How The British Military Are 'Opening Doors' In Africa

The UK Armed Forces are helping to "open doors" in the African countries they operate in, a senior British diplomat in Malawi has told Forces News.

UK foreign policy is being put under the spotlight as the Government works to redefine its post-Brexit position - meaning building and maintaining relationships with nations around the world is set to become a priority. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants Africa to become a key partner as the Government pushes its 'Global Britain' brand.

The British High Commissioner in Malawi, Holly Tett, has told Forces News the UK Armed Forces play a "huge role" in making sure the country remains relevant on the continent.

"The fact that we have left the EU [European Union] does not mean that we are leaving our responsibilities as a global international player," Ms Tett said.

"All of us need to work together to make sure we are relevant and continue to be relevant internationally.

"I think of course the British Army has a huge role to play in that."

The military are currently running training courses for troops in 14 African nations ahead of deployment on United Nations peacekeeping missions.

Malawi Defence Force troops learn tactical skills from British personnel.
Malawi Defence Force troops learn tactical skills from British personnel.

Coordinated by the British Peace Support Team (BPST), whose headquarters are in Nairobi, Kenya, Short Term Training Teams (STTT) respond to requests from African governments to share their skills.

One of those is Malawi, a nation that deploys hundreds of troops every year to the MONUSCO mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

The mission aims to protect civilians from the threat of terrorist groups and sexual assault. 

But the training partnership also aims to have long-term benefits to international security. 

"They [the British military] really open doors for me," Ms Tett said.

"It’s a great way to open conversations with the president, with senior ministers and with others to talk about our security partnership."

The military's relationship with Malawi is already strong.

The British Army has been supporting rangers in National Parks to tackle the illegal wildlife trade, while soldiers from the STTT have been sharing tactical skills with the Malawi Parachute Battalion ahead of their deployment to the Democratic Republic of Congo in six months time.

"We’re setting the standard for them to then to teach on their pre-deployment," said Sergeant Will Slater, 1st Battalion The Grenadier Guards.

"We are actually going to be picking instructors to come back and involve themselves with a pre-deployment with another STTT team that’s coming out.

"Everyone’s then going to teach the same - so they're going to be teaching British doctrine in the British Army way.

"It'll set them for success with the deployment, then."

British troops have been working with the Malawi Parachute Battalion.
British troops have been working with the Malawi Parachute Battalion.

Lieutenant Colonel Freddie Grounds coordinates the training in Malawi and praised the work of both militaries.

"They [the Malawi Defence Force] are the most proactive and forward-leaning military that I work with and they’re just really easy to do business with," he told Forces News.

"To be honest with you, it’s our British soldiers that come out here and deliver the training, I just set them up and point them in the right direction.

"It never ceases to amaze me just how good our soldiers are.

"They have an amazing ability to develop a rapport very quickly with whichever military it is and the quality of the training that they deliver is absolutely first class."

However, success for the military in Africa does not mean a continued and constant presence.

The BPST wants to equip African defence forces with enough skills and experience so they themselves can lead - and then, the BPST say, they will eventually step back.