Speech by Commissioner Urpilainen at the European Parliament plenary debate on Report: New EU-Africa Strategy, 24/03/2021
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President, Honourable Members,
I am delighted to attend today’s debate.
I want to thank the DEVE Committee and in particular the Rapporteur Chrysoula Zacharopoulou for the commitment in preparing this excellent Report and for the continuous cooperation.
Just over a year ago, we jointly presented, together with the High Representative, our proposal for a new Strategy with Africa with the intention to get to a joined up approach and a renewed partnership with our sister continent Africa.
Two days later, the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a global pandemic.
Team Europe has led the charge on the global COVID response and vaccine solidarity, including in Africa. A sizeable portion of the almost EUR 40 billion mobilised in support to partner countries has been going to Africa.
And COVAX vaccines’ deliveries are now happening across the continent.
We also continue to support health-system strengthening and country vaccination strategies.
And we are exploring how to build up local manufacturing and production capacity in Africa in the context of our budget for external action
Much has happened during this exceptional year. Yet it made our renewed partnership all the more crucial. The crisis revealed the urgency of the 5 pillars of the Strategy and the need to streamline human development across the partnership.
And this brings me to my second point.
Over the course of the past year, the EU has continued to reach out to its African partners, including several visits to Addis Ababa.
And I consulted different actors to ensure views are taken on board in the process leading up to the 6th AU-EU Summit.
Starting with the European Parliament.
So I could not be happier to see the numerous points of convergence between your report and the Joint Communication.
The priorities outlined in our Joint Communication, and in this Report, should help us spearhead a sustainable and inclusive global recovery, linking the Sustainable Development Goals to investment and debt relief.
These areas can be win-win opportunities for Africa and Europe that benefit both people and planet.
We can tackle climate change and environmental degradation, reverse biodiversity loss, and ensure food security, while at the same time focus on job creation, human development and a comprehensive approach to migration.
Likewise, when it comes to digitalisation. If we bridge the digital divide in Africa, there is huge potential for fostering inclusion.
In doing so, we must continue to promote democracy, human rights, good governance and peace and security as pre-requisites for sustainable development.
As my last point, let me praise your Report’s endorsement of our shared vision for supporting women and youth.
I am grateful to see your reference to the new ambitious Gender Action Plan which will promote participation of women and girls in all aspects of the COVID-19 recovery.
Likewise, answering the growing demand of Africa’s young and dynamic workforce by investing in education, training and skills is critical in a post-pandemic world. I have notably decided to increase funding to education from 7% to at least 10% of our budget.
But we need to engage with youth in Africa to guide us in the process.
This is one of my personal priorities and I am happy to announce that I have launched a Youth Sounding Board and will be nominating a Special Envoy on youth.
In conclusion, let me once again thank you for this report, and I very much look forward to the debate.