In moving forward together, the new Commission of the European Union (EU) under the leadership of President Ursula von der Leyen, has proclaimed 2020 as the “EU-Africa year”. With the launch of a new comprehensive strategy with Africa, the next EU-AU Summit in October, and the planned endorsement of the post-Cotonou Agreement in November, the EU intends to open a new chapter in EU-Africa relations. In addition, Germany’s Council Presidency during the second half of the year has a clear regional focus on Africa. However, due to the continuing COVID-19 crisis, the agenda for reshaping African-European relations became uncertain.
Africa and Europe are neighbouring continents, their histories and fates are closely intertwined. Africa and Europe are both in search of mutual opportunities and a new partnership while at the same time facing challenges. The history and scars of colonisation, for example, as well as the unequal economic power balances, are obstacles on the path to a partnership and cooperation on an equal footing.
Europe is the biggest investor and trading partner to Africa, while tourism, the export of minerals, raw produce and remittances are key sectors of income for many African countries. Further, strong development cooperation is a cornerstone to many African countries, with civil society organisations as key partners in the provision of social services.
Ms Tanja Gönner, Spokeswoman of the Board at GIZ made the introductory remarks at a web talk organised by GIZ Representation Berlin in cooperation with GIZ Representation Brussels and the African Union Office of GIZ. She pointed out that, “There is a lot of complementarity between Europe and Africa, with clarity on what we need to do. While we have different experiences, learning from one another is important in implementation in order to have a real partnership.”
Dr Ibrahim Mayaki, CEO of AUDA-NEPAD remarked that the quality of the partnership between the two continents has a direct impact on strengthening multilateralism.
“Behind this partnership, there is a sense of common destiny, as many of the issues we are tackling, from migration to climate change, are the same,” he said.
Dr Mayaki also stated that there is complementarity within the key areas that the EU is supporting, as the priorities are directly linked to Agenda 2030. He also added that illicit financial flows from Africa is an agenda that needs to be tackled.
Mr Koen Doens, Director-General in the European Commission’s Department for International Cooperation and Development, pointed out that, “We live in a paradox, since issues such as climate change, migration, and COVID-19, have all produced changes, but, there seems to be a global tend to retreat to nationalism and protectionism. However, both Europe and Africa stand to win through greater cooperation, through co-creation in a multi-lateral approach.”
Scientific input into the web discussion was presented by Dr Melanie Müller, Senior Associate at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, who contended that “A lot of challenges have not been fully addressed, from migration, to focus on vulnerable populations in Africa.”
She added that digitalisation could be an area of cooperation and the African Continental Free Trade Area is a great opportunity, with decisive leadership at the highest levels.
The conversation also touched on the issue of migration, with the speakers agreeing that more open and frank discussions are needed on both sides, in order to deal with political sensitivities. The fact that it is important to highlight that most of the migration takes place within the African continent and that no African leader is in favour of illegal migration was brought to the fore. It was also agreed that migration issues need to be tackled in a multi-sectoral dimension.
The African Union Development Agency-NEPAD, as the development arm of the AU working with the African Union Commission, supports the Union through technical inputs in contributing to position papers, among other channels, to feed into deliberations of Summits and meetings. These platforms provide an opportunity to engage with both the EU as a whole and some of the European partners such as the GIZ and Spanish Fund, among others.
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