Africa and Europe facing 'common challenges'

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma reflects on her first EU-Africa summit as chair of the African Union commission. Kayleigh Rose Lewis reports.

By Kayleigh Rose Lewis

19 May 2014

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has had a long and colourful career in African politics. From 1994 through to 2012, Dlamini-Zuma was a member of the South African government, holding posts as health, foreign affairs and home affairs minister. In October 2012, the prolific politician, born in Natal, South Africa, made history by becoming the first female chairperson of the African Union commission. Last month, the former African National Congress member attended her first EU-Africa summit as chair of the organisation, attending many events and delivering various speeches.

Unsurprisingly, the African official had much to say on the evolution of the continent over the past decade. "The Africa-EU partnership has come a long way since the first Africa-EU summit in Cairo in 2000," she told those attending the summit, "And we probably missed a few steps together in our partnership". However, looking back over Africa's progress since then, she said, "In 2000, Africa was regarded as the 21st century development challenge and a moral scar on the conscience of humanity. Fourteen years later, Africa is the second fastest growing region in the world, public and private investment in infrastructure is on the increase and there is tangible progress on a number of social indicators, many of them due to our joint efforts", she explained proudly.

"We in Africa greatly appreciate the support from Europe through the peace support fund. Africa remains determined to silence all guns by 2020"

The recent summit saw more than 60 EU and African leaders in attendance, and 90 delegations. It culminated in a written declaration and the endorsement of a roadmap in which priorities were agreed for the upcoming 2014-2017 period. These priorities centred around peace and security, democracy, good governance and human rights, human development, sustainable and inclusive growth, and global and emerging issues.

"We witnessed changes to the political landscape of the continent, with democratic elections becoming the norm, demonstrating our collective commitment to promote a political culture based on legitimacy, inclusion and accountability." In addition, she said, "Although stubborn pockets of conflicts remain, causing immense suffering and devastation – especially for women and children – progress is being made through the African peace and security and governance architectures."

Speaking on the headway made at the summit, Dlamini-Zuma said that "African and European leaders have spoken". "We have demonstrated that there is much that we can and must do together to confront common challenges and take advantage of opportunities and to secure peace and security and achieve rapid, resilient and inclusive, as well as sustainable social and economic, development for our people. We have come together not simply as neighbours or because of our shared history. We have come together because we face common challenges and a shared future as peoples of one planet earth that invites all global citizens to pay attention to sustainability considerations. We are all agreed that our people must be at the centre of our joint endeavour and especially women and youth." Dlamini-Zuma continued, "There is a great deal of convergence of how to confront challenges to peace and security and sustainable development, as well as the need for strong institutional mechanism to address root causes and a rapid response mechanism. We in Africa greatly appreciate the support from Europe through the peace support fund. Africa remains determined to silence all guns by 2020," and, according to the summit's resulting declaration, this includes small arms, light weapons and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

"Partnerships are always stronger when founded on mutual trust, goodwill and respect"

Moving onto the economy, the AU chairperson said, "We have committed ourselves on the need for transformation of the African economy through investment in industry, agriculture and infrastructure and through access to finance, markets and transfer of technology. In order to take advantage of the demographic dividends, Africa seeks support to impart skills to the youthful population and access to means of production and markets."

The summit declaration also paid heed to the problem of migration, including 'mobilising the potential of migrants' for development and effectively tackling irregular migration in a 'comprehensive way'. Dlamini-Zuma said, "In addressing the phenomenon of human migration we must face up to the push and pull factors."

Trade featured highly on the agenda, not just with the EU, but within Africa and externally. "To boost intra-Africa trade, create regional value chains, and encourage private investments we are committed to developing a continental free trade area by building on achievements of the regional economic communities," explained the African leader. "Africa is very much alive to the reality that the new trade regime under the WTO calls for reciprocity, which takes into account developmental needs of Africa. We therefore call on [the EU] as partners to ensure that [economic partnership agreements] do not frustrate Africa's integration and development agenda," she said, concluding, "Partnerships are always stronger when founded on mutual trust, goodwill and respect. We trust that our long-standing partnership will remain guided by these values."

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