With little over a month left before the Brexit vote, a member of the Botswana Community in the United Kingdom Committee, Boikanyo Phenyo, is urging Batswana-Britons to vote against Britain’s exit from the European Union ÔÇô “Brexit” as it is dubbed.
As a permanent resident in the UK, Phenyo says that if she were a naturalized British citizen, she would vote for Britain to stay in the EU because she would regard herself as European and believes that UK’s continued stay in Europe is advantageous to all Commonwealth nations including Botswana.
“If I were a Motswana with only a visa to remain for a definite period, I would consider the possibility that Brexit would result in more trade between the UK and the Commonwealth but do not believe that Brexit would in fact make any difference as the UK will simply come to a new mutually beneficial agreement with Europe and would therefore vote to remain,” she says.
Either through marriage or naturalization, there is a significant number of Batswana-Britons who will participate in the June 23 Brexit referendum. With other African-Britons, these Batswana constitute an important voter constituency which could influence the outcome of this referendum in a direction that would benefit those who remain at home. Unfortunately though, Africans in the Diaspora don’t seem to have reached consensus on this issue and that may reflect the lack of cohesion on the continent itself. While Phenyo and her Committee are against Brexit, an organisation called the Democratic Institution for Poverty Reduction in Africa which is led by Sam Akaki (originally from Uganda), advocates for a Brexit vote. Akai’s contention is that the European Union is “an ongoing disaster for Africa” and that “no other continent bloc administers a more comprehensive trade protection against Africa than the European Union.”
The argument for Brexit is that the EU keeps Africa poor and Exhibit A is the Common Agricultural Policy. Tamara Chabe, of Grassroots Out (GO) says that this policy is a protectionist measure which distorts competition and is having a devastating impact on agriculture and economic growth in Africa: “The policy keeps food prices in Britain high and the excess and subsidised cheap produce is being dumped on African markets. African farmers are unable to compete, and high EU tariff barriers on African exports are stopping the continent from trading its way out of poverty thus leaving many African countries trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty and the continent dependant on aid. The EU gives large sums of aid to Africa whilst simultaneously enforcing punishing and prohibitive trade practices which are stifling growth and innovation.” GO is campaigning in favour of withdrawing from the EU.