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The effects of Brexit on the African commonwealth

With the Brexit deadline coming to a final decision soon, headlines of major new sources talk about the immediate impact and long lasting effects within the European Union. However, the former British colonies and members of the Commonwealth are shuttered from the headlines and in most cases ignored.

Investors in African markets panicked because many economies (such as: Angola, Nigeria, South Africa, and Zambia) were already reeling from low commodity prices exacerbated by a sluggish global demand. In these countries, the beginning of Brexit added salt to the wounds of injured economies. On what happens next, economists, political scientists, and African governments may need to redefine their diplomatic relations and expectations with a post-Brexit Britain and Europe.

Trade and investment will be affected most by Brexit. Previously most of the trade arrangements the UK has with African countries were negotiated through the EU. But since the implementation of Oil and LNG deals with European companies, the relations since these deals have gotten better. This means that old agreements will cease to apply or will have to be renegotiated when the UK finally leaves the EU, a process has taken four years from the time it officially was informed by the UK to the EU of its intention to pull out.

Despite fears that Brexit could dislocate African economies, some experts see positive developments for countries like Libya and Zimbabwe, currently under EU sanctions championed by Britain, according to The Herald, a Zimbabwean daily. With Brexit, the EU might be encouraged to review these sanctions and possibly re-engage with these countries.

“Britain will be able to focus more on our bilateral relationships with Africa and with our traditional partners and to really look at Africa for its needs rather than looking at it through the prism of the EU, that is an outdated model that may have fit in the 70s but is wholly inappropriate for the UK or a wholly inappropriate way to define the UK-Africa relationship,” says James Duddridge, a former British minister for Africa and a Brexit supporter, in an interview with Radio France Internationale. According to him, without the EU, ties between Britain and Africa will get stronger.

The good news is that Africa can actually seek assistance elsewhere. Africa’s trade with Europe, estimated at US$116.6B in 2016, has been eclipsed by China’s. Worth over US$300B, China is Africa’s top trading partner currently. The World Bank confirms that China became sub-Saharan Africa’s “most important export partner” by 2013, accounting for 27% of the region’s exports. Although at 9%, sub-Saharan Africa’s exports to India are the fastest-growing globally. With China, the US, Brazil, India and others strengthening their relations with Africa, the continent could look elsewhere if its ties with Britain or the EU get complicated in a post-Brexit era.

Lucas Continentino

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