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Explainer: Towards a Comprehensive Strategy with Africa

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Why does the EU need a new Strategy?

Africa is Europe’s closest neighbour. The ties that bind Africa and the European Union (EU) are broad and deep as a result of history, proximity and shared interests. It is time to take this relationship to the next level.

2020 will be a pivotal year for Africa-EU relations to realise the ambition of forging an even stronger partnership.

The new Partnership Agreement between the EU and the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States is expected to be concluded and the next EU-African Union Summit will take place in Brussels in October 2020 in view of defining a joint partnership agenda.

Both Africa and Europe face a growing number of shared challenges, including the effects of climate change and the digital transformation.

So Europe needs to partner with Africa to tackle together the common challenges of the 21st century. This is why this communication proposes new avenues for cooperation between the two continents to strengthen the EU’s strategic alliance with Africa

What is new in this proposal for a new Strategy?

The joint communication by the Commission and the High Representative is a contribution towards a new strategy with Africa. It sets out ideas to intensify cooperation in all aspects of the EU-Africa partnership. It proposes a comprehensive framework for future partnership to enable both sides to achieve their common goals and to tackle global challenges.

As a response to new, changing realities, the proposal for a strategy introduces a specific focus on the green transition and the digital transformation as key target areas for future cooperation.

More importantly, throughout the joint communication, the EU emphasises the need to fully take into account youth and women as well as their potential as agents of change. Responding to their aspirations will determine the future of the continent.

The proposal for a new strategy is a starting point to take the partnership to a new level based on a clear understanding of our respective and mutual interests and responsibilities. It aims at reflecting the comprehensiveness and maturity of our relationship in which the interests and values of both sides are brought together to promote joint cooperation on areas of common interest.

These include developing a green growth model, improving the business environment and investment climate, boosting education, research, innovation, the creation of decent jobs through sustainable investments, maximising the benefits of regional economic integration and trade, combatting climate change, ensuring access to sustainable energy, protecting biodiversity and natural resources, as well as promoting peace and security, ensuring well-governed migration and mobility and working together to strengthen the multilateral rules based order that promotes universal values, human rights, democracy and gender equality. Enhanced cooperation on global and multilateral affairs must be at the heart of our common action.

The EU and its Member States must adapt the way it engages with Africa ensuring its positioning is in line with our mutual interests and give more prominence to values, key principles and good regulatory practices in the light of the increased interest from many players in Africa’s potential.

What are the main challenges and areas of cooperation going forward?

The strategy identifies five key areas for deepened future cooperation between Europe and Africa.

These are: (1) green transition and energy access, (2) digital transformation, (3) sustainable growth and jobs, (4) peace and governance, (5) migration and mobility

Under each of these headings, the proposal for a new strategy sets out ways to deliver on common goals.

In addition, forging a strong political and enhanced cooperation on global and multilateral affairs will be at the heart of our common action.

Has the EU engaged with stakeholders to produce this strategy?

Today, the Commission and the High Representative presented the first elements of the strategy. There has been preliminary outreach before. Beside internal engagement with EU member states and members of the European Parliament, as well as with civil society, both formally and informally, the EU has reached out to African partners, including during the 10th Commission-to-Commission meeting on 27 February 2020 in Addis Ababa.

The proposals also build on the agenda jointly agreed at the 2017 African Union-EU Summit in Abidjan and on recent exchanges that took place at political level.

Today’s joint Communication set out proposals to feed in the ongoing dialogue with EU member states, African partners, as well as private sector, civil society and think thanks, which will be taken forward ahead of the next EU-African Union Summit in Brussels in October 2020.

The African Union-EU Ministerial meeting on 4-5 May in Kigali will be another opportunity to discuss the communication in depth at a more formal level with the African side.

The EU-African Union Summit in October 2020 should be the culminating moment when we hope to agree on a common way forward with our African partners to tackle joint priorities, which is our objective.

Will the new strategy replace the Joint Africa-EU Strategy set out in 2007?

The Joint Africa-EU Strategy in 2007 was an important step in the relationship between the EU and Africa. However, in 2007, the world was a different place and the reality of our partnership with Africa was in a different global context. In 2020, 13 years later, new opportunities and challenges occur – such as climate change, the digital transformation, inequalities, demographic pressures and global governance. Africa is a booming continent, with over recent years some of the quickest growing countries worldwide, and is attracting the attention of several other players. We live in a competitive global environment where global public goods are under threat. We have to adapt to these new realities and renew our partnership with Africa.

