EconoMatters, Global Pairings

Boris Johnson: Africa and the Commonwealth Beware

Johnson thinks Africa can benefit from adopting more British values. He wants it to be a carbon copy of its former colonial masters.

Takeaways


  • A gold medal egomaniac and cavorting charlatan now rules the world’s fifth-largest economy.
  • Despite his pronouncements, it is clear that Johnson -- like Trump -- is a divider, not a uniter.
  • Johnson thinks Africa can benefit from adopting more British values. He wants it to be a carbon copy of its former colonial masters.
  • Given the feebleness of the UK economy, Johnson needs trade partners who will simply roll over to the UK’s demands.

A gold medal egomaniac and cavorting charlatan now rules the world’s fifth-largest economy.

We may have all hoped for a better outcome, but the UK’s Conservative Party, in its infinite wisdom, showed us just how misplaced our hopes were.

They evidently opted for buffoonish entertainment. From the perspective of the Commonwealth in general, and Africa in particular, none of this augurs well.

In his first speech to Parliament, Boris Johnson told his fellow lawmakers that his biggest mission would be to deliver Brexit for the purpose of uniting and re-energizing the UKand — in a highly transparent case of copycatting Trump — supposedly making the country the greatest place on earth.

Despite his pronouncements, it is clear that Johnson — very much like Trump — is a divider, not a uniter.
From an African perspective, it was interesting to observe that Johnson displayed a colonial master’s hauteur via-a-vis the European Union.

He set out to show the EU who the new sheriff in town is and threatened that, if the bloc refused to let him have his way, he would leave without a deal come October 31.

It must have been a disorienting experience for the EU’s biggest powers, Germany and France: Agree to our terms or face our unparalleled wrath. To us Africans, it’s not such an unfamiliar refrain.

What about Africa?

The developing world should even be more scared. As with his role model in the White House, protectionism is likely to be the new hallmark of Johnson’s trade regime.

If his short stint as UK foreign minister is anything to go by, there will be very scant regard for existing relations with other countries.

The Commonwealth, a group of former British colonies, hardly features in his policies. All we are bound to get is the same alluring, but false rhetoric about great trade deals that Donald Trump has been issuing.

Shafting the Commonwealth

All the ideals that have governed the Commonwealth group of nations since its formation — the promotion of human rights, democracy, the rule of law and free trade — will be things that Johnson will ultimately hardly bother himself about.

No wonder Queen Elisabeth II seemed so unhappy in making the buffoon Prime Minister. She had no choice.

Johnson will likely become a nightmare to all those who ever thought that an august body such as the Commonwealth deserves someone to uphold some elements of human decency as its face.

Given that, in his own words, his biggest priority will be to make Britons wealthier, healthier and more secure, he will not give constructive direction to hundreds of deals that his predecessors left unfinished.

Given the feebleness of the UK economy, Johnson will need trade partners who will simply roll over when he presents the UK’s demands. The only form of global justice is that very few nations on earth will be tempted by those “deals.”

Johnson and Africa

Johnson will be to the world what our very own Herman Mashaba is to South Africa, passionately asserting his determination to make Joburg better, but making no attempt to hide his dislike for immigrants.

To Johnson, Africa is a continent that can benefit from adopting more British values. Given his lack of intellectual openness and refinement, he simply wants the continent to be a carbon copy of its former colonial masters.

That should be worrying for Africa. How could anyone in his right mind trust such an absent-minded fellow whose current priorities appear to be only about how retirement-age British conservatives see him?

Conclusion

It seemed quite unthinkable in the past for Britain and the United States — the erstwhile key drivers of globalization over the past two-and-a-half centuries — to be at the front of such an onslaught against international openness and progress.

But Johnson, like Trump, has shown us that it is not impossible for Eton’s and Oxford’s finest to try and reverse all the gains that have been made in more than 70 years.

Welcome to the new world order.

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About Sechaba Nkosi

Sechaba Nkosi has traveled Africa extensively as a correspondent for numerous publications covering upheavals from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Zimbabwe and Lesotho.

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