The British referendum on continued EU membership in 2016 was infused with Brexiteer discourse relating to a fairer UK relationship with African countries inside the Commonwealth. Prominent campaigners including Boris Johnson and Daniel Hannan regularly spoke of the EU’s mercantilist trade and aid policies in sub-Saharan Africa as a means to underscore the supranational project’s unsavoury relationship with Anglophone developing countries. Brexit, it was claimed, would usher in a new era whereby the UK Department for International Development (DFID) - and a resurgent UK Department for International Trade (DFIT) - would have the opportunity to offer humanitarian aid and free trade unencumbered by the cynicism of the European Commission. Recent policy papers from both DFID and DFIT, however, have made clear that the UK intends to replicate the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) under negotiation between the European Commission and sub-regions of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) bloc. This is despite Brexiteer discourse about the EPAs’ apparent pitfalls relating to non-tariff barriers and the import-flooding of African markets. Perhaps more worryingly, meanwhile, DFID and DFIT publications highlight the need for UK Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) – notably the CDC Group – to robustly compete with their EU counterparts, to gain better market share for UK businesses within emerging African markets. In this context, the article argues that Brexit will intensify a ‘new scramble for Africa’ and highlights emerging challenges for European development cooperation vis-à-vis normative pledges to sustainable development. Additionally, it considers possible African responses via reflection on the writings of Kwame Nkrumah regarding ‘neo-colonialism’.
aid blending, Brexit, development finance, neo-colonialism
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