Editor's Comment

UK exit: Potential impact on Africa

MR CAMERON (left) won concessions from the EU – but not enough to satisfy UK voters.

THE United Kingdom has left the European Union. This is a wake-up call for Africans who have to prepare to deal with the vote’s consequences on the continent’s development and welfare.
African countries should use the UK’s leaving the European Union to also re-examine their investment strategies and start taking charge of their industrial and agricultural development agendas with a view to lessening dependence on donor help.
We know that the European Union aid is more effective than support programmes from individual states. One large donor has the potential to deliver large-scale aid more efficiently than 27 smaller supporters.
Sub-Saharan Africa is the biggest recipient of European Union aid at 29 percent with Europe, Asia, Latin America and North Africa getting 20 percent, 18 percent, six percent and six percent, respectively, according to the European confederation of relief and development non-governmental organisation, Concord.
There is no doubt that Africa played an important role when Britain joined the EU. If we look at how Britain joined the EU in the early 70s, it also meant that Commonwealth Africa automatically joined the EU-Africa relations club, but this is no consolation to how London is going to treat Anglophone African and other poor African countries.
The British ascension agreement included a lot of provisions about Commonwealth African countries who were able to get EU preferential trading schemes and other benefits.
Trade relations between the EU and Africa are defined by the Cotonou Agreement of 2000, as well as a series of economic partnership agreements between the EU and regional economic blocs like the Economic Community of West African States, the East African Community or the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa.
The agreements outline bilateral privileges for the exchange of goods and services.
UK’s exit will no doubt fundamentally change contractual trade agreements between Europe and Africa, although we expect the British government to proceed pragmatically and uphold existing contracts within the framework of the Cotonou Agreement.
The EU, including Britain, is Africa’s most important donor in the area of development aid due to its colonial past.
With the UK leaving the EU, we foresee London restructuring its developmental cooperation policy and in the process, the austerity measures that London might introduce, particularly in relation to immigration, will have a telling ripple effect on the sub-Saharan African region.
Because of the colonial past, Zambians and other Anglophone African countries have always viewed the UK as a preferred destination of choice for quality education and advanced research.
The UK was also one of the most consistent development aid donors within the European Union. The country was also one of the biggest financial supporters to the economic bloc as evidenced by London’s £13 billion contribution to the EU budget in 2015.
With UK’s departure from the world’s largest economic bloc with a combined gross domestic product of US$18.640 trillion, according to 2014 figures, Africa should be wary of dangers of more stringent trade quotas that could be ignited by internal anti-foreign sentiments.
Immigration, which is one of the major reasons that prompted the UK to quit, the 27-member EU, should act as a canary in the coal mine for sub-Saharan Africa. On June 7, 2016, Reuters televised an EU Parliament session at which African countries have been told “to cut migration or lose aid”.
The EU is proposing making development aid and trade ties with Africa and other poor countries conditional on their cooperation in curbing migration into Europe. They will suspend development aid to countries that fail to stop their citizens from “escaping” to Europe and reward those governments which comply.
The issue of immigrants is partly what has compelled the United Kingdom to vote to leave the European Union and as this is seemingly a timely warning, Europe may now be compelled to introduce measures that will adversely affect Africans.
As an emerging continent, time is now for Africa to be pro-active and look within for solutions which lie in integration. For too long, Africa has been the-grass-that-suffers when two elephants fight.

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