The European Commission and the EU’s foreign policy chief on May 4 presented a revitalised framework for joint action, to build a stronger strategic partnership between Europe and Africa for more prosperity and stability in the two continents. The 27-country bloc is Africa’s closest neighbour and main partner. The Communication presents innovative proposals in a number of key areas – such as peace and security, migration, job creation or energy, the Commission said, noting that this comes ahead of the Africa-EU Summit in November this year, which will put a specific focus on youth.
Closer EU-Africa cooperation would help tackle global challenges such as terrorism and transnational crime, climate change, epidemics, pressure on natural resources, humanitarian crises, irregular migration.
Over the ten past years, the EU and Africa had already forged a more political partnership based on shared values and interests, enshrined in the Joint Africa-EU Strategy adopted in 2007. A stronger political engagement with Africa shall serve first of all to deliver on the EU’s ambitious strategic priorities with Africa.
A series of events in 2017 – from the G7 and G20 Summits in May and June respectively to the 5th Africa-EU Summit on November 28-29 – have placed Africa high on the international agenda.
The 5th Africa EU Summit provides a critical opportunity for African and European leaders to reshape and deepen their relationship in response to the evolving context.
At this occasion, “2017 is the year for a new impetus of the partnership between Europe and Africa: every obstacle we may face is a common challenge, and Africa’s hope is our hope, High Representative for Foreign Policy, Vice President Federica Mogherini said.
“A strong Africa matters to Europe; our friendship matters to our people. Only by joining forces and working in partnership can we provide our youth with a more hopeful and peaceful future. Today, we don’t simply look at what we can do for Africa but what we can do with Africa, together,” she added.
For his part, International Cooperation and Development Commissioner Neven Mimica noted that the Commission “proposes several ideas and concrete measures on how to translate our priorities for the years to come into action, notably to foster growth and to create more jobs, especially for youth. We have a solid offer on the table and we now want to discuss it further with EU Member States and with African partners so that this offer materialises into something concrete and visible. More than ever citizens on both sides of the ocean need to see that the Africa-Europe strategic partnership is a reality which goes beyond words”.
The proposal released on May identifies three objectives for building an EU-Africa alliance to address common global and regional challenges: a stronger mutual engagement and increased cooperation bilaterally and in the international arena, based on common values and shared interests; security, on land and on sea, and the fight against transnational threats; sustainable and inclusive economic development in Africa, in order to create the jobs that the continent needs.
Concrete actions are proposed around two mains strands, the Commission said.
The first one aims to achieve more resilient states and societies, through closer cooperation and action in order to prevent conflicts, improve conflict management, strengthen governance systems, and manage migration and mobility.
The second strand will aim to create more and better jobs, especially for youth. It develops concrete proposals for attracting responsible and sustainable investment, for example with the recently proposed External Investment Plan, which is expected to leverage up to €44 billion of private investment. Further proposals concern the cooperation in renewable energy, agriculture, agribusiness and the blue economy as well as advancement of knowledge and skills. For example, the Commission proposes to launch an African Youth Facility, which will expand the scope of Erasmus+, or to support digital innovation in Africa.
The Joint Communication will now be presented to the Council and the European Parliament.
Collectively, the EU is Africa’s main foreign investor, main trading partner, offering free access to the EU market via Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA), Free Trade Agreements and the Everything But Arms initiative, a key security provider through the African Peace Facility alone, the EU channelled substantial funding amounting to over €2 billion since 2004, and its first source of remittances and ODA, €21 billion 2015 EU collectively.
An ever-closer network of human contacts and exchanges strengthens the bonds between the peoples.
The policy priorities and initial set of concrete initiatives set out today, to be coordinated and implemented with EU Member States and further developed jointly with African partners, come in response to Africa’s own Agenda 2063 and build on the EU Global Strategy for Foreign and Security Policy.
In a rapidly changing global landscape, Africa is experiencing profound economic, political and societal changes, and its importance to Europe’s security and prosperity – both internally and externally – is becoming ever more obvious.
Africa has seen impressive economic growth over the last two decades and an increasing number of African governments and regional organisations are taking a leading role in addressing the security, political and poverty reduction challenges within their borders and beyond.
Yet both European and African citizens are witnessing a more uncertain global order, increasing incidence of disasters and crisis, insecurity and the rise of terrorism, and the increased movements of people.
Against this background the Communication comes at the right time to reflect on how Africa and the EU should take their relationship forward, the Commission said. This will be guided in particular by the Global Strategy for the EU’s Foreign and Security Policy, the UN’s 2030 Agenda and Africa’s Agenda 2063, allowing sufficient time to engage with EU Member States and African partners in view of establishing joint priorities and actions for the Summit and beyond.
The African Union (AU) and the African group in the UN are strategic partners and key allies to strengthen the role of the UN and the rule-based global order, which is essential for future peace and prosperity.
Additionally, the EU aims to increase cooperation with Africa on interregional level based on frequent political interaction, using all existing cooperation frameworks. Political dialogue also needs to include other stakeholders. The EU strives to strengthen engagement and contacts with local authorities, the private sector and civil society.
Turning to youth, which is the focus of the Africa-EU partnership in 2017, the demographic dynamics on both continents combined with the challenges facing Africa put youth at the hearth of the relations between Africa and the European Union.
Africa is experiencing a growing youth population with 60% people across the continent under 30 years of age. Meanwhile, the population in the European Union is decreasing and aging. Economic progress in Africa has not been inclusive or sustainable enough to offer better prospects for a large part of the population, especially young people. In its cooperation with Africa, the European Union puts great emphasis on empowering and supporting youth. It does so by focusing both on economic inclusion through the generation of more and better jobs for young people as well as on democratic and political inclusion through fostering active participation in the decision-making bodies and political processes. The European Union also focuses on ensuring better intra-African youth mobility as well as equal access for all to quality education, including vocational education and training.
For example, the Commission proposes to launch an African Youth Facility, which will expand the scope of Erasmus+, or to support digital innovation in Africa. Today, the Commission also presented its Digital4Development approach, outlining ideas on how to promote information and communication technologies in developing countries and mainstream digitalisation into EU development policy.