UK aid for trade

A review assessing to what extent UK aid funded programmes address binding constraints to trade and promote poverty reduction and inclusion.

Score: Amber/Red
  1. Status: Completed
  2. Published: 6 June 2023
  3. Type: Full review
  4. Subject: Trade and economic development
  5. Assessment: Amber/Red
  6. Location: Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa
  7. Lead commissioner: Sir Hugh Bayley
  8. SDGs covered:Partnerships for the goals, Industry, innovation and infrastructure

Read the approach paper


This review examines the relevance and effectiveness of UK aid for trade since 2015, assessing to what extent programmes address binding constraints to trade and promote poverty reduction and inclusion.

The review also assesses how effectively the UK has worked with partners at the international, regional and country levels; whether the UK has adapted its approach to the changing global and domestic context; whether it has caused inadvertent harm; and how well it has used learning to improve programming.

The review focuses on support provided through the former Department for International Development, the former Foreign and Commonwealth Office and, subsequently, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, as well as the cross-government Prosperity Fund.

It builds on ICAI’s 2013 DFID’s trade development work in southern Africa review, which highlighted some serious challenges, including a lack of focus on poverty reduction. It also builds on ICAI’s 2019 information note on The use of UK aid to enhance mutual prosperity, which flagged the risk that the focus on poverty reduction might be diluted by the pursuit of benefits for the UK.

This review provided an opportunity to assess the wider aid for trade portfolio, offering evidence to inform improvements in programming, as well as examining how the UK balances its objectives on aid for trade.

Review questions

  1. Does the UK have a clear and coherent approach to aid for trade?
  2. To what extent has the UK achieved its aid for trade objectives?
  3. How has the UK used learning from ongoing aid for trade interventions to evolve its approach to design and delivery?



Published Wednesday 26 October

Evidence gathering


Review publication

Published 6 June 2023

Government response

Published 20 July 2023

Further scrutiny

Follow-up published 16 May 2024