I was delighted to be appointed Secretary of State for International Development when Prime Minister Boris Johnson put together his new Cabinet. It is a fantastic opportunity to lead the UK’s work to end extreme poverty around the world. To play our part internationally in tackling environmental issues such as climate change and deforestation. To promote and support education and healthcare around the world. And ultimately help countries become self-sustaining, whilst projecting Britain’s values round the globe.
There is, I believe, both a moral and an economic case for us to help poorer nations. I know that not everyone will share this view and question why we provide overseas aid. I see it as a part of my role to explain to British taxpayers the benefits of our work. So I have recently launched a social media campaign, titled #100WaysAidWorks, to showcase how the work of my department is a making a real difference in helping the world and also helping the UK.
To take two examples from the campaign. UKaid is tackling Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo, saving lives there whilst also helping to prevent the disease reaching our shores. UKaid has also funded a test for detecting TB, which was originally for use in developing countries, and is now also available on the NHS. For anyone wanting to learn more about this campaign follow me on twitter!
Last week I travelled to Nigeria to see some of the initiatives we are supporting. Our financial investment in and technical advice to the Viathan Independent Power Plant is a case in point of British support helping a country move beyond basic aid to investing in infrastructure. The plant supplies low emission electricity to 300,000 people in the Lagos area powering street lights, schools, hospitals, businesses and supporting jobs.
Infrastructure, like this power plant, helps a country’s economy grow and ultimately creates overseas markets for British companies, which in turn supports jobs in the UK. And that is why economic development in the countries we support will be one of my focus areas in my new role.
After a two day visit to Nigeria I landed at 5 am on a Friday at Heathrow. By mid-morning I was in meetings with constituents taking up individual cases and later visiting a local new housing development where residents have been experiencing teething issues. Whatever I may be doing in government I very much appreciate that my constituents’ are my ultimate bosses!