By Alex Joel Masereka
Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has spoken out on the United Kingdom’s struggle of independence from the European Union saying the former has the capacity to determine her destiny.
Museveni was speaking on Thursday while addressing members of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference (CPC) that Uganda is hosting at the Munyonyo Speke Resort in the capital Kampala.
“The issue of the UK membership in the EU is, of course, back in the news, with Brexit. The people of the UK, through internal processes, have the capacity to direct the destiny of that country,” Museveni said of the super power that once controlled almost the whole world but is now struggling for autonomy from Europe.
Brexit is the scheduled withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union. Following a June 2016 referendum, in which 51.9% voted to leave, the UK government formally announced the country’s withdrawal in March 2017, starting a two-year process that was due to conclude with the UK withdrawing on 29 March 2019.
However, the European nation is now set to gain her independence from Europe on October 31st.
In his address, Museveni revealed that an independent Britain should brace herself for trade with Uganda under the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA).
“Here in Africa, we are now committed to the CFTA, to COMESA and EAC. What preferential commercial arrangement could Africa have with the UK, with France or with Portugal? Of course, we have some arrangements with the EU that includes France,” Museveni said.
The African Continental Free Trade Area is a free trade area, outlined in the African Continental Free Trade Agreement among 54 of the 55 African Union nations. The free-trade area is the largest in the world in terms of participating countries since the formation of the World Trade Organization.
It sets out to among others, create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments, and thus pave the way for accelerating the establishment of the Continental Customs Union and the African customs union.
On how Uganda will deal with an independent Britain, Museveni said it will have to be under the confines of the CFTA.
“Maybe we could have arrangements with the UK, even when they are out of the EU, as well as with the other Commonwealth countries such as India, Canada, Australia, Pakistan, etc.; but as the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) ─ the whole of Africa, not portions of it,” Museveni said.
After its passing, the EU Commissioner for Development and International Cooperation Neven Mimica congratulated the African Union and its Member States and reiterated that “Europe stands by Africa in this journey towards more integration.”
Europe’s trade relations with Africa are guided by Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) as well as Association Agreements which give Africa generous and guaranteed access to the EU single market and include development components.
In a recent article of the London School of Economics about the Economic Partnership Agreements, the author Dr. Olu Fasan argues in his analysis that “EPAs could be the key in helping African countries achieve their goal of industrialisation”. How so? By supporting Africa in the addressing what the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) calls “the 3Cs”, namely, competitiveness of supply capacity; conformity with international standards; and connectivity to markets. “If fully implemented, the EPAs can help Africa tackle, to a great extent, these challenges”, Dr Fasan argues.
It waits to be seen how an independent Britain will bypass existing EU partnerships with Africa to trade with the continent.