Today the EU proposes the potential priorities for this new partnership. The EU will continue to engage with our African partners in view of defining together our joint strategic priorities for the years to come.

How does this strategy fit with the European Commission’s broader objectives, such as the EU’s Green Deal and a focus on digital?

The European Commission wants to lead the transition to a healthy planet and a new digital world. On both of these issues, the EU’s engagement with Africa reflects those ambitions.

To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, the EU and Africa alike need to opt for a low carbon, resource efficient and climate resilient future in line with the Paris Agreement.

The European Commission is committed to making Europe the world’s first climate-neutral continent; in its external action, it proposes to partner with Africa to maximise the benefits of the green transition and minimise threats to the environment. This will include every aspect from the circular economy and sustainable value-chains and food systems through to promoting renewable energy, reducing emissions, protecting biodiversity and ecosystems, and advancing green and sustainable models of urbanisation.

African countries are particularly vulnerable to climate change as it risks jeopardizing the ongoing progress on sustainable development.

Similarly, the European Commission has vowed to create a Europe fit for the digital age; in its external action, it proposes to partner with Africa to promote and harness digital transformation in Africa and ensure access to safe and affordable digital services.

A 10% increase in digital coverage could boost by over 1% Africa’s GDP, according to estimations. With the right investment, infrastructure and regulatory framework, digitalisation has the power to transform African economies and societies. Moreover, the interdependence of the two continents means that the EU’s engagement with Africa is driven by its values and by its interests alike.

What economic ties exist between Europe and Africa?

The EU is Africa’s largest trade and investment partner, and the main supporter of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) with €72.5 million mobilised by the end of 2020.

In 2018, total trade in goods between the 27 EU member states and Africa was worth €235 billion – 32% of Africa’s total. This compares to €125 billion for China (17%) and €46 billion for the US (6%).

In 2017, the 27 EU Member States had foreign direct investment stock in Africa worth €222 billion – more than five times either the US (€42 billion) or China (€38 billion).

How much development and humanitarian aid does the EU provide in Africa?

The EU and its Member States are the leading provider of Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Africa. In 2018, the EU and its 27 Member States provided €19.6 billion – 46% of the total which Africa received.

Furthermore, the EU, together with its Member States, is Africa’s leading donor of humanitarian aid. Since 2014, the European Commission itself has allocated more than €3.5 billion for humanitarian relief in Africa.  

The EU is currently negotiating its future long-term budget. Under the European Commission’s proposals, the new EU external funding instrument for the period 2021-2027 would have a global scope, but over 60% of the funds available would benefit Africa.

What is the EU doing to boost investment and job creation in Africa?

Africa is a continent of growing opportunities, with a young, innovative workforce and high levels of economic growth. The EU is Africa’s largest trade and investment partner.

We want to partner with Africa to:

– Boost trade and sustainable investments in Africa

– Promote policy reforms which improve the business environment and investment climate

– Increase access to quality education, skills, research, innovation, health and social rights

– Advance regional and continental economic integration

This can be achieved building on the work under the Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs announced in 2018 with the objective of creating 10 million jobs in five years, boosting investment and promote sustainable development. Through the EU External Investment Plan, a key part of the Alliance, the EU has already allocated €4.6 billion in funds for blending and guarantees since 2018. These funds should leverage €47 billion of public and private investment. Moreover, since 2018, the EU has also provided almost €1.4 billion to Africa to strengthen the business environment and investment climate.

The EU is proposing to turn the Alliance into the central pillar of economic relations between the two continents.

Will EU will prioritise trade, investment and economic growth over human rights? How will the strategy promoterespect for human rights?

Respect for human rights remains at the heart of the EU’s development cooperation, and therefore play a fundamental role in the proposal for a new strategy.

Respect for the universal human rights –political, civil, economic, social or cultural- will remain a key trait of our partnership.

