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Charles III’s United Kingdom and Africa. A Temptation to Withdraw

On 6 May 2023, King Charles III will be crowned at Westminster Abbey in London. This briefing assesses the UK-Africa relations against the backdrop of the new King’s discours on Global Britain.

Regarding the with Africa, which makes up one third of the Commonwealth (21 states), the particular historical legitimacy of the British sovereign cannot be overlooked; all the more so since, in contrast to the personal attitude of the new king and the discourse on ‘Global Britain’, the current policy options, which are based on a completely different democratic and electoral legitimacy, are leading to a progressive deterioration in the United Kingdom’s relations with this continent.

  • Charles III, among other prerogatives, is head of the Commonwealth. Without encroaching on the British policy domain, he retained a key role in an organisation comprising 21 African countries. Significantly, the first foreign head of state the new monarch hosted, was the South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.
  • For its supporters, the Brexit was originally intended to be accompanied by the re-engagement south of the Sahara of a Global Britain, of which the Africa UK Business Summit in 2020 embodied the economic and commercial aspect. But in fact, the UK’s relationship with Africa is deteriorating. Africa has not been a priority since the strategic shift towards the Indo-Pacific and the war in Ukraine, which risks reducing it to a secondary theatre of confrontation with Russia. The radical decline in development aid has also contributed to the downgrading of the African continent in British foreign policy since the merger of the Foreign Office and DFID in 2020.
  • Commonwealth Day, traditionally marked in the UK by a ‘message’ from the Sovereign as ‘head’ of the free association of sovereign successor states to the British Empire, and an interfaith service at Westminster Abbey, was of particular significance in March 2023 in the run-up to the forthcoming coronation of Charles III.

Source: Ifri News