Will Brexit benefit Africa? Cutting ties with the EU opens doors for UK trade with Africa, but it will not be straightforward.

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For some of the UK electorate that voted to leave the European Union on June 23th 2016, an independent UK freed from the shackles of the EU will be able to pen its own bilateral trade agreements with others.

Africa, one of the fastest growing regions in the world, will be an essential partner for the UK. Bound by a colonial history--which has created a complicated relationship between the UK and the continent to say the least--and once obliged to dole out huge amounts of aid in part to right the wrongs the UK inflicted on the region, Britain now has an opportunity to overhaul the partnership so that it works towards the best interests of both parties.

Some initiatives are already in place and their success is something the UK can build on in the future. In an October meeting by an expert committee of British and African specialists (including minister of state for trade Lord Stephen Green and Lord Paul Boateng, previously the British high commissioner to South Africa) the African Free Trade Initiative, which came into being in 2011 was deemed a huge success. Slashing trade tariffs, streamlining customs procedures and leveraging private sector investment into key sectors improved bilateral trade between the UK and Africa.

Trade between the UK and sub-Saharan Africa increased by around 25% from the global financial crisis in 2008 to 2014, partly due to the initiative. At the same time, UK exports to the continent increased by 6% to $10bn, while exports to the UK from Africa grew by 47% to $12bn. With its burgeoning population and middle classes...

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