Through the partnership for peace and governance, the EU will seek to join forces with African partners to promote full respect for human rights, acting at all levels. For example, the EU will continue to support human rights defenders and initiatives to reinforce civil society organizations. A more strategic and structured approach to human rights political dialogues with African countries will also be adopted, in complementarity with regular consultations with African regional organisations and the well-established consolidated AU-EU Human Rights Dialogue.

Development, meaning economic growth, can only be sustainable if it is built on a foundation of respect for human rights.

What does the EU do to promote peace and stability in Africa?

Peace and security are not only a basic need for all, they are also a pre-condition for economic and social development.

Peace, security, good governance and economic prosperity in Africa are also vital for the EU’s own security and prosperity.

The EU is already active in this field in Africa. It is currently providing advice and training to more than 30 000 African military, police and judiciary personnel through 10 Common Security and Defence Policy missions. In addition, the EU has provided €3.5 billion through the African Peace Facility since it was established in 2004, including €2.4 billion since 2014, to contribute to peace and military operations led by the African Union.

Additionally, more than one million people in sub-Saharan Africa have benefited from EU-supported post-conflict peace building and conflict prevention programmes since 2014.

Under the proposals set out in the strategy, the EU will adapt and deepen its support to African peace efforts through a more structured and strategic cooperation, with a particular focus on regions with the highest tensions and vulnerabilities. The EU proposes to support African capacity in defence and security, including through the European Peace Facility and its CSDP missions, and focus on an integrated approach to conflict and crisis, acting at all stages of the conflict cycle. This entails prevention, resolution and stabilisation efforts by well targeted humanitarian, development, peace and security actions.

Resilience should in particular be at the heart of African and EU efforts to address protracted conflict and fragility, given that resilience, peace, security and governance are intimately linked. The EU proposes in the strategy to support the efforts of our African partners to address the full spectrum of challenges and increase their overall resilience.

How will the EU partner with Africa on migration and mobility?

Demographic trends, the aspiration for economic opportunity, the ongoing conflicts and crisis and the impact of climate change will mean that the levels of migration and forced displacement will continue to pose both challenges and opportunities for both Europe and Africa.

Migration will remain one of the priorities of our partnership. Well-managed migration and mobility can have a positive impact on countries of origin, transit and destination alike and benefits both our societies.

Since 2015, the EU and African countries have developed a joint approach to managing the external aspects of migration and mobility,in the context of the dialogue and cooperation under the Valletta, Rabat and Khartoum processes, which has proven that together we can save and protect lives, assist those in need, and break the cruel business model of smugglers and traffickers.

The EU will partner with Africa on a balanced, coherent, and comprehensive approach to migration and mobility, guided by the principles of solidarity, partnership and shared responsibility and based on the respect for human rights and international law. Both issues of legal migration opportunities and improved cooperation on return and readmission will be part of the discussions on the way forward.

The EU promotes continent to continent dialogue on mobility and migration and will continue to enhance the trilateral cooperation between the African Union, the United Nations and the EU.

How will negotiations with the African, Caribbean and Pacific be reflected?

The EU and the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States are expected to conclude a new Partnership Agreement to replace the Cotonou Agreement, which will expire at the end of 2020. The future ACP-EU agreement covers a common foundation agreement, along with three specific partnerships tailored to each region, including one for EU relations with Sub-Saharan African countries that are party to the ACP Group of States. This will create a new legal framework for relations between the EU and the ACP countries.

The EU also has separate Association Agreements with four Northern African countries.

The overall relations between the EU and the AU are defined by the joint Summits, which take place every three years, and by the regular ministerial meetings, giving political steering to the continent-to-continent relationship.

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Africa Today

‘Complex’ emergency unfolding in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado

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A group of people, having fled violence in several districts of Cabo Delgado, arrive in the provincial capital, Pebma. IOM/Matteo Theubet

UN agencies voiced deep concern on Wednesday over the worsening humanitarian crisis in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province, where attacks by armed groups have forced more than 565,000 to flee their homes. 

According to the agencies, growing insecurity and poor infrastructure are making it increasingly difficulty to reach families “completely reliant” on humanitarian assistance, amid fears that imminent rains and threat of cyclones could further compound the challenges. 

“Coupled with the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, the crisis has become even more complex”, regional heads of UN agencies in east and southern Africa said in a joint statement

“The crisis is a complex security, human rights, humanitarian and development emergency, underