Latest on UK Africa relations – what does this means for Namibia?

United Kingdom leadership have reached out for an understanding though the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, His Excellency Moussa Faki Mahamat, on the 22nd of February 2019.  The United Kingdom Minister of State for Africa, Harriet Baldwin MP was at the African Union Head Offices in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for the signing of the new arrangement.

The Unite Kingdom is getting ready to exit the European Union (EU) in what is known as Brexit on the 29th of March 2019.  This means a lot in terms of how the British citizens will do business with other European countries.  The European Union enjoyed free movement of goods and services since 1985, when UK leaves all this will change.  In the past Africans needed one visa to visit the EU, but now we will need one visa for the UK and another for the EU countries.  

Signing an agreement with African Union Chairperson puts the African people at table with the British government.  Africa may speak with one voice with the new United Kingdom after it has exited the European Union.

The memorandum of understanding signed in Addis Ababa means that the two sides (United Kingdom leaders and African Leaders) agreed to work together on a broad range of shared priorities in support of the African Union’s objectives.

Details were not available at the time of going to prints but, here are the highlights:

  • secure and innovative future for Africa, tackling common challenges such as climate change, and making the most of opportunities such as increasing trade links and the dynamism of Africa’s youthful population.
  • The two sides agreed to strengthen resilience across the continent through continued co-operation in support of the African Union’s peace-making and peacekeeping role, and enhanced policy engagement.  
  • working closely in support of ongoing African-led efforts  and shared priorities as they emerge, including in South Sudan and the Horn of Africa,  the Sahel region, Lake Chad Basin and Libya.
  • the two sides will work to mobilise investments for Africa’s sustainable transformation.  This includes the promotion of UK-Africa trade and investment, the African Continental Free Trade Area and action to harness the demographic dividend.  
  • invest in people and build opportunities to deliver a skilled workforce through shared work on education, science and technology and skills development to reap the benefits of increased stability and prosperity.  
  • the two sides recognised the importance of creating the conditions to allow full participation of women and disabled persons in our societies.
  • On migration and human mobility, in line with the recently-adopted Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration that was adopted recently by the UN in Marrakech, Morocco, the two sides recognised the added value of this document to ensure that migration and human mobility in Africa is well managed both to migrants themselves and to host/origin countries for socio-economic development as per the AU Agenda 2063.  The two sides will further work together to support initiatives that are aimed at preventing irregular migration including protection of victims of trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants.
  • The two sides agreed to work together to promote and protect an equitable and inclusive rules-based international system.  This system ensures that countries and individuals have the freedom, security, justice and mechanisms to prosper, and includes co-operation on global issues such as climate change, human rights and serious organised crime.  The UK recognises and supports the AU’s desire to find African solutions for African problems.  To that end, the two sides underlined the importance of ongoing negotiations in New York on the use of UN-assessed contributions for AU-led Peace Support Operations authorised by the UN Security Council.


Finally, the two sides agreed to meet on an annual basis to assess progress with the partnership and to discuss common priorities and challenges. The Minister of State, in that regard, extended an invitation to the Chairperson of the AU Commission, who accepted to attend the inaugural high Level Dialogue between the African Union and UK to be held in London later in 2019.


While this is a welcome development, it is important to note that he relations between the UK and some African country is not at the same level because of historic reasons, there is need to represent all Africans carefully.


The history of Africa will show that the British are former colonisers of a number of African countries including South Africa, Zimbabwe and to an extent Namibia.  the relationship between Zimbabwe and Britain for instance needs to be resolved not at the level of AU but at a bilateral level before agreeing in general that all is well.


Zimbabwe is undergoing a difficult time economically because of not only the governance matters but also economic sanctions and devaluation of the local currency.  All these troubles for Zimbabwe started when the new government in UK refused to honour a binding contract signed by their predecessors.  The contract was to compensate British farmers when they exit the country according to the Lanchester House Agreement of 1977.


The resent land audit in Namibia showed that a number of farms belong to absentee landlords who include German, American and British citizens.  This has caused unrest in Namibia because the country has to find a way to legally gain control of this valuable land which is in the hands of non-Namibian and absent at the same time. 


In the area of trade, UK negotiates standards and prices with each of the African countries when buying goods and services. This should not be case because the buyer in most cases will have an upper hand.  The ideal situation will be to resolve the issue of land that the UK citizens are holding in Africa first before negotiating partnership and signing agreements. 


UK citizens own vast tracks of land in many African Countries but the continent’s leaders are almost turning a blind eye on addressing the matter yet dwell on soft issues.


Having a great working relationship with the new UK after Brexit should be handled carefully for the benefit of all people on the continent.