A new relationship with Africa

Source: N. (Neven) Mimica i, published on Thursday, September 12 2019.

Exactly one year ago today, President Juncker launched a new Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs.

This was a watershed moment, marking a clear break between the past and the future for Africa-Europe relations and setting set in motion a paradigm shift for a more dynamic and forward-looking partnership. The decision to take our relations to the next level comes from the conviction that our continents have much to gain mutually from a stronger partnership.

We are at a juncture where Africa has captured the world’s attention. Against the background of a rapidly changing international landscape, Africa is beaming with energy and dynamism, and looking at projected population growth to the tune of 2.4 billion people by 2050. Rising as the world’s second fastest growing region, commerce is thriving and investment is pouring in. There is also a palpable political will to begin the road to continental integration with the new Continental Free Trade Area.

With all of this considered, the time had come to set out a new vision for a future where Africa and Europe’s partnership deepens for the mutual benefit of all our citizens.

If we were going to take on the challenges, and harness the opportunities, we had to change the narrative of what previously was a ‘donor-recipient’ focused relationship and build a new partnership putting Europe and Africa’s respective strengths at work. This would mean cooperating and working with the private sector to set in motion inclusive and sustainable development and create more and better jobs.

This is the essence of the Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs. The Alliance breaks with the past narrative rooted in historical relationships and the outdated perception of Africa as a primary commodity exporter or a continent of permanent instability. By focusing on four different avenues with huge potential, it lays the foundation for sustainable growth based on value-adding, diversified economic activities in both rural and urban areas:

It seeks to de-risk investment in Africa with financial instruments that move away from grant-based logic and instead create ownership and responsibility;

It looks at ways to improve the investment climate to give businesses, especially SMEs who real engines of growth, more certainty and stability;

It invests in people, especially youth, to give them the right skills, education and training and prepare them for what the new labour market has to offer;

And it taps into the full potential of economic integration and trade, by getting fully behind the African Union’s efforts for a Continental Free Trade Area.

So far and with only one year under our belts, progress under the Alliance is very encouraging within all four strands of action.

Our new financial instruments are starting to unlock private investments across Africa, with the €2.45 billion euros committed by 2018 expected to leverage €21.6bn of total investment. And we expect up to 10 million jobs to be created in Africa in the next 5 years.

It goes without saying that our relations with Africa are of course wider than an economic partnership. We have a longstanding and robust cooperation, which continues to endure on peace and security, governance and human rights, health and education, food security and nutrition, to name but a few. However, by putting an increased focus on economic development, we are showing in clear terms that we have replaced our past donor-recipient relationship with a win-win partnership, which serves both continents’ interests.

It is no secret that we live in a fractured world, where multilateralism is questioned and even undermined. But amidst the disharmony, Africa and Europe rise as a shining example of partnership, both continents united by the same vision of a more safe, sustainable, and inclusive world for our children.

For a summary of my work on the Africa-Europe Alliance on Sustainable Investment and Jobs, please view this fiche.