By Dr. Umar Ardo, Ph.D
Nigeria, as a key member of the Commonwealth of Nations, stands to reap some developmental gains on account of Brexit.
It is clear that with the new Conservatives government under Mr. Boris Johnson, the United Kingdom (U.K) would be looking out for a fallback position to Brexit. This is where my Proposition to the opportunities Brexit creates for Nigeria and the Commonwealth States comes in.
These include political and geo-strategic, economic and trading goals. The strategy is premised upon the Nigerian government having a post-Brexit U.K governments cooperating with Nigeria and other member-states to resuscitate the Commonwealth Group into a strong Political, Economic and Strategic Union for mutual developmental benefits.
1. Political and Strategic Goals
The prime objectives the proposition aims to achieve are:
➢ Enhancing Democracy and Good Governance within Member States;
➢ Increasing Access to Education and Transfer of Science and Technology among Member States; and
➢ Cooperating in Security and Military Needs of Member States.
Under these broad objectives, the U.K is well positioned to help attain the following within bounds:-
➢ Ensuring political and societal stability of Member States;
➢ Stimulating economic growth, infrastructural funding and investments, increasing productivity, trade and wealth creation among Member States;
➢ Improving capacity building, transfer of technology and human capital development among Member States;
➢ Enhancing security of member states by cooperating to proactively assess areas of conflict, expanding conflict management mechanisms and improving governance thereby addressing the problems of state failure;
➢ Addressing the issue of poverty, insurgency, terrorism and illegal migrations, thereby creating conditions that would encourage potential migrants to remain and become productive members in their own countries; and
➢ Mitigating security threats and dousing tensions in international relations and diplomacy.
2. Economic and Trade Goals
Individually, the Commonwealth Member States are making great strides in economic and technological advancements in recent years. The following facts therefore call for Nigeria to take on the U.K see the opportunities of the Commonwealth Group as her Brexit contingency position:-
➢ By the end of 2019, India may overtake the U.K to become the fifth-largest economy in the world. The U.K, on the other hand, is projected to lose her place not only to India but also to France and end up seventh on the table of the world’s largest economies. In addition, with a No Deal Brexit, the country is threatened by a weakening Sterling without any new real trade partnership outside the continent;
➢ In the 19th and early 20th centuries, trade between the U.K and her colonies accounted for nearly 2/3 of global trade. In fact, the U.K’s trade with the countries that made up the Commonwealth was four times larger than her trade with Europe;
➢ But with the U.K joining the European Union (EU), trade declined between her and the countries of the Commonwealth; and
➢ Being today the largest trading bloc in the world with 500 million people and accounting for 22 percent of global trade, the EU replaced the colonies as the biggest trading partners of GB in the post-colonial era. Its economy at $18.8trn is second only to that of the United States of America. The U.K’s exports to the EU make up 44 percent of her entire exports. That figure rises to 56 percent when the continent’s non-euro zone countries are added.
So, losing access to the EU market or trading under entirely new rules will no doubt impact negatively on the U.K’s economy. But the following facts also make it an opportunity for the U.K to forge stronger economic coalitions with countries and regions with greater potentials for growth:-
➢ Over the next two years, the growth forecast for the EU is 1.4 percent. That figure is 7.2 for India, 5.7 percent for Kenya and 4.2 for Tanzania. Sub-Saharan African countries, which make up a large part of the Commonwealth, are projected to grow by an average of 5 percent a year for the next couple of years;
➢ Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy has a GDP of $447billion and has nearly 200 million people;
➢ Nigeria currently has a trade surplus with the U.K and is among the Next Eleven countries identified by the renowned economist, Jim O’Neill, as having the potential to be among the world’s largest economies in the 21st century;
➢ Just emerging from an economic recession, Nigeria is still expected to record a growth of 2.3 percent. Nigeria averaged economic growth of 4 to 5 percent in the years preceding the recession. Its economy is intertwined with that of the 16 countries that make up the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS); and
➢ The 16 countries of ECOWAS have $680bn and a Woman population of 350 million people.
3. The Commonwealth Proposition
The natural direction for the U.K to look to after Brexit should be the Commonwealth States and Nigeria should make her do so for the following reasons:
➢ The Commonwealth States have a collective population of 2.4 billion people, more than 1/3 of the world population, and a total GDP of $10 trillion, roughly half of that of the EU.
➢ The fact that the Commonwealth has never operated as a trading or economic alliance, but always been a political bloc of member states forged on shared language, culture, and historical ties, seriously underrated its economic and trading values to the organization;
➢ Efforts to turn it into an economic and trading partnership have never really been attempted, due mainly to the U.K’s membership of the EU;
➢ It is now time to collectively take action as one of GB’s major initiatives of Brexit New Deal;
➢ The U.K to establish strategic engagements with member states, with the objective of improving their political stability, economic growth and increased trading opportunities; and
➢ To this end, the U.K should work closely with likeminded members of the political elites in such states to establish and sustain friendly democratic governments for mutual benefits. In this way the U.K can create a win-win situation for herself and for all Commonwealth States as her “Stand-in Position” on Brexit.
The important position, status and role of Nigeria within Africa and the Commonwealth make it ideal for her to lead this initiative, and many Commonwealth States would welcome the idea. Brexit offers Nigeria, the Commonwealth States and the U.K this opportunity.