The reverberations from Britain’s fateful choice extend far beyond Europe. The U.K. retains deep ties with many African states, and the turbulence is causing anxiety from the Johannesburg stock exchange to the battlefields of Somalia.
Where have all the flowers gone?
More than a third of the flowers sold in the European Union come from Kenya. The U.K. is one of the most valuable export markets for some of the largest African economies. One-third of Kenya’s cut flowers arrive in Europe, where the U.K. is the second-largest buyer behind the Netherlands. Rather than negotiating with the European bloc, Kenya will now need to negotiate new deals with the U.K., as well as absorbing losses as the British economy retracts. It is a similar story for Nigeria, where a projected figure of £20 billion in bilateral trade by 2020 will now be revised downwards, and South Africa, which will need to make up shortfalls in wine exports.
Leave by example
The pro-independence message has found an echo in the Eastern Nigerian state of Biafra, where activists have launched a campaign for the majority-Igbo region to secede. The movement has existed on the fringes for decades, following a violent bid for separation in the late 1960s, but in this new era of uncertainty, calls for ‘Biafrexit’ are gaining fresh momentum.
Britain is one of the largest contributors to the European Development Fund in both funding and strategic planning, and its exit from the EU has raised fears that Europe will scale back its commitment to development programs. One of the main beneficiaries currently is Tanzania, which is seeing new roads and agricultural upgrades arrive through the fund. Should these grind to a halt, the wider economy will suffer, as will the popularity of new President John Magufuli.
South African stocks
The former British colony has the closest financial ties with the U.K. — and the greatest exposure. Many leading South African companies are dual listed on Johannesburg and London stock exchanges, and South African banks lean heavily on British cash reserves. The impact of Brexit was felt immediately with a steep drop in the Rand, and although the currency has climbed since, confidence will remain shaky.
Relief for Mugabe?
Europe-wide sanctions on regimes could be reassessed without British involvement and in some cases this is cause for celebration. Zimbabwean ruler Robert Mugabe is reportedly convinced the U.K. is responsible for restrictions that have cost the slumping economy tens of billions of dollars, and that other member states will be more co-operative. Other sanctioned regimes such as Libya could also seek re-appraisal.
Setback in Somalia
The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has been key to checking the progress of East African jihadist militant group al-Shabaab in Somalia and beyond. The body is funded through the EU but British efforts have been key, contributing servicemen and logistical support to the struggle. European leaders recently voted through a cut to the Mission’s budget, which could signal a policy of retrenchment as they look closer to home. This would come as a boost to the terror group.
Some political African groups in Britain campaigned to leave the EU partly on the basis of the hated Common Agricultural Policy, which allows subsidized European farmers to dump cheap goods on African states and imposes tariffs to prevent trade going the other way. The Policy has been described as neo-colonialism, and a severe hindrance to agricultural development across the continent. A weaker EU may struggle to retain the same grip on the market, and British officials have hinted at a fairer deal for African farmers outside the Union.