By Kester Kenn Klomegah
European Union seeks to build strongly on its existing economic and trade relationship during the forthcoming February (14 – 18th) summit with African leaders, and the African Union. Leading business enterprises and representatives from academic, civil society organizations and media will be present at the forthcoming summit to discuss their ways of strengthening aspects of various issues relating to development in Africa.
Long before this summit, European Union members and business investors have been making consistent efforts at capitalizing on and exploring several emerging opportunities offered by the newly introduced African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which provides a unique and valuable access to an integrated African market of over 1.2 billion people. In practical reality, it aims at creating a continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business people and investments in Africa.
Several reports have indicated that the summit strives to bring Africa and Europe closer together through strengthening economic cooperation and promoting sustainable development, with both continents co-existing in peace, security, democracy, prosperity, solidarity and human dignity. It is against this backdrop that the two partners are determined to work together on a strategic, long-term footing to develop a shared vision for EU-Africa relations in a globalized world.
In another document, it said the summit will examine:
- Support AfCFTA implementation and the green transition;
- Improve trade and investment climate between the EU and Africa;
- Reinforce high level public private dialogue;
- Enhance long-term dialogue structures between EU and Africa Business Associations;
- Unlock new business and investment opportunities, including in the areas of manufacturing and agro processing as well as regional and continental value chains development.
The Joint EU-Africa Strategy will take into cognizance their most common interests such as climate change, global security and the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Valdis Dombrovskis, Executive Vice-President and Commissioner for Trade as well as chairing the Commissioners’ group on an Economy that Works for People, has indicated ahead of the summit that trade and investment relations are integral part of the priorities with Africa. This approach mirrors the new EU trade strategy, which was launched a year ago. “In this way, we can build a modern, sustainable and mutually rewarding partnership of equals. The upcoming EU-African Union Summit in February will be an important milestone in this respect,” he stressed is a pre-summit speech.
As the partnership grows, the EU is the leading exporter of COVID-19 vaccines to Africa, and already began collaborating on regional hubs to produce vaccines in Africa. He asserted that “in order to respond to current and future health challenges, improvements must be made in terms of vaccine and pharmaceutical manufacturing, health infrastructure, research capacity and preparedness.”
The potential to increase trade, economic growth, job creation and integration across the continent remains enormous, because today, only around 17% of African trade flows take place between African countries. “Of course, there will be challenges along the way, and the EU stands ready to help. We want to share the lessons from our own process of economic integration, and with our new Global Gateway Strategy, we have demonstrated that we are ready to support massive infrastructural investment in Africa,” he noted.
Dombrovskis said “We continue to support the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area. Achieving this will represent a historic milestone. the EU has a diverse range of trade agreements with countries in Africa. These are dynamic partnerships, in which we advance step-by-step for our mutual benefit. Our aim is to widen and deepen these economic and partnership agreements with those African countries that are willing to do so.”
Writing under her blog, Inge Kaul, a Senior fellow at the Hertie School, Berlin, highlighted potential areas for cooperation. This blog is part of a series by Center for Global Development (CGD) ahead of the EU-Africa Summit on February 17-18, 2022. This series presents proposals for priorities, and commentary on whether a meaningful reconstruction of the relationship between the two continents is likely.
It further includes the joint communication of the European Commission (EC) and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HR/VP) entitled “Toward a Comprehensive Strategy with Africa” – the document sets forth what the EU plans to do with Africa.
Her comments described the forthcoming summit is the ideal time for EU leaders to press the reset button and let the summit be a significant moment in history – the beginning of a EU-AU partnership on an equal footing.
The European Union take practical measures in cooperating with Africa by joining forces to foster faster progress towards sustainable growth and development, she however stressed, finally concluded that, perhaps, at the February 2022 summit, EU and AU leaders could decide to place the issue of a new, more differentiated architecture of international cooperation and its financing on the agenda of their next summit which is due to happen, if all goes well, in 2024.
African leaders and business people must, on the other hand, explore available possibilities and windows that have been opened. The European Union has unveiled €300 billion (US$340 billion) alternative to China’s Belt and Road initiative — an investment programme the bloc claims will create links, not dependencies.
According to Jutta Urpilainen, the EU Commissioner for International Partnerships, the Global Gateway will help to create strong and sustainable links, not dependencies, between Europe and the world. It aims at mobilizing investments in digital, clean energy and transport networks, as well as boosting health, education and research systems across the world. Thus, it is for African countries to figure out where and how they fit into this EU programme, as it also earmarked Africa as a priority, for instance collaborating with the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
There great rivalry and keen competition among key global players now. And Africa is now seen from different perspectives, but more importantly, it has been described as the last investment frontier due to the current transformations taking place there. During the 35th Assembly of the Heads of State and Government of the AU in Addis Ababa in February, António Guterres argued that Africa was “a source of hope” for the world. In a video message, he pointed to a few improvement steps such as the introduction of the African Continental Free Trade Area and the Decade of Financial and Economic Inclusion for African Women.
Akinwumi Adesina, the President of the African Development Bank, has similarly explained that the African Continental Free Trade Area that is going to be a free trade area with over 1.2 billion people, it opens huge opportunities, in particular in infrastructure and energy in terms of renewable energy and digital infrastructure. On the part of the African Development Bank, it can ensure that governments actually do the right thing in terms of the business investment and regulatory environment.
The Chatham House Africa Programme has monitored European Union and Africa, and has huge information resources. These include expert policy discussions examining significant issues the relations, the relationship between African and European cooperation. It has also documented their partnership guided by the Joint Africa-EU Strategy, which was adopted at the second EU-Africa Summit in Lisbon.
In an opinion article published by AllAfricaCom, Kristalina Georgieva is Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund and Macky Sall is President of Senegal expressed their views about the economic progress on the continent and further the outstanding challenges and the unfolding opportunities there. According to them, Africa on a new sustainable growth trajectory. But this transition is costly – at least initially – for a region that already strives to finance other Sustainable Development Goals, and so, some of these must be shared by the international community.
The EU-Africa summit, February (14 – 18th), is highly expected strengthen dialogue, and focus on the search for more effective ways to scale-up sustainable development in Africa. Despite new challenges, especially the notorious pandemic, the European players still keep in mind and try to incorporate into their diplomacy with the continent most aspects of directions that meet the commitments to the 2030 Agenda of the United Nations and Agenda 2063 of the African Union.