The international development charities umbrella body Bond has warned that the UK’s international aid policy must not be "weighted in favour" of trade or private investors at the expense of alleviating poverty.
Its announcement comes after a speech in Cape Town this morning by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, in which she called for an aid programme that "works for the UK" and prioritises economic development and security as well as short-term poverty alleviation.
The speech was part of a three-day trip to South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya to promote trade links and cooperation between African nations and the UK.
"I am committing that our development spending will not only combat extreme poverty, but at the same time tackle global challenges and support our own national interest," she said.
"This will ensure that our investment in aid benefits us all and is fully aligned with our wider national security priorities."
May said she wanted to "put our development budget and expertise at the centre of our partnership as part of an ambitious new approach and use this to support the private sector to take root and grow".
Claire Godfrey, head of policy and campaigns at Bond, said she welcomed closer economic links between Africa and the UK, but warned about focusing too heavily on private sector investment and trade.
"Trade and investment play an important role in helping the world’s poorest people out of poverty and during times of crisis," Godfrey said.
"We would, however, be concerned if these efforts were weighted in favour of UK trade or UK private investors at the cost of helping the poorest, most vulnerable and marginalised people in the world."
Godfrey said that the UK should focus its aid policy on tackling the root causes of poverty, climate change and conflict, as well as creating decent jobs and secure livelihoods.
"This means addressing the barriers that risk the most vulnerable, such as women, youth and people with disabilities, being left behind," she said.
"We should all support the type of economic development that tackles inequality, helps people out of poverty and is environmentally sustainable."
In today’s speech, May also announced a £4bn programme of investment in Africa as part of a focus on ensuring that "governments in Africa have the environment, knowledge, institutions and support to attract sustainable, long-term investments in the future of Africa and Africans".
The UK’s aid programme will also focus on preventing illicit finance and organised crime, May said, as well as making further investment in countering illegal migration, modern slavery and trafficking.
"These new priorities will represent a fundamental strategic shift in the way we use our aid programme, putting development at the heart of our international agenda," she said. "Not only protecting and supporting the most vulnerable people, but also bolstering states under threat, shaping a global economy that works for everyone and building cooperation across the world in support of the rules-based system."