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Jamila Nana of Africans For Britain: Why I back Brexit

Guest Blogger, 19 April 2016

First of all, I am neither British nor from a Commonwealth Nation. In fact, I was born in France and should Britain exit the EU, my countries of origin in Africa: Burkina-Faso and the Ivory coast are unlikely to benefit directly or immediately. Some argue my Euroscepticism is misguided, since I benefited from free movement of people within the EU, in order to move to Britain. I am also a Panafricanist, and believe that in the next century, the African continent will inevitably merge into the political Union which I think is pernicious for Britain, and also for the rest of Europe. I wasn’t always a Eurosceptic. I was educated within the French curriculum, which is extremely enthusiastic about the EU, or still was in the 90s when I was in High school, and the early 2000s when I was living in France. I remember withdrawing my first Euro notes. I felt European, as I was not yet aware of what the European Union really embodied.

I saw it as this beacon of European peace, an economic bloc which had guaranteed the European economic miracle of the after war, the way to go. Yet, if today, I am a Eurosceptic, it is for Britain, the land which welcomed and transformed me in the past 10 years. It is also for my continent of origin Africa, whose relationship with Britain, once free from the EU, I see as being rekindled, and whose treatment by the EU I find appalling.  I am also a Eurosceptic for France, strange as it may read. France’s elites have an almost unconditional commitment to the EU across the political spectrum, and despite a recent poll published in Le Monde suggesting the French would also welcome a Frexit, I still believe that France is overwhelmingly committed to the European project. It therefore needs dissidents from its own mould to campaign for Brexit.  The youth of France needs to be inspired to challenge the status quo within the EU, even if France stays a member going forward.

I see Britain as one of the greatest Nations on Earth, having a little bias towards the Ivory Coast and Burkina-Faso. I believe this Nation’s ability to embrace different cultures and to make them feel welcome to the point of creating a sense of citizenry and loyalty  is unparalleled in an increasing culturally challenged Western World. Once free of a political project to which she does not subscribe, she will rediscover her global trading soul. She will quickly proceed to formally sign mutually beneficial trade deals with her Commonwealth bloc as well as the EU, and I believe that Britain will aim larger. She once had the largest Empire in the World, she will once again go into the World, but with an agenda aimed at cooperating and trading with the seldom heard Nations, whose voices are quashed by the kind of super structures which dominate the EU. This situation threatens social cohesion equally in Britain, Uganda or France in an interconnected World. By trading her way with the World which is growing, she will look after future generations and make sure they are not burdened with unnecessary debts, the kind currently amassed especially in the beleaguered economies of the eurozone. It will be a truly powerful leap of faith, the kinds which this Nation throughout her history has shown herself to be capable of . This is how Britain stayed ahead of the curve, especially when it came to facing the less glorious parts of her history such as slavery and colonialism. Any wonder that the three Nations predicted to lead the Word in the 21st century are all former British colonies? That the fastest growing economies in Africa or its best governed Nations, are former British colonies?

This is the critical look which the Panafricanist in me takes at British history and its legacy in my land of origin. It does not absolve Britain of the darker moments of its history.  I believe there comes a point when this Nation will have to acknowledge publicly its responsibility as part of a global system, which stripped away Afro descendants of the soul which in the 21st century they are trying to piece together.  Yet, the legacy of Britain in Africa is also a culture in the African Anglosphere, which many of us in the Francophone block envy. We wish we had greater entrepreneurial instincts, less red tape, a culture less based on State dependency, and the strong institutions and civil societies which the African Anglosphere exhibits. This is the positive legacy of the passage of Britain in Africa, as a coloniser. Brexit is about the future, and over half of the Commonwealth Nations are either in Africa or the Caribbeans. Those Nations are bound by a common struggle: self-determination. The EU, through her protectionist practices such as the Common Agricultural Policy, the Common Fisheries Policy and her so called free trade deals imposed on Nations with little bargaining power, stands in the way of this self-determination. I have read a number of reports on the policies pursued by the EU in Africa and their economic impact, and far from me the idea of rubbishing completely the relationship between the EU and Africa, as having been a complete disaster.

It was an article about the impact of the Common Fisheries Policy which made me click, and like it always is with politics, it became personal. I was reading about the plight of communities in Senegal depending on fishing for their livelihoods, and who faced with the unfair competition from the big European vessels had to stop trading. I will not go into the details of the environmental damage caused by this over fishing, but I now had a big clue to a question whose answer I had looked for in recent months.  Why do so many Senegalese young men need to migrate? Senegal is a country I love. In the past couple of years, I have paid the school fees of a young Senegalese boy met during a trip 6 years ago. I hoped to help him be able to support his family thanks to his education. A Senegalese young man whom I introduced to the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Program put together a business plan which made him abandon his project to come to Europe as an economic migrant. I have got friends and family in Senegal, who have to support their less fortunate family members, and whilst I am sure that what pushes young Senegalese men to leave their country in search of a better life in Europe cannot be only blamed on the Common Fisheries Policy, its contribution to the devastation of entire coastal communities is morally reprehensible. The resulting pull towards migration, the brain drain away from Africa is a tragedy for this continent whose wealth will help other regions of the World in the future. That is my plea as an African to British citizens of African and Caribbean descent to consider what the EU has done to their lands of origin. I also want them to engage with the fact that the uncontrolled immigration from Europe has affected the poorest communities in this country, in which many ethnic minorities belong. It has put enormous pressure on public services whilst contributing to wage stagnation. Furthermore, most British citizens from African and Caribbean descent tend to own small and medium sized businesses, which are unable to take off as a result of having to comply with regulations issued from mainland Europe, which a majority of businesses in the UK does not trade with. Some might be made to feel guilty for having become anti immigration. They should resist the moral entrepreneurs who ask them to back a project which discriminates between immigrants based on their geographical location, and has in fact elevated European migrants above Commonwealth immigrants. An immigration system which gives a fair chance to every applicant whether based in Poland, Jamaica ; India, China seems a very reasonable trade off, since every race is put on an equal footing.

Jamila Nana is the founder of Africans for Britain. You can visit her blog here: 

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