The 2007 Joint Africa-EU Strategy was an important step in shaping the relationship between the two continents. However, since 2007 the political and economic situation that defined that partnership has changed.
Africa has boomed economically, but faces new challenges such as climate change, migration, growing inequalities, health problems, demographic pressures, and a lack of preparation around digital transformation.
In March 2020 the European Commission and EU High Representative Josep Borrell proposed the foundation of a new joint strategy with Africa to be endorsed at the EU-AU Summit in spring 2021.
The proposals aim to intensify cooperation through partnerships in five key areas: green transition, digital transformation, sustainable growth and jobs, peace and governance, and migration and mobility.
“The strategy moves beyond the donor-recipient relationship and shows we treat Africa on an equal footing”
As a response and contribution to the joint strategy, the European Parliament’s Development Committee prepared a report on the proposed Strategy. From my perspective, as the EPP Group’s shadow rapporteur, the report’s main priorities are, firstly, that this is a strategy with Africa, not for Africa.
Unlike previous strategies, the new EU-Africa Strategy has been created not for Africa but in close cooperation and in partnership with Africa. The new political and economic relations will be based on equality and values (i.e. respect for the rule of law, democracy, human rights, peace, and security) and a genuine willingness to build lasting relationships benefiting both Africa and the EU.
The strategy moves beyond the donor-recipient relationship and shows we treat Africa on an equal footing. The new challenges of the 21st century require a comprehensive approach and reorganisation of relations to face them together.
Africa is Europe’s natural partner because of our shared history, proximity, and interests. A strong Africa means a strong and peaceful Europe.
Secondly, there is a focus on youth and education. Africa’s population has doubled in the last 30 years; this demographic growth will continue. Each month, around a million young Africans enter the labour market without skills or education.
Within the next 15 years, some 375 million young Africans will reach working age. If we want to lift Africa out of poverty, we need to empower young people by providing them with adequate education and prepare them for the new opportunities and challenges of tomorrow’s labour market.
We should focus on vocational and digital literacy trainings, scholarships, and academic exchanges between youth in Africa and the EU through Erasmus+ and Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs linked with teacher training and the strengthening of educational structures.
Significant investments in infrastructure and digitalisation are required to integrate all children into schools. We stress the importance of school canteens and hygiene services in fragile and conflict-afflicted areas to combat early school leaving. The EU-Africa strategy puts youth and education at the heart of the partnership, as education is the gateway to youth empowerment, employment, and entrepreneurship.
Thirdly, cooperation in health and environment; COVID-19 is likely to further widen inequalities in Africa and plunge entire populations into poverty.
There is a need to consider the impact of the crisis on societies, economies, agricultural production, and security. Health, in particular the availability of modern treatments and vaccines is an extremely important goal of the Strategy.
Africa is not responsible for climate change but bears the brunt of its impact. As guarantor of the Paris Agreement, Europe must support Africa in its transition to a green economy and encourage the development of its renewable energy production potential and sustainable agriculture.
“The EU-Africa strategy puts youth and education at the heart of the partnership, as education is the gateway to youth empowerment, employment, and entrepreneurship”
The final priority is migration, which should be viewed as an opportunity as well as a challenge. Demographic trends, lack of economic opportunity, ongoing conflicts, and climate change mean that migration and forced displacement will continue posing challenges for both Europe and Africa.
Migration is one of the priorities of the partnership. Since 2015, the EU and African countries have developed a joint approach to manage migration through cooperation under the Valletta, Rabat, and Khartoum processes. Together we can protect lives, assist those in need, and counteract trafficking.
The EU wants to collaborate with Africa on a coherent and comprehensive approach to migration and mobility, guided by the principles of solidarity, partnership, and shared responsibility.
From tackling the root causes of illegal migration and forced resettlement to guaranteeing fair and accessible asylum procedures for people in need of international protection. The principle of ‘nonrefoulement’ must be respected in accordance with international and EU law.
Both legal migration opportunities and improved cooperation on return and readmission are discussed. Well-managed migration and mobility can impact positively on both continents.
Developing a genuine circular migration policy and work permits will allow for an exchange of professional knowledge and mobility between the EU and Africa to take hold, while discouraging migrants from illegal migration.
Although the Strategy addresses the challenges of the 21st century, it’s not an end in itself. It underpins the previous EU commitments to implement the Agenda 2030 and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals to achieve a better and more sustainable future for us all.