African economists and bankers expect more advantageous trade terms, possibly with both the UK and the European Union, after last year’s shock decision to leave.
“For the ordinary African, Brexit is pretty much irrelevant,” says Diane Karusisi, chief executive of Bank of Kigali in an interview with Euromoney Africa.
Diane Karusisi, Bank of Kigali But bankers and people in business across the continent have been thinking hard about Brexit in the year or so since the referendum and while they may disagree over what form Brexit is likely to take, many expect the UK’s split from the European Union to create business opportunities. Once Britain leaves the union, it will have no trade agreements either with individual African countries or with regional African blocs, as British trade had been governed by EU law. That gives Africa an opportunity to renegotiate the terms of its partnership with the UK.
Brexit may also, some say, embolden Africa to negotiate fairer trade terms with what remains of the EU. Criticism Trade terms struck between Africa and foreign parties, including Europe, have come in for criticism. Hippolyte Fofack, chief economist at Afreximbank, says he is no fan of the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) that the EU wants to sign with regional groups in Africa. “The moment Brexit happened, I felt that actually it would provide an entry point to renegotiate the EPAs,” he says.
The EPAs require both parties to open their markets: while this may benefit African economies to some extent, European exporters are likely to be the biggest winners as they could stifle or crush young industries on the continent. The EU has already signed such a deal with six countries of the Southern African Development Community; another, with the East African Community, is in the doldrums. Many in Africa hope that countries in the region will be able to strike new, more advantageous deals after the clean slate for trade terms with the UK and an EU weakened by the loss of one of its largest economies.
Read more: African Businesses See Brexit Upside