New horizons for EU-Africa cooperation
Just two months ahead of the forthcoming EU-Africa summit in Tripoli, European Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs, together with African Union Commissioner for Economic Affairs, Maxwell M Mkwezalamba, opened the Friends of Europe annual policy summit in Brussels (27 Sept).
Under the theme “Partnership Africa: New Horizons for EU and Inter-African Cooperation”, the summit brought together development and Africa experts from EU institutions, national governments and agencies, pan-African institutions and governments of African states, representatives of international organisations, business and industry, civil society, media and press.
“Now is the time to consolidate our partnership”
Since Africa-EU relations were brought to a new level in 2007 through the formation of a strategic partnership, these two continents have been moving beyond their traditional donor-recipient model towards a true partnership of equals. Issues of joint political concern and interest are now on the table; the focus is no longer exclusively on African matters but rather on global issues; challenges are being looked at continent rather than nation-wide; and, participation is being extended to include the private sector, civil society and diasporas.
The policy summit provided an opportunity to look at how this strategic partnership could be further deepened and how new partnerships could be created. The effectiveness of initiatives such as the Economic Partnership Agreements and Regional Economic Communities was discussed. And, beyond economic partnerships, security and governance issues were examined. Questions were raised such as which policy mix could promote security and improve governance and whether the AU’s planned African Governance Platform would help its member governments to speak with one voice.
Development commissioner Piebalgs announced that as part of the European Commission’s autumn package, it would be settting out its vision in a communication on the future of EU-Africa relations. Efficient ways of translating the EU’s 2020 agenda to Africa’s specific case will be presented, covering how sustainable growth can be stimulated and poverty reduced to the benefit of both African and European citizens.
Acting at the roots: investing in human capital
While the absolute priority of the strategic partnership remains meeting the Millennium Develoment Goals by 2015. Mr Piebalgs was quick to point out that, “aid alone, even with 0.7% of worldwide GNI, will not be enough. We will endlessly run after the MDG objectives if we do not act more at the roots: that is creating more and inclusive growth in developing countries.”
He insisted that Europe’s development policy must focus now on policies and action where they can bring strong added value. “Development assistance will have a higher impact if it leverages growth rather than tries to offset poverty,” he said. The specific issues he brought to fore included:
- Increased leverage of aid – moving from a grant-based approach to a grant-loan blend
- Governance and budget support – encouraging development from within by highlighting the importance of ownership and of using domestic revenue for domestic plans
- Proactive policy coherence and development – setting up a new EU-ACP partnership for growth with a commitment to measured progress
- Consolidation of domestic private sector – involving the private sector in the policy making process
- Sustainable development – promoting investment in renewable electricity
- Better European coordination – timing national and EU programming cycles so as to avoid duplication and overlapping.
Mr Piebalgs concluded his speech, saying “the time is now to consolidate this continent-to-continent partnership, create synergies in our unified Africa-EU framework and within that develop new promising areas of cooperation that will bring added value to the economic and social development of Africa and the EU.”