Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from the British Council, Zimbabwe


  1.  The British Council in Zimbabwe was established in 1980. The main directorate is in Harare and there is a Professional Development Centre in Bulawayo, in Matabeleland.

  2.  Because of concerns about the safety of staff and visitors, the main directorate in Harare was relocated from its independent and owned building in May 2001 to the British High Commission where it is still based.

  3.  Despite the deepening political, economic and social crisis, Zimbabwe remains important to Britain and the British Council's continuing engagement with our target groups during these difficult times is a demonstration of Britain's commitment to the people of Zimbabwe.

  4.  The objectives of the British Council in Zimbabwe flow from and complement those of the FCO and DFID. The overarching aim is to win recognition for the UK's values, ideas and achievements, and nurture lasting, mutually beneficial relationships between Zimbabwe and the UK.

  5.  Current programmes are focused on governance and society, with particular emphasis on gender equity, leadership and management skills; learning, through enabling access to British qualifications and education, and creativity through our arts programme which brings Zimbabwean and British artists together to form productive relationships for mutual benefit.

  6.  The budget from the FCO's grant in aid in 2002-03 is £670,000. The total country budget is £942,000.


  7.  The British Council's overarching aim in Zimbabwe is to win recognition for the UK's values, ideas and achievements, and nurture lasting, mutually beneficial relationships between the people of Zimbabwe and the UK.

  8.  In the current difficult times, the British Council's continuing presence is a clear demonstration of Britain's commitment to the people of Zimbabwe. By positively engaging with individuals with whom we believe the future of Zimbabwe lies, the British Council can make a major contribution to the laying of a solid foundation for a new relationship between the leaders of Zimbabwe and Britain in the future.

  9.  The individuals we have identified as our target audiences are principally ambitious younger Zimbabweans in the higher education sectors, private sector and civil society organisations who have the potential to bring about change. They are primarily those just arrived in, or moving to, positions of influence. We also engage with key individuals from the authority generation who are advocates for the UK and support our engagement with the next generation.

  10.  At the highest level the impact we seek is recognition by all our target audiences that the British Council has engaged with them in a meaningful way which addresses their objectives, in particular those relating to enhancing skills and learning and to strengthening democratic values and good governance. All our activities and services are dedicated to providing a career spanning continuity of support to them.


  11.  The British Council operates under a Memorandum of Understanding between Britain and Zimbabwe dated 1980. We are currently seeking accreditation of diplomatic status for the two new UK appointed members of staff due to take up post this summer.


  12.  The British Council in Harare is also the Regional Directorate for the British Council's operations in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi. The three country operations will increasingly work together to develop new services and joint programmes to increase impact and reduce overhead expenditure.



  13.  Because of concerns over security, in May 2001 the main Directorate in Harare relocated out of owned independent offices into the British High Commission in space vacated by DFID. The directorate houses a Management Development Centre, the examinations service, the governance, information, administration and finance teams. A casualty of the move was the closure of the public access lending library which was a big disappointment to many young Zimbabweans who used it as a learning resource. The British Council has donated all of the general collection library materials and some shelving and other furniture to the Zimbabwe Open University, which will continue to make them publicly available.

  14.  Our operation in Bulawayo was transformed from a library and office to a Professional Development Centre on relocation to new premises in 2000. It is in rented accommodation.


  15.  The total country budget for 2002-03 is £942,000 of which £670,000 is grant in aid from the FCO. The balance is made up of locally collected income from the Management Development Centre in Harare and Professional Development Centre in Bulawayo, income collected from administering examinations and the allocation of funds from DFID for Higher Education Link programmes.


  16.  There are currently 29 members of staff in Zimbabwe: four are based in Bulawayo and the remainder in Harare. This includes two UK appointed staff, one of whom (when he takes up post this August) will be Director for the Central Africa region of Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi.


  17.  The British Council in Zimbabwe works closely with the High Commission to achieve an integrated and synergistic UK impact. The British Council's target audiences and activities complement FCOs and DFIDs, and support the New Partnership for Africa's Development. The British Council is also committed to managing effectively the FCO Chevening Scholarships scheme and DFID's Higher Education Links programme. The UK education constituency is a major stakeholder in the examinations and education activities.


  18.  The British Council's work in Zimbabwe supports three corporate objectives:

    —  To increase the international recognition for the range and quality of learning opportunities from the UK, to promote the learning of English, and strengthen educational co-operation between the UK and other countries.

    —  To enhance awareness of the UK's democratic values and processes, and work in partnership with other countries to strengthen good governance and human rights.

    —  To build appreciation of the UK's creativity and scientific innovation among young people overseas, and strengthen their engagement with the diversity of UK culture.


  19.  The high quality and up-to-date information resources and services in Harare and Bulawayo support the professional standards and skills of middle and senior management cadres in the public, private and civil society sectors. They increase access to information; and support early and mid-career professionals studying part-time and by distance for professional qualifications and degrees.

  20.  The Management Centre in Harare provides proactive research support to members and certain targeted individuals in specialist areas, and underpins all British Council activities in Zimbabwe with relevant and up-to-date developments in topical and relevant subject areas. Both Centres act as examples of creativity and best practice to the information constituency in Zimbabwe and provide platforms for debating the global knowledge society and issues surrounding access to information.

