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UK aid ‘fuelling hunger in Africa’

DFID accused of putting business interests ahead of poverty fight

The UK government is spending hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money promoting the interests of multinational corporations in Africa instead of fighting poverty, according to a new report released today.

The report, The Hunger Games, from anti-poverty charity War on Want, shows UK aid benefiting global food giants such as Monsanto, Syngenta and Unilever, as well as UK drinks companies Diageo and SABMiller, at the expense of small-scale farmers in countries such as Mozambique, Tanzania and Malawi.

War on Want accuses the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) of undermining moves to combat poverty by increasing corporate power over local agriculture, and supporting land grabs in Kenya, Ethiopia and Sierra Leone.

The charity warns that the UK government’s policy will further increase hunger levels in Africa, already up from 175 million to 239 million in two decades, according to new UN figures.

John Hilary, executive director at War on Want, said: “DFID is channelling more and more UK aid to multinational food companies seeking to take over land and agriculture in Africa. Yet the expansion of corporate control over farming will increase vulnerability among the world’s poorest communities, deepening poverty and hunger for years to come. DFID should be using the aid budget to support small-scale farming in Africa, not boosting the profits of big business.”

War on Want’s report also unveils DFID’s support for a complex network of companies and investment funds registered in one of Africa’s foremost tax havens, Mauritius, at the same time as senior UK government officials promise to crack down on corporate tax avoidance in response to public outrage.

In addition, the report highlights the close personal connections between the UK government and multinational companies such as Unilever, whose CEO Paul Polman sits with David Cameron on the UN High Level Panel on global poverty. DFID’s current director of policy, Nick Dyer, started his career with Unilever, while Unilever’s external affairs director for Africa, Douglas Brew, was previously Africa regional manager for DFID. Former government ministers Lynda Chalker, Leon Brittan and David Simon have all served recently as non-executive directors of Unilever, while ex-foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind currently sits on the Unilever board.

War on Want is calling on DFID to:

  • suspend its support for initiatives promoting land grabbing and corporate sales, and back positive alternatives such as agroecology and food sovereignty instead
  • freeze its funding for research on GM crops, which threaten to lock small-scale farmers into dependency on corporate seed providers, and instead focus on sustainable breeding programmes
  • ensure UK aid funds are not routed through Mauritius or any other tax havens or secrecy jurisdictions
  • make a comprehensive public declaration of all initiatives and investment funds linked to the UK aid budget, with details of where each is registered

NOTE TO EDITORS

  1. The War on Want report, The Hunger Games: How DFID support for agribusiness is fuelling poverty in Africa, is available at www.waronwant.org/hungergames
  2. The UN’s new hunger figures are available at http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/161819/icode/

CONTACT: War on Want media officer Paul Collins (+44) (0)20 7324 5054 or (+44) (0)7983 550728

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