Magazine article African Business

Can the UK's New Trade Opportunities Deliver for Africa? Post-Brexit Britain's Need to Secure New Economic Relationships Could Benefit African Countries, but May Also Bring Challenges

Magazine article African Business

Can the UK's New Trade Opportunities Deliver for Africa? Post-Brexit Britain's Need to Secure New Economic Relationships Could Benefit African Countries, but May Also Bring Challenges

Article excerpt

The Brexit vote has ushered in a new era of uncertainty for African economies due to forecast declines in investment and development assistance, as well as trade. But there may be an upside for Africa to the UK's historic decision to leave the European Union.

A key issue in the referendum was the UK's ability to independently negotiate trade agreements without having to conform to EU rules and regulations. The vote opens up the possibility of competition between the HU and the UK for African partnerships. Some have also argued that the Commonwealth (a grouping of former British colonies that includes Canada and Australia) could take on renewed significance as a trading bloc. This could bring benefits, but it could pose a number of challenges.

For one, the EU's bilateral trade policy--Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs)--between the EU and Africa, include the Most Favoured Nation Clause (MFN). This prevents either party from granting a third party (the UK for example) more favourable tariff treatment. It means that any preferences afforded to the U K over and above those laid out in the EPA would need to be extended to the EU.

Another challenge is that African regional integration might suffer from a return to the Commonwealth framework for trade. The Commonwealth not only excludes nearly all of Francophone Africa but cuts across seven of the eight regional economic communities (RECs) recognised by the African Union.

These already have a worryingly high overlap in membership, with only 12 out of 54 countries belonging exclusively to one REC. …

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