Britain, no doubt, is a major world power. It is one of the most powerful countries in the world, as evidenced by permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). Its economy is the fifth strongest in the world. It is no surprise then that Britain’s decision to drop from the EU’s fold has affected the world and its own economy, producing concomitant effects on the pound and creating political upheaval that led Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron to stand down.
A lot of analysts have agreed that the Scots are very likely to go back to the drawing board to press for Scottish independence. This outcome could also have a spiral effect on the EU, on trade, immigration, and growth of the country. But what does Britain’s divorce from the EU mean for Africa? After all, many African countries achieved their independence from Britain yet retain their status as appendages as members of the Commonwealth of Nations.
One reason Britain decided to sever its relations with the EU was to have independent control of who enters into Britain. In the coming years, one can only expect that uncontrolled African migration to the UK would be checked. Also, trade, investment, and development aid to African countries would probably be affected. According to Steve Barrow in Peter Fabricius’ article ISS Today: What Brexit means for Africa, “Any trade deals with Africa would probably be re-negotiated on the same terms, because African and British firms were mostly not competitive with each other. They’re not going to be whacking big tariffs on imported Kenyan roses, for example.”
Fabricius goes on to say:
“Nonetheless the sale of Kenyan roses – and all other African exports – would be hurt if the UK went into recession after exiting the EU, which he was sure it would. They would also similarly be hurt by the decline in the EU economy, which would surely follow. Kenyan would sell fewer roses not because of any official new trade barriers but simply because Britons would less able to afford them. The same would apply to other African exports.”
Funding for developmental projects would also drop substantially. The EU is one of the biggest funders of the African Union (AU), so an EU breakup would surely hurt the AU’s finances. The breakup would also have a direct effect on the membership of the AU. With Britain’s secession, any member of the AU would now think it is possible to leave the AU, especially when the AU disagrees with policy options of that country.
It is significant to note that the African Union is modeled after the European Union. The AU’s establishment was premised on the need to tackle the hydra-headed economic and political-cum-social problems in the continent using a more functioning template and machinery. Observing the EU’s successes, African leaders established the AU to drive similar integration efforts in the continent, copying its composition, structure, organogram, and a lot of other elements from the European integration idea. Numerous analysts have speculated, however, that what Cameron did by resigning as PM of Britain could not have happened in Africa known for sit-tight syndrome, “third-termism” and perpetual hold onto power as recorded in Zimbabwe, Uganda, etc.
The news of Britain’s referendum outcome could become either a window of opportunity for Africans or a calamity depending on what African leaders decide to do from now on. Africa is already engulfed with fear and grievances because of the various misfortunes in each country. In Nigeria, for instance, fear of regions breaking away from the republic is imminent, evident in the Boko Haram insurgency in the North, Niger Delta avengers in the south, Biafra secessionist’s agitation, and Fulani herdsmen at war with farmers everywhere in the country.
Africa is not all about hopelessness, however. More than China and India, Africa has been able to show the world of its superiority by tripling its GDP from $600 million to $2.2 trillion in just 12 years. Africa’s nations could build on this success and make Africa a true heaven while dealing consciously with strategic partners outside of the continent with trust and utmost responsibility.
Indeed, Africa could emerge as the next major regional bloc if she can learn from others and resolve to make the continent a haven of hope and success rather than a den of misfortunes and despondency. What benefit is there when the gap between the rich and the poor continues to widen? While some section of the continent gallops ahead in prosperity, leaving others in abject poverty?
Africa needs to strengthen its partnerships and make the welfare of its people paramount in the grand scheme of things. Any elements capable of causing disintegration must be jettisoned immediately.