The European Union and Africa have an important and unique partnership, which is at a crossroads. The EU remains the main partner of Africa, but it is no longer the only one. So does Africa still need Europe? We continue to believe the deep, comprehensive and holistic relationship is a vital long-term foundation for political dialogue and progress in both continents.
Investing in young people.The demographic boom in Africa will be an opportunity for the continent rather than a challenge, if we support investment in education. The challenges of the future will only be met if we equip the next generations with the necessary tools, on which an “EU-Africa Erasmus program” can be of great impact, encouraging exchanges between European and African young students, researchers, teachers and entrepreneurs.
Sustainable investments. The S&D Group strongly supports the EU External Investment Plan for Africa (and European neighbourhood) with the aim of improving economic and social development and achieving the SDGs on the African continent. But rather than underpin multinationals which are already champions of tax evasion, or the ones which prey on mineral and natural resources, the EIP must provide support to SMEs, microfinance and job creation programs, especially for young people and women.
Coherent Partnershipsfor development to address the root causes of irregular migration.Irregular migration is a global phenomenon requiring a coordinated international response and the EU must take a human-rights-based lead in shaping it. We support a strong partnership between Europe and Africa and the efforts in the United Nations to tackle the root causes of migration in terms of improving the economic and social situation, strengthening democracy and the rule of law, and providing education and employment opportunities in countries of transit and origin. We remain strongly committed to the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs, also by improving development cooperation, conflict resolution, and stimulate inclusive and sustainable economic growth to ensure that people have a real chance of a better life in their homeland. But we also need to ensure we implement Policy Coherence for Development across our agricultural, trade and investment policies, from the Common Agricultural Policy to binding due diligence requirements for EU companies. The security-development nexus remains important for addressing conflict, but poverty-alleviation must remain the primary goal of development assistance. We will never accept aid conditionality linked to migration policy.
Strengthen democracy and human rights. Human rights remain central to our partnership with Africa. We urge the EEAS and Commission to use all available tools to maintain serious human rights dialogues. We will seek innovative mechanisms to give support and visibility to those risking their lives in Africa for the defence of human rights, democracy, social justice, equality and non-discrimination. We reiterate our belief that independent NGOs, media and cultural space are a pre-requisite of a functioning democracy and rule of law.
Gender equality.Without the emancipation of women there is no viability for sustainable development, nor full democracy, nor good governance. Gender equality must be mainstreamed in all EU policies, initiatives and investments towards Africa.
“Does Africa need Europe?” is one of the priorities part of the “Building the Progressive Future Together” statement, debated during our event in Brussels on October 18-19. But the debate goes on. We’re counting on your input, so each of you can play a part in shaping our common future. It’s easy – just sign in add your thoughts to this topic.
Africa needs Europe as much as Europe needs Africa. The relationship between these two continents works as a mirror: if Africa is healthy, Europe is healthy, and vice versa. After decades of aids and investments, African growth is still very low, and the quality of life is really bad for the majority of the people. It is needed to change the Europeans approach towards Africa: from short-term development help to long-term development. In order to do so, it is important to educate a new generation of African entrepreneurs, to economically support them and to help in them in creating a good social and legal environment for their enterprises. For these reasons, it is not possible to continue to close our eyes in front of systematically violations of the Cotonou Agreement from some African governments; at the same time, it is not possible to continue to close our eyes in front of the multinationals exploitation of the African natural resources and manpower. Africa still needs Europe more then Asiatic or American countries because of geographical factors and because Europe is the only major Africa’s partner that intend to help African economic growth and African people’s quality of life, rather then exploiting African resources.
The real questions should be: what kind of Europe does Africa need? Although the two continents are intertwined by historical and economic bonds – Europe cannot be of any practical help for Africa if the first does not speak as a strong and unite civil power and does not overcome its colonial(ist) heritage. Failing in doing so, means leaving room for other international actors to take advantage of this opportunity. China is already providing Africa with financial support to build public infrastructures in exchange for the exploitation of the African soil and energy resources. Chinese products have also invaded the African markets, as they represent a cheap alternative to other international products, branded goods, or to starvation.
Europe should then invest in a long-term development plan for Africa, complying with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and engage in peer-to-peer and socially responsible business relations. Only by supporting Africa’s economic (and cultural) empowerment, Europe can really be helpful for Africa, and viceversa.
In this respect, access to energy is key. For decades, Africa has been exploited in many ways for its resources – and such uneven economic relations have left the continent in a subordinate position. Such exploitation have also created huge unbalances, not only between Europe and Africa, but also between the African countries that could minimally benefit of this trade, and those that could not. Nowadays, Europe, investing on the usage of renewable energy, trough photovoltaic technologies, wind turbines, etc. , could initiate a virtuous circle of long term development, filling the economic gaps and empowering African people – that could afford reliable and clean energy for their domestic and business activities.
I attended in April 2017 the Democracy Days in Reggio Emilia and decided to join a workshop about the relation between Europe and Africa. I had the pleasure to meet MEP Cécile Kyenge (S&D) who chaired this workshop. Kyenge is an Italian politician and led the EU-Election Observer Mission for the 2015 general election in Burkina Faso. During this workshop, we had to debate about the question whether the EU is still important for Africa.
It was one of the most interesting workshops I ever attended, why I would like to present our findings in this short essay.
According to Kyenge, the African youth play an important role for the democratic process in many African countries. The youth mobilised in the last decades against Authoritarian regimes in Africa and had often succeeded. Consequently, the youth is essential for democracies in Africa why it is often referred by Kyenge as the “watchdog of treaties”. Therefore, there should be no doubt that the EU should invest more in African young people. Projects like the “EU-Africa Erasmus programme”, have impact on both sides. If we invest in education, we always invest in the future. Moreover, events like “The Youth and the Future of Africa”, organized by the S&D, bring European and African citizens together, why they should be repeated in the near future. Supporting and developing the skills of young people to play an active and effective role in party politics, decisions, and representation at local, national and international levels is fundamental. Young people can be excellent advocates for change. When given the right encouragement, they can be shown how to engage with parliament and be real champions for progress. It should be our goal to help next generations of election observers, who ensure elections take place without corruption or manipulation. They are a fundamental part of any democracy.
We ended the workshop with the words that Europe has a special responsibility for Africa: In such a fast-developing world we need a deep partnership with Africa. In particular, we should support African youth to help young democracies in Africa. Initiatives like the EU-Africa Erasmus programme or conferences are therefore a good starting point, however; the process needs to be continued. Finally, I am very happy to see that the S&D acknowledges the importance to speak about Africa during the Together event.