Let’s fast-forward a moment, to 2063: a century after launching the first African continental initiative –the Organisation of African Unity that we commemorate today – Africa is an integrated continent, reaping the benefits of inclusive growth and sustainable development. The continent is peaceful and safe. Access to basic social services is guaranteed for all. Human rights, good governance and the rule of law prevail. On the world scene, Africa is a strong, influential player and partner.
This is not a fantasy, this is the vision you set out as your objective in the African Union’s Agenda 2063. This is the Africa you are building. An Africa of opportunities. An Africa we all want.
We can feel the winds of change blowing across the continent – from the historic peace agreements in the Horn region and the peaceful end of some totalitarian regimes, to the decision to set up an African continental free-trade area. Africa is a continent on the rise.
The continent’s economic pulse is beating faster. It is the world’s second fastest growing region, bursting with energy and dynamism. New commercial opportunities abound. Investments are growing rapidly.
Over the past five years, I have witnessed this change as European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development. I have seen with my own eyes how Africa has increased its presence on the world stage. Full of confidence, aware of its economic, strategic, natural and human potential.
Making Africa’s 2063 vision a reality will be a long and continuous process requiring commitment from all concerned, at all levels and across frontiers. Setbacks might and will happen. You can trust my European experience on that. But is there any other way?
One thing is however sure: Europe is Africa’s long-standing partner and is willing to remain so. Africa is Europe’s twin continent. No matter what you may hear, Europe is Africa’s main and sustainable ally in business, its biggest trading partner and its leading investor, far ahead of any other region in the world. It is also our firm belief that a stronger Africa is good for Europe. We can only win by reinforcing our neighbours.
This means that charity has no place in our partnership. It is about sharing risks together and boosting Africa’s potential to achieve sustainable development: the kind of development that can stay the course and deliver long term opportunities for all. The kind of development that can offer African and European businesses new opportunities on both sides of the Mediterranean sea.
That is why Europe needs an Africa of opportunities.
I reckon the Africa-Europe relationship has grown and matured over the last years. From a donor-to-recipient dependency, it has evolved to a partnership of equals and it is now more and more looking like an “Alliance”, as European Commission President Juncker said when he launched in September 2018 the new Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs.
The Alliance’s ultimate aim is to boost investment and create jobs, notably for young Africans. Let me reassure you; this is not another label given to a political initiative. The Alliance will come up with concrete results on the ground. Our leveraged investments will help create 10 million jobs in Africa over the next ﬁve years.
The Alliance also means that co-operating and building together offer better chances to find the solution we need for our future. Our common future. Together, Africa and Europe can shape the international agenda. Together we can make a difference. If Europe misses this rendez-vous with Africa, it will miss its rendez-vous with History. And I dare to say the opposite is also true; make no mistake: Europe is your natural ally.
The degree to which we make a success of the Alliance will depend on how we translate these initiatives into real and lasting change for the people on the ground.
Doing this will require African and European commitment alike. I know that we are all capable of that commitment. But there is no time to waste: 2063 is now.