Britain in Africa

About the Author

Tom Porteous has worked and travelled extensively in Africa as a journalist, UN peacekeeping official and for the Foriegn Office. In the 1980s and early 1990s he was a freelance correspondent for the Guardian, the BBC and others, first in Cairo and later in Berlin and Morocco. In 1994 and 1995 he worked in UN peace operations in Somalia and Liberia. From 1995 to 2000 he was a programme producer, presenter and editor at the BBC World Service radio working on Africa and the Middle East. From 2001 to 2003 he was the conflict management adviser at the Africa directorate of the British Foreign Office. He is currently the London Director of Human Rights Watch.

Britain in Africa

Why has Africa become such an important priority for Britain’s foreign policy under New Labour? What interests and values is the UK seeking to uphold by intervening? Why has aid to Africa more than tripled over the past decade? How has the UK’s involvement in the War on Terror affected its efforts there?

In Britain in Africa Tom Porteous seeks to answer these and other questions about Britain’s role in Africa since 1997. He provides an account of the key players, the policies they constructed in the shadow of the war in Iraq and the future of Britain’s engagement with the continent. This book sets out the balance sheet of what Britain has achieved, and where and why it failed in Africa.

A compelling read, whose importance for international politics reaches far beyond Britain or Africa.


‘This is the most helpful and illuminating book on a Western country’s foreign policy in Africa for a very long time. Porteous takes us behind the scenes into the policy world itself. Rarely have such intricacies been conveyed so compellingly’
Jane Guyer, Johns Hopkins University

‘A lucid, hugely informative and insightful account of British policy towards Africa under Blair. It should be required reading for today’s Ministers and their advisers’ – David Mepham, Director of Policy, Save the Children

‘Tom Porteous provides an unusually rounded balance-sheet, crisp and without pomp, of the results of Britain’s rather overweening policies towards Africa during the Blair years. If the risks of deterioration in the life-chances of most Africans are to be reduced, political and developmental strategy must, he argues, be better informed, less fashion-prone, and less blinkered by a naí¯vely conceived counter-terrorism. Seldom does one read such a rounded analysis of these complex interrelated issues.’ – Jonathan Benthall, University College London

‘A succinct and very useful overview of some of the highs and lows of Britain’s Africa policies under the Labour government.’ – Paul D. Williams, Elliot School of International Affairs, George Washington University

“˜In the latest in the “˜African Arguments’ series, Tom Porteous provides a succinct and very useful overview of some of the highs and lows of Britain’s Africa policies under the Labour government … The book serves as an excellent overview of the issues involved in trying to design and implement policies in a continent as diverse and afflicted as Africa … He does so with admirable clarity while at the same time remaining sensitive to the genuine dilemmas that confronted the British government’ – Paul D. Williams, George Washington University, Journal of Modern African Studies