In this essay, we center some of the intra-African trade wars in context. First, these trade and investment wars reveal the ways in which investors maneuver and respond to the hostile regulatory actions of a hegemon state by moving their investments to a friendlier economy. Our first example between Uganda falls into this category. In response to the actions of the Kenyan government, the investors secured market access in Zambia. Zambia thus became a beneficiary of the trade war between Uganda and Kenya. Second, the trade and investment wars bode well for the future of trade liberalization in Africa under the AfCFTA because this probably points to rising trade volumes between African states. Third, as we show in the context of the examples we discuss, the citizens of States that have taken the more hardline posture on the regulatory measure at the heart of the trade and investment war appear to be worse off in their capacity to generate sustained economic development. Fourth, in some cases, African trade and investment wars are caused by socio-economic conflicts. The xenophobic attacks in South-Africa are illustrative of this example. The xenophobic attacks often escalate to trade wars and retaliatory economic backlashes. Fifth and finally, we loop in the AfCFTA and arguethat the trade wars remain a threat to the realization of the promise of the AfCFTA.
In January 2020 when I first read Nigeria’s Finance Act 2019, one of the instinctive questions that came to me was “is Nigeria serious about taxing digital trade now”? There were a few reasons for this skepticism. First, the Act seeks to tax nonresident companies (NRCs) that have a “significant economic presence” (SEP) in Nigeria but then delegates the definition of that pivotal phrase. Second, I questioned how Nigeria can enforce/administer this unilateral tax, which is payable by companies outside its borders. Third, I imagined that Nigeria’s unilateral attempt to tax digital trade could undermine relations with a strategic economic, and political partner, the US. Nigeria has now crossed the first hurdle of defining SEP – no doubt, a meaningful step forward – yet, there remains much to process before Africa’s biggest economy can begin to milk the digital cow.
My teaching style is as conversational as possible: while providing an introduction through lecture style, class generally turns into a hybrid between lecture and debate between myself and the students, but also among the students. I regularly divided students up into groups with specific tasks (such as taking on particular viewpoints or positions within negotiations), which they had to develop among themselves and then present arguments to the group as a whole.