Aid dependent countries are 'trading partners of future'

Credit: PA

Developing countries currently dependent on aid from the UK "will be our trading partners of the future", the Secretary of State for International Development has told ITV News.

Speaking during a state visit to Ethiopia, Priti Patel said that in a post-Brexit climate, countries such as Ethiopia will one day "stand on their own two feet".

"We in government are very clear that we want to lead the world when it comes to free trade, free trade agreements and free trade opportunities as well" said Ms Patel.

The comments from the pro-Brexit MP come at a time when Britain's foreign aid budget is receiving criticism over some of the projects the money is spent on.

People wait for food and water in the Warder district in the Somali region of Ethiopia. Credit: PA

In January there was outrage when it was found British taxpayers' money was being used to fund an Ethiopian girl band called Yegna.

The government announced soon after the public reaction that the funding for the band would stop.

Ms Patel was challenged about a reported £5.2 million grant to the Yegna when she appeared before MPs in December and indicated that the programme was under review.

Yegna aims to enhance the role of women through music and performance. Credit: Facebook

When she first took up the job as International Development Secretary Ms Patel took a firm stance on ensuring the UK aid budget funds would not be wasted.

In October she said she would "call out" foreign aid organisations using British money in "completely the wrong way".

When ITV News asked what she would say to British taxpayers questioning why money is being spent on training Ethiopian women to get jobs she said:

When questioned on her position as someone who is not a natural friend of aid or the idea of spending aid Ms Patel said she was a believer in ensuring the budget is "empowering".

She added she thought it was important we "move from aid dependency to empowering people and countries".

Ms Patel said her plan was to end the need for foreign aid altogether by "saving lives and changing lives. Making sure we can create jobs, create economic opportunities and support livelihoods so we can end aid dependency once and for all".