Some years back a joke circulated about how western and Chinese universities offered all manner of African studies, and news channels could call on foreigners who were supposed to be experts on our continent.
The joke continues that, instead, Africans are experts in Barcelona and Arsenal instead of world affairs.
This is quite a self-deprecating analysis of Africans’ appreciation of world affairs, but I was reminded of this in the wake of Brexit, UK’s vote to leave the European Union.
There has been an astounding dearth of analysis on this matter from Africans and African scholars, yet Africa more than any continent could be exposed and vulnerable to UK’s departure from the EU.
For starters, a number of African countries recently signed trade deals with the EU and because of language and colonial history, Britain had, no doubt, the bigger piece of the pie.
Inevitably now, Britain will have to renegotiate its trade deals with the world and a key question is where does this leave Africa?
China, the EU and America, with its AGOA, have made serious in-roads in trading with Africa, but now that UK, with all its cultural and historical links with Africa, might soon leave the EU, what becomes of the centuries old relationship between the two?
What I have realised is that debate on Africa’s place in the post-Brexit era, Africa is apathetic in a matter that affects parts of it in an unprecedented manner.
The little analysis we have had so far has come after the fact, rather than before the vote to show how it will affect us as a continent, or at least the Anglophone parts of the continent.
For example, US President Barack Obama was very clear that his country prefers dealing with the EU, because it presented a bigger market and that Britain would have to be content with going to the back of the queue.
Now, this is a question that Africa should have long pondered over, do we still have that special relationship with Britain or it’s now time to cut our losses and throw our lot with the EU, a far much bigger market than the UK.
Africa and Britain, due to colonialism and the Commonwealth after it, have a special relationship, English is the most widely spoken language in East and Southern Africa for example, but in the wake of Brexit, we should know or at least debate what happens to this special relationship.
Africa cannot afford to be indifferent about world affairs, as scholars often wont to remind us, we live in a global village and what happens in China, the US or Britain has a profound effect on the continent.
We should not allow a culture of anti-intellectualism, where we do not engage in world affairs on the basis that a colonial power is at war with itself and we should not disturb it.
Africa needs to find its voice on global issues affecting us as this nonchalance is unhelpful.
(@idahorner broke down the matter here)