British Prime Minister Theresa May’s breezy visits to Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria last week was the United Kingdom’s attempt to strengthen relations with Africa ahead of Britain’s rocky, risky ride to Brexit in March next year. Most importantly, it was also to signal to Africa that the UK would fasten its immigration laws and policies against illegal migration.
Britain’s impending exit from the European Union has caused anxiety over an uncertain future for the rest of Europe as well as for the UK. Britain is exiting from the Union in order to untie its economy from what she considers to be some strangulating EU rules that open European gates to a deluge of unwanted immigrants.
As an attempt to curtail immigration, May wanted to provide support that would not only help to protect the vulnerable people in Africa but to also help crack down on illegal migration and organised crime. The aid regime on defense and security she pledged to Nigeria was “not just what we can do to help the most vulnerable people across the world and help lifting people out of poverty, but how can we ensure there is a long, longer term element by working with governments and others to ensure good government in stability in those fragile states…[It is also meant] to support a major new crack down on illicit finance and organised crime, deploying expertise in financial centres around the world” – and to counter “illegal migration, modern slavery and trafficking in people.”
Theresa May added that she wanted Britain to become the biggest of the G7 investors in Africa by 2022. On the three-nation visit, she had pledged £4 billion aid to Africa. In 2016, UK invested £42.7bn in Africa, as against £44.3bn by US, £38bn by France and £31bn by China.
May, in her speech during the visit, added that, “Much of Nigeria is thriving, with many individuals enjoying the fruits of a resurgent economy, yet 87 million Nigerians live below $1 and 90 cents a day, making it home to more very poor people than any other nation in the world…It is in the world’s interest to see that those jobs are created, to tackle the causes and symptoms of extremism and instability, to deal with migration flows and to encourage clean growth.”
Actually, her rhetoric on poverty was an allusion to a recent report by the World Poverty Clock which claimed that its monitoring activities showed that the poverty level in Nigeria had surpassed that of India. The WPC is an arm of the UN in charge of the Sustainable Development Goal 1 – Ending Extreme Poverty. By making multiple references to the poverty status of Nigeria, Theresa May was, in effect, challenging Nigeria to rise to the occasion by tackling poverty. Of course, an aid from UK cannot bring about an end to poverty. Only good education, productive economy, good healthcare delivery, adherence to the Rule of Law, good leadership, and more can do so.
Theresa May’s visit was a reminder to Nigeria’s leaders that when Brexit takes effect, the UK will no longer entertain illegal immigrants. Therefore, Nigeria has to deal with the rising level of poverty among its population. Also, it has to tackle Nigerians’ insatiable appetite for travels to the UK in search of greener pastures. Nigeria should imitate Britain by rising from being a beggar-nation to an independent one – just as Britain wants to assert its sovereignty with Brexit.