He told an international conference the EU’s current €3.4bn investment plan for Africa was an “important step in the right direction but nowhere near enough.”
He added, “We must work to ensure that under the next EU multiannual budget, at least €40bn is earmarked for the investment fund for Africa.”
The EU is currently debating its spending priorities for the post-2020 period.
The Italian MEP was speaking at the showpiece gathering of Africa Week, an event he helped promote which took place in Parliament last week.
The event comes just ahead of the keenly awaited EU-Africa summit in Abidjan. During Africa Week, many Parliament committees and delegations held meetings and debates with the aim, according to Tajani, of “setting the terms of a new partnership with Africa.”
Migration, sustainable development, economic diplomacy and peace and security on the African continent were among issues under the spotlight.
Opening the high-level conference, Tajani said, “We must support the efforts Africans themselves are making to establish a sustainable manufacturing base and develop efficient farming, renewable energy sources and proper water, energy, mobility, logistical and digital infrastructure, by drawing up a real ‘Marshall Plan’ for Africa. By doing so we will strengthen governance and the rule of law, step up the fight against corruption and foster the emancipation of women and education.”
He said, “In recent years we have lost sight of the fact that Africa’s problems are Europe’s problems too. We are not linked only by geography, but also by shared strategic interests, by major challenges and opportunities which we must address together. The time has come to put Africa at the top of the EU’s agenda.”
The EU is Africa’s closest neighbour and main partner, the conference heard. Collectively, the EU is Africa’s main foreign investor, main trading partner (offering free access to the EU market via economic partnership agreements, free trade agreements and the Everything But Arms initiative) and also a key security provider (through the African peace facility).
The upcoming summit, noted Tajani, will be a “critical” opportunity for African and European leaders to “reshape and deepen” their relationship.
The EPP group deputy said, “We must look towards Africa’s young people. We must involve them in a project which uses effective tools to offer them real prospects and the hope of a stable, secure and prosperous future in their own countries. If we fail, in the coming years not tens of thousands but millions of them will spare no sacrifice to seek a better future in Europe.
“We must act now, before it’s too late, through a Union which speaks with one voice.
“We can use investment, channelled through a partnership between equals which involves the private sector and civil society, to promote real economic diplomacy, transfer technology, industrial know-how and professional skills and so help to create a climate conducive to entrepreneurship.”
Africa has been largely the source of a huge influx of migrants and asylum seekers, many flocking to southern European countries like Italy and Greece.
Tajani said the EU had to be “bold” against illegal migration, adding, “Europe must speak with one voice in Libya and in all the African continent if it wants to stabilise the region, close once and for all the Mediterranean route for irregular migrants and fight terrorism. We need to go to the root causes of migration and invest to give a future to young Africans.”
The last EU-Africa summit was in 2014. It brought together more than 60 EU and African leaders, but Tajani said that relations between the two sides were moving at such a pace that a summit might be held more regularly.
Another keynote speaker at the opening of the conference was Faustin-Archange Touadéra, President of the Central African Republic, who spoke passionately of the “lost generation” his continent has suffered - the thousands of young Africans who have fled for Europe.
“Many countries have lost a significant part of their population to migratory movements. Migration is part of human nature but it becomes a problem when it gets out of control.”
He said many had left for Europe - “often in very precarious conditions” - because of the “failure of African states to respond to their needs and expectations.”
“They are leaving,” he told the assembly, “because they want a better life. They are taking their destiny in their own hands. Many feel they have no option but to leave even if it means travelling via very perilous conditions.”
He said that continued investment in Africa by the EU and others mighty help stem the flood of migration and act as a response to “our impatient and demanding peoples.”
Touadéra also denounced the “slavery and human trafficking networks which have caused additional misery.”
This was most recently highlighted by shocking TV images of young Africans being sold at a market in Libya.
He added, “We cannot have our young people being sold like cattle.”
EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini said, “2017 is the year for a new impetus of the partnership between Europe and Africa: every obstacle we may face is a common challenge, and Africa’s hope is our hope.
“A strong Africa matters to Europe; our friendship matters to our people. Only by joining forces and working in partnership can we provide our youth with a more hopeful and peaceful future. Today, we don’t simply look at what we can do for Africa but what we can do with Africa, together.”
Africa Week came in the wake of the adoption earlier this year of the European investment plan (EIP), first proposed by Jean-Claude Juncker in September 2016. The conference heard that a year later, the plan is “becoming operational.”
Participants heard that, in order to foster sustainable development, the EIP will integrate a new generation of financial instruments into more traditional forms of assistance such as grants.
Mogherini said, “Less than 10 per cent of foreign direct investment in Africa goes to fragile regions - those that need it the most. We want our EIP to become a powerful engine of more inclusive and sustainable growth, to create green energy, to bring new opportunities to entrepreneurs, also in the EU, to young people, to empower women. This is the plan Africa needs, this is what our African partners are asking for, this is European partnership at its best.”
The conference, which set the stage for the 5th African Union - European Union (AU-EU) summit on 29-30 November, heard that 2017 is a defining year for EU-Africa relations, as it is 10 years since the adoption of the joint Africa-EU Strategy.
At the upcoming summit, African and EU leaders will discuss the future of EU-Africa relations, and focus on investing in youth, a key priority for Africa and the EU as 60 per cent of the African population is under the age of 25.