Ali Bongo Ondimba: Shared challenges
Attracting international acclaim for his investments in environmental protection, Ali Bongo Ondimba is regarded as one of Central Africa’s most reforming leaders. In an exclusive interview, the Gabonese President explains to Marie Hourtoule why he is so strongly committed to the continent’s peace and development.
Gabon currently chairs the African group of negotiators on climate change. What are Libreville’s priorities, and your own personal ones, regarding climate change?
Gabon has been at the forefront of climate change action in Africa for some time and, after three years at the head of the Committee of African Heads of State and Government on climate change, taking over as chair of the African Group of Negotiators (AGN) represents the continuation of this commitment.
The AGN chairmanship will only strengthen Gabon’s internationally- recognised commitment and actions on climate change. Personally, I regard this new mandate as a mark of confidence in our country, and I thank all those African countries that chose us to head this extremely important group.
Continental Africa is highly vulnerable to climate change. As your readers may recall, several months ago Africa was struck by cyclone Kenneth, the strongest ever recorded on the continent, which left more than 374,000 people in need.
Given the present context, with increasing emissions and human activity generating 400 billion tonnes of CO2 every year, the AGN chairmanship will play a special role. All this runs completely counter to the climate discussions, which have currently stalled, as demonstrated by COP25’s failure to reach a consensus.
We intend to focus on two priorities. The first is for the future climate negotiations (COP26) to succeed and to agree the rulebook for the Paris Agreement, which - I must stress - is essential for mankind’s survival as well as that of Africa
The second priority, for Africa itself, is to be able to place climate issues at the centre of the continent’s policies.
This can be done through revising our Nationally Determined Contributions, and for Africa’s priorities on combatting climate change to be placed at the centre of international negotiations through COP27, which will be held in an African country in 2021.
"Continental Africa is highly vulnerable to climate change. As your readers may recall, several months ago Africa was struck by cyclone Kenneth, the strongest ever recorded on the continent, which left 374,000 people in need"
In your role as current Chair of the Economic Community of Central African States, how do you plan to strengthen integration in Central Africa?
Like everywhere else in the world, Central Africa needs peace, stability and prosperity in order to develop, and our sub-region naturally needs to strengthen its integration process.
When I chaired the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) Conference of Heads of State and Government in Libreville last December, I presented proposals for the institutional reform of our organisation.
These were approved unanimously, and today, ECCAS has a new legal framework for strengthening its political, security and economic integration, including a Commission endowed with greater powers. Some new institutions are also planned, including a Community Parliament, Court of Justice and Court of Auditors.
Regarding the operation of our Community Organisation and its financial independence, my fellow members and I have made strong commitments.
First, through a Community Integration Tax and second, from a security perspective, the Council for Peace and Security in Central Africa, which aims to establish a common space of security and stability in the 11 countries of the sub-region.
These will now be better-integrated into the overall structure of the institution. The Libreville Summit and its conclusions have therefore been a major turning point in the development of ECCAS. It now remains for us, through our national parliaments, to ratify the texts that have been signed.
Gabon recently normalised its relations with the European union. What type of cooperation are you hoping to develop with Europe?
I am happy to report that Gabon has had cooperative links with the European Union for several decades. These links have continued to grow in recent years, thanks to our shared desire to consolidate them and raise them to a higher level.
The conclusion of the intensified political dialogue between Gabon and the EU that took place in Libreville in mid-December 2019, has allowed us to normalise our regular consultations, focus on ever-closer collaboration and to put this cooperation into effect in several areas.
We therefore hope to establish more balanced economic and commercial relations with the EU, while continuing to respect each other’s sovereignty. The recent mission of a delegation from the European Investment Bank (EIB) to Libreville is a concrete example of this progress.
EIB experts were able to familiarise themselves with the business environment, investment opportunities and all the Gabonese Government’s priority projects in areas such as the environment, energy, industry, digital economy, infrastructure, trade and housing.
"The conclusion of the intensified political dialogue between Gabon and the EU that took place in Libreville in mid-December 2019, has allowed us to normalise our regular consultations, focus on ever-closer collaboration and to put this cooperation into effect in several areas"
Both the African union and the EU face common challenges. What is your analysis of the threats to international and regional peace and security and their impact on the stability of the two continents?
The African Union’s (AU) destiny is linked to that of the EU. Their relations go back a long way and are based on historic, political, security, economic and commercial ties. It is therefore true to say that these two entities face many common challenges.
Combatting climate change and the fight against international terrorism and cross-border crime (particularly in the Sahel), and the question of illegal migration, all currently confront us and present a threat to world peace and security.
As your readers will understand, there cannot be development without peace and security. I believe we must address these matters in a global and concerted fashion, so that together, Africa and Europe can find solutions.
There is a lot at stake for Africa; we need to create enough jobs within the continent to offer our growing population of young people a decent future. This is a major challenge for the stability of Africa and for Europe.
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