  21.  The Centres currently have a membership of approximately 1,000 and mechanisms are in place to constantly revitalise and rejuvenate the membership.


  22.  Through the Management and Professional Development Centres in Harare and Bulawayo, members and target audiences are invited to a regular programme of discussion fora, seminars, presentations and networking events that expose them to the latest thinking and research on management and leadership. There is conscious and close interface of these events with the leadership, scholarship and higher education link programmes which enables our contacts and members to form a cross-sectoral networking community which would not happen without the British Council providing a neutral forum for interaction. Media coverage, web-based and print accounts of these events raise awareness and appreciation of the UK's creativity and societal values, and act as a source of learning.


  23.  A key way of influencing perceptions of the UK amongst young people who will be future leaders of Zimbabwe is to give them the opportunity to undertake postgraduate or professional studies at leading British institutions. This is the main aim of the FCO's Chevening Scholarship Scheme which is managed by the British Council, and provides 10 scholarships to young Zimbabweans each year.


  24.  The leadership development programme supports the emergence of a new cadre of leaders who reach positions of influence through merit and who will use them to effect positive change in their societies. Because a large component of the programme is delivered in Britain, it additionally influences perspectives of modern Britain that the delegates hold. Launched in 2000 to support exceptionally talented younger women, the programme has developed to include men and now 30 carefully selected high calibre individuals have completed the programme and a new cohort of 15 will be recruited this year. It is delivered in partnership with the University of Exeter's Centre for Leadership Studies. The programme includes leadership skills training, specialist skills development, gender-awareness training, networking events, and research assistance and support from the Management Development Centre.


  25.  Worldwoman is a virtual newsroom project in Zimbabwe, Kenya, Uganda and Ghana. It is a partnership between DFID, Westminster Foundation for Democracy, the British Council and some private sponsors. It provides eight women journalists in Zimbabwe a medium through which they can present and raise awareness of women's concerns and perspectives on national and world current affairs and events. At the same time, the project trains the women journalists in the use of electronic media and enables them to interact with UK and African counterparts and UK mentors. Worldwoman should ultimately raise the standard of journalism in Zimbabwe and the women's ability to work effectively in a male dominated media environment. A further cohort of women journalists are expected to join the project this year and it is set to expand to more countries in Africa to increase the regional network.


  26.  The British Council has a self access reference collection in Bulawayo and web sites that provide information on UK education opportunities. The main users of these services are vocational trainees, university entrants and young professionals. A service is available to help UK educational institutes make fruitful promotional visits to Zimbabwe.

  27.  In 2000-01 the British Council administered 7,040 examinations in Zimbabwe, and aims to sustain that number, even in these difficult economic times. The most popular examinations sat are City and Guilds technical and vocational qualifications. The examinations service contributes to developing Zimbabwe's skills base and creates opportunities for individual development. High quality and technologically advanced examinations also contribute to the promotion of a positive and modern view of the UK.


  28.  Education at all levels plays a long-term role in assisting social, political and economic transformation through its fundamental effect on the outlook of young people and skills base of a nation, and higher education specifically has a significant role in producing a cadre of competent leaders. The British Council aims to influence the quality of the higher education product delivered to students by managing higher education link schemes between universities in the UK and Zimbabwe with funding from DFID.

  29.  These links build staff capacity and contribute to curriculum development. Additionally the British Council supports a partnership from the grant between the Zimbabwe Open University and UK Open University, and has donated all of its general collection library materials to the Zimbabwe Open University. The British Council also supports initiatives for, and attendance at, high level seminars in Zimbabwe, in the region and in UK on higher education policy, regulatory frameworks and funding.


  30.  The British Council's work in the arts raises awareness of UK creativity, culture and diversity and it also conveys messages about UK values. Increasingly the arts programme aims to bring Zimbabwean artists and British artists together on collaborative projects that develop into longer-term productive and positive relationships of mutual benefit. This year, one collaborative project that the British Council is supporting is an exciting new version of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" which will be performed in Harare, Bulawayo and Manchester.


  31.  The British Council places great emphasis on the development of effective networks in Zimbabwe. Building and nurturing them will remain top priority over the coming years.

  32.  Further integration with the operations in Malawi and Zambia will bring cost savings that will be re-deployed to operational activity and increase impact. Zimbabwe will also benefit from regional projects to upgrade British Council premises and connectivity that will improve access and communications to UK resources for target audiences.

  33.  The focus on management and professional development, leadership, education products and higher education reform experiences will continue and will help build a strong and skilled foundation for the future, and arts events, information and media pieces on contemporary Britain will add perspective to perceptions of Britain's engagement.


  34.  The British Council has a key role to perform in demonstrating Britain's continued commitment to the people of Zimbabwe and has a significant contribution to make to HMG's objectives. By engaging with the leaders of tomorrow in a positive, mutual and meaningful way, the British Council can play a key role in influencing the relationship between Britain and Zimbabwe of the future.

The British Council, Zimbabwe

May 2002

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Prepared 31 July 2002