One of my key responsibilities in running the DFID (Department for International Development) office in Nairobi is to ensure that British taxpayers\’ money is achieving the best possible development impact.

That\’s why we, along with every other DFID office around the world, have spent the last few months reviewing our programmes.  We\’ve come up with a plan for how to spend our budget to get the best possible value for money, and maximise the impact we can have on the lives of poor Kenyans. 

Although my job is very different to High Commissioner Rob Macaire\’s, we have concluded we have a fundamental shared interest: political stability in Kenya.  As the 2008 post-election crisis showed, instability threatens development progress – growth collapses, investment dries up, the business of development gets stuck in the rut of political crisis.

We have several good examples in Kenya of how UK aid has made a real difference in the fight against poverty: distributing 19 million bednets has contributed to under-five mortality falling from 115 deaths per 1,000 births in 2003 to 74 by 2009 thanks to reduced malaria; our investments have helped three million Kenyans get access to financial services for the first time; and we helped Kenyan institutions create and agree a new constitution through support to drafting, voter education, and the referendum itself. 

But there is still much to do, and Kenya is off-track on several of the Millennium Development Goals, notably mothers dying in childbirth.

We would like to do more to support growth and help eradicate poverty in Kenya.  The announcement of our increased global aid commitments includes the possibility of our Kenya programme doubling by 2013/14.  Foreign aid is only part of the picture, but there is little doubt that well-targeted aid can help Kenya achieve those MDG targets – and increase economic growth and job creation that benefits all Kenyans.

We need to balance this ambition with a hard look at progress with reform.  Our ministers will judge the Kenyan government, as all our partners, on three things: commitment to poverty reduction, respect for human rights and their other international obligations, and the soundness of their financial management. 

Together, we think these three factors create the environment for sustainable progress in reducing poverty. 

This is not political conditionality: experience tells us that where governments don\’t care about their poorest citizens, or abuse their rights, or run ministries corruptly, development progress is slower.  Along with many of Kenya\’s donors, we believe political stability is essential to maximise development results. 

An end to the impunity seen previously for those involved in post-election violence in 2007-8, and for senior figures involved in corruption, is an essential contribution to that stability.

We want to work closely with the Kenyan Government on this agenda.  But our taxpayers, to whom our ministers are accountable, do not currently have enough confidence in the Kenyan Government\’s financial management systems to put much of our money directly through them.  This is partly due to recent setbacks, such as significant fraud in the Ministry of Education.

Nonetheless, we still want to support the Kenyan people to achieve the development objectives of Vision 2030.  DFID\’s programme over the next four years will therefore focus on seven key sectors, all of which are complementary to the ambitions of Vision 2030. 

We will work in health (notably reducing deaths from malaria and in pregnancy, plus more choice for women in family planning), social protection (reducing poverty among the most vulnerable through cash transfers), wealth creation (particularly jobs for young people), education (helping get children in the arid lands and slums into school, and raising the quality of schooling), governance and security (support to elections, constitutional implementation, Parliament, improved accountability, and the police – subject to clear evidence of reform), humanitarian aid (reducing acute malnutrition, meeting refugee needs, better responses to emergencies and risk management), and climate change (stronger government policy, adaptation in the worst-affected areas, and support to low-carbon business growth). 

We will also intensify our support to regional economic integration across the East African Community through our Africa regional programme, and Kenya will continue to benefit from additional DFID funding through UK NGOs, research organisations and other global programmes.

If things go well, we could see a significant uplift in the UK\’s aid programme to Kenya over the next four years.  We are spending about £70m (Sh9 billion) in 2010/11, £17m (Sh2.2 billion) less than planned, due to the Education Ministry fraud.  In 2011/12 we have allocated £100m (Sh12.9 billion), in 2012/13 £110m (Sh14.2 billion) and in the following two years £150m (Sh19.4 billion) each.

This money is available to Kenya.  But to satisfy our taxpayers, many of whom are now experiencing severe economic pressures and reductions in services at home, we will only spend it all if it is clear that the right environment for achieving development results is there – and that includes political stability. 

For the latter point in particular, responsible actions by Kenyan politicians are now more important than words. We will be reviewing all these plans carefully in the light of progress in the run-up to, and after, Kenya\’s 2012 elections.

(Mr Fernie is the Head of DFID, Kenya. This blog was first published on the FCO website http://blogs.fco.gov.uk/roller/macaire/)

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