Britain is leaving the European Union on Friday, starting the clock on an 11-month transition period during which the country will try to sign as many new trade deals as possible. African countries are a prime target.
The UK government has said that it will prioritize trade negotiations this year with the European Union, but it has also made early overtures to countries such as Mozambique and Ghana. Prime Minister Boris Johnson clearly wants closer economic ties with Africa.
“We in the UK have a vital job in continuing to convince people across the continent that we’re not just a great friend and ally, a reliable ally, but also the people you should be doing business with,” Johnson said earlier this month at the UK-Africa Investment Summit.
While a member of the European Union, Britain lagged some of its peers in terms of exports to Africa.
In 2018, the United Kingdom exported goods worth roughly $10 billion to the continent, according to EU data. That was less than other EU countries including Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Germany and France.
But the dynamics could change after Brexit, according to Tokunbo Afikuyomi, a former trade economist who worked in the United Kingdom.
"Before Brexit, the EU made agreements on behalf of the entire union, and the interest of the UK may not have been a priority for the EU at the time of making those negotiations," he told CNN Business. "Now Britain can negotiate with more countries as they want."
The United Kingdom has already started to replicate EU trade agreements that will no longer apply when the transition period ends. So far, trade deals have been signed with 11 African countries, according to the UK government, covering 43% of the country's total trade with Africa.