How will Brexit impact Africa?



What could potentially be the consequences of Brexit on African countries? It’s still of course quite uncertain what’s going to happen and right now it’s seems difficult to judge whether it’s going to have a good or brutal impact on African countries.

There are a number of ways in which Brexit could have an impact on African countries.

First of all, it will have an impact on the global economy and trade and investment are likely to suffer from this.
“You have to bear in mind that being a member of the EU, the UK is now and will still be for a period of time and the only trade arrangements the UK has with African countries are negotiated through the EU,” Steve Barrow, head of G10 Research at Standard Advisory London, a leading financial markets and commodities bank, told RFI.

“Once we leave the EU then those trade relationships and agreements will no longer exist, and they will have to be replaced by something, and obviously, if they’re replaced by something that is more advantageous to the UK and less to African countries, then that could be of detriment.”

Some also believe that this could bring major opportunities for African countries, since they will have to deal with the EU and now, the UK.

However, will Britain be able to match the EU’s market power with its own?

“If we go back 20 years ago, the only countries that use to export to Africa were European countries, like the UK, France, Italy and so on and the United States.

“But now, the competition is fierce and hard because you have other global competitors in the African market, like India, China, Turkey, Brazil, South Korea and Japan,” Christian Liongo, the CEO of AfricaRise, an organization which aims to facilitate contacts between European entrepreneurs and their African counterparts, told RFI.

“That means that, for example, UK machineries’ prices are higher, we can expect that the UK share in African markets will be less important in the future than it is now. I’m afraid for the UK exports towards Africa in those markets especially in the energy sector.”

Outside the realm of economics, the UK has taken part in shaping several EU/Africa agreements that outline bilateral privileges for the exchange of goods and services.

“Brexit will be a disaster and a huge lost opportunity for Africa, for Britain and for Europe because Britain will loose its role in shaping and leading some of the most important initiatives that form the basis of cooperation between Europe and West Africa.

“That partnership has been one of the most important support to the extraordinary political progress West Africa’s made over the last 15 years. It’s a region now with only one or two authoritarian governments,” Paul Melly, an associate fellow specialised in West Africa at Chatham House in London, told RFI.

Melly believes that this will be a massive loss in terms of influence over the continent.

“It means that in the future, it won’t have any role either in leading these initiatives or shaping them and if it decides to take part as a sort of supportive associate friend, rather like Norway often does.

“It will still be contributing possibly troops or money or development support but it won’t actually have any say in the policy, and the alternative option is to not take part in these things and try and develop a bilateral policy on its own which would seem a very strange thing to do when the relationship between the European Union.

“The key regional blocks in Africa has been one of the strongest support for the development of economic growth and political stability and democracy.”

Another interesting aspect is the fact that increasing trade with commonwealth african countries has been a big argument by the Brexit campaign.

“But even though it could sound attractive to some, there are words of warning here,” Uzo Madu, a blogger on African Affairs based in Brussels, told RFI.

“It’s not only that there’s a lot of work to be done to insure that the Commonwealth as an institution can take on such trade negotiations, which also can take long… But there’s also the fact that reversing to this Commonwealth framework will also mean encouraging a divide between anglophone Africa and all of the other African countries. So this potentially can be another layer of regionalism on top of the ones already in place on the continent.”

However, Madu also argues that, if other EU countries were to hold possible EU referendum as well, this could possibly have a huge impact, and develop some opportunities for African countries in terms of trade negociations being more balanced since you would be dealing with only one country at a time.

It’s still up in the air, like so much in the Brexit debate, but change is definitely to be expected.