Brexit: Lessons for Regionalism in Africa
Many European Union (EU) member states and their citizens were shocked by the Brexit outcome, forcing them to re-evaluate the costs and benefits of EU membership. This policy brief addresses the factors that led to the referendum decision and questions whether Africa, particularly the African Union (AU), can draw lessons from the EU experience. Three recommendations is made as to how the AU can advance the regional integration process: i) benefits need to trickle down to the micro-level; ii) youth inclusivity needs to be guaranteed; and, iii) economic integration needs to be strengthened through investment in comparative advantages, innovation and implementation at the national level. Brexit’s most important lesson is that the primary benefactors of any integration process should always be the people. Traditional political elites in Europe’s failure to communicate and translate regional policies to their constituencies at the local level, was one of the key reasons behind the feelings of detachment among British citizens. These sentiments resulted in a strong nationalist movement within the labour market especially, as Britons did not see or feel the benefits of the EU but rather felt threatened by it. Regional integration processes are as much about emotions as they are about politics and economics.