After Uproar, Britain Stops Paying for Ethiopian ‘Spice Girls’ With Taxpayer Funds

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By Ian Miles Cheong | 4:13 pm, January 7, 2017
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Britain will no longer subsidize Ethiopia’s version of the “Spice Girls” after a public uproar over the millions of pounds that had already been pumped into the African girl band.

Yegna, the Ethiopian pop group, has already received four million British pounds as part of a program to empower African women. But after Britain’s Daily Mail excoriated the spending as needlessly wasteful, government officials pulled any further funding from the free-spirited girl band.

The funding of Yegna was part of a £38.9 million project called Girl Effect, of which £27.1 million had been spent by the end of 2015. A further £11.8 million was to be provided until 2018. Yegna itself had been entitled to receive another £5.2 million. The pop group received the money through a contract to develop their “media branded platform,” which includes radio drama and music.

After the Daily Mail report thrust the spending into the public spotlight, some British members of Parliament had called the program a “blood boiling” waste of funds.

When UK International Development Secretary Priti Patel’s eventually said she was axing the funding, her decision was met with widespread approval from MPs.

“We have taken the decision to end our partnership following a review of the program,” said Patel’s office in a statement.

“Empowering women and girls around the world remains a priority, but we judge there are more effective ways to invest UK aid and to deliver even better results for the world’s poorest and value for taxpayers’ money.”

Any part of £5.2m that has not yet been spent will not be paid out to Yegna.

Patel previously defended Yegna, saying that the program was “supporting women in some very, very substantial issues relating to their well-being, their rights, all the things that matter and should matter when it comes to living in a civilized society,” but said that the program was under review due to concerns that it wasn’t delivering UK taxpayers value for money.

“This is a victory for the UK taxpayer and common sense by Priti Patel in making sure that British money is not squandered,” said Tory MP Andrew Rosindell following Patel’s decision. His words were echoed by Tory MP David Nuttall, who added that the government must remain vigilant that taxpayer money is not squandered any further.

“Charity starts at home and while taxpayers understand money needs to be spent on international aid for famine and the neediest parts of the world, this a good example of where money was not being spent in this way,” he said.

The UK government is legally bound to spend £12 billion per year to meet international standards of spending 0.7% of the national income on foreign aid. Per the Daily Mail report, much of that money has been put in trust funds run by the World Bank, remaining unspent and subject to hefty administrative fees.

In addition to the “Ethiopian Spice Girls,” the Daily Mail report highlighted a several other questionable projects, including one in Pakistan, where £1 billion in tax money has been dispersed in cash handouts to Pakistani citizens despite the strong potential for fraud.

Ian Miles Cheong is a journalist and outspoken game critic. You can reach him through social media at @stillgray on Twitter and on Facebook.