UK Foreign Secretary launches ‘English Connects’ programme in Senegal

UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt at the official launch of the ‘English Connects’ programme at the Université Virtuelle du Sénégal in Dakar, Senegal. COURTESY: Foreign and Commonwealth Office

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt officially launched the ‘English Connects’ programme at the Université Virtuelle du Sénégal on Tuesday in Dakar, Senegal.

The programme will support the teaching and learning of English in sub-Saharan Africa countries, where English is not widely spoken, with an emphasis on online learning.

The programme by the British Council aims to reach 7.5 million young people each year.

“Learning languages opens up new worlds of possibility for young people,” Hunt said. “There is an enormous appetite from young people across Africa to learn our language because English is the language of opportunity. That’s why we are providing new funding for English teaching to help many more young people access the possibilities that our language opens up, from London’s financial powerhouse to our world-renowned arts and culture.”

Hunt’s visit to Senegal is the first visit by a UK Foreign Secretary to the West African nation in nearly twenty years.

Hunt is on the first leg of a week-long trip that will see him visit Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Kenya. It is his first visit to Africa as Foreign Secretary.

Hunt is expected to lead a new UK diplomatic push across the continent, including in Francophone countries where Britain has traditionally played a smaller role.

“I want us to work within and alongside African nations to make sure, together, we combat the threats we all face, and capitalise on the opportunities open to people wherever they live. To do this, I want to set out the stall for the UK to be the new partner of choice across Africa,” read part of a statement by Hunt.

The Foreign Secretary’s visit follows an announcement in 2018 that Britain will open new embassies in Chad and Niger and expand its presence in Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali and Mauritania.

The move is aimed at increasing the UK’s engagement and presence in West Africa and strengthening trade between the UK and African countries. Additionally, the UK hopes to help address security problems in the Sahel and boost development work across the region