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EDITO
Wednesday, 24 January 2018

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. 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.

June 23 saw the UK vote for Brexit. A populist rebellion was provoked by an internal dispute in the ruling Conservative party, and chaos has been unleashed. We don’t know the full consequences of the UK withdrawing from the European Union, but it’s not going to be good. Commentaries before the vote speculated on implications. First there’s trade. The UK is an important trading partner with Africa, and deals with the EU govern much of this. Only this month, an EU Economic Partnership Agreement was agreed with the Southern African Development Community, allowing free trade access to Europe for some countries.

Now that the immediate turmoil of Britain's exit vote from the European Union has somewhat subsided, it is a good time to ask what lessons that vote holds for the East African Community. Four stand out. One, a community must be based on values shared by all. Two, a community won't endure if it is not built on the consent of the people. Three, integration is fragile and it takes but the opportunism of a few leaders in a member state to wreck it.

Brexit could not be happening at a worse time for Africa. The economy of the continent is already struggling with falling commodity prices and the economic slowdown in China. The decision by British voters to withdraw from the European Union could trigger decreases in trade with Africa as well as aid and direct investment from the United Kingdom. The vote, which followed a bitter campaign that centered on immigration, may signal that Britain will increasingly turn away from its support for world development, according to the Brookings Institution.

The decision by the U.K. to leave the European Union has sent shock waves around the globe, prompting many countries and businesses to reassess their business ties with both Britain and the EU. Africa will need to do the same, Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, CEO of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) agency, told the Nikkei Asian Review in an interview.