"Not all doom and gloom, as life must go on - Brexit or no Brexit. Although change brings uncertainty and unpredictability, it also presents many opportunities and Africa should rise to these challenges for its own benefit"

Dr. Chinedu Madichie, ADNE  Senior Advisor for Entrepreneurship and private sector

Probably the most important event in European history calendar, June 23rd 2016 marked the end of the union between Britain and the rest of Europe.  With a term that may now be included in the Oxford dictionary, Brexit, was won by a slim majority, in favour of leaving the European Union sending shock waves across the world.

At home, the majority of ‘remain’ started a campaign for a second referendum. The political parties went into a melt down with changes in leadership, the economy slipped weakening the currency and European leaders reacted angrily chastising the “problem child of Europe”.  However, the mechanism, Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty, designed to initiate the withdrawal of Britain from Europe is yet to be triggered much to the chagrin of some European leaders.

Analysts have debated the pros and cons of the ‘leave’ vote before and after the referendum and the only certainty from these debates is the uncertainty.  Uncertainty on the markets, uncertainty over the future of trade relations between the UK and commonwealth nations (including Africa), uncertainty over a post Brexit immigration policy and uncertainty over the effect of development aid and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) between UK, EU & Africa.

Africa is justified in expressing concerns over the Brexit decision as echoed by the South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan who was quoted as saying that if the UK exited the EU, "the volatility and uncertainty could have a serious impact on us as a country".  Areas impacted include a non-exhaustive list from the implications of the EU development policy; through the EU peace, security and peacebuilding; and Trade & development.

But it shouldn’t be all doom and gloom, as life must go on - Brexit or no Brexit.  Although change brings uncertainty and unpredictability, it also presents many opportunities and Africa should rise to these challenges for its own benefit.  This is reportedly the case as there has been renewed interest from the common wealth bloc of nations in negotiating favourable terms with an ‘independent Britain’.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts that by 2019 the Commonwealth will contribute more to the world's economic output than the EU.  This renewed interest from Commonwealth Nations also provides Britain the opportunity of reinforcing her trading connection with these longstanding partners, which would undoubtedly help foster the much needed intra African rapprochement and thus unlock the continent’s economic potential.

There is also the rather muted possibility that as Britain seeks to boost trade relations with Commonwealth nations, the UK could make immigration for commonwealth citizens slightly easier.  However, this is debatable considering the recent UK Home office policy[1] regarding skilled non-EU workers.  This suggests that UK only has interests in individuals/services that makes it economically better off and healthier, and thus lending credibility to the argument of Africa brain drain concept.

The volatility of the markets following the Brexit decision has also dominated the news recently. Measures of implied volatility for emerging markets, which are gauges of how currencies are expected to swing, are breaking recent records.  That is not good news for African currencies that are struggling especially in the face of dwindling crude prices.  In the main, although most African currencies are insulated from the tempests on the international money markets, there will be knock-on effects.  If, as some forecast, the UK falls into a technical recession, that could reduce trade and investment between Africa and the UK.  For instance, a UK recession can trigger a fall in consumer demand in Britain, and so affecting African exporters.  For example, exports of Kenyan roses could fall, as UK consumers demand fewer of them.

The ugly side of the Brexit that has taken every right minded individual by surprise is the reported rapid rise of xenophobia, anti-European right wing parties and a shift towards more inward looking and nationalistic (almost fascist) ideals.  The Brexit vote has undoubtedly triggered a wave of Eurosceptisim and a deepening identity crises that threatens the very survival of the whole European project.  It is indeed a rude awakening to all regional blocks across the world to review in depth the fundamental principles for such integration.

Against this background, the African Union (AU) has a golden opportunity to ensure a robust strengthening of the ideals for that institution to ensure equality and fairness by all member nations, and perhaps also weaving in explicit and punitive clauses to guard against an AU “Brexiter”.

[1] The policy requires all skilled workers from outside the EU who have been living there for less than 10 years to earn at least £35,000 a year in order to settle permanently in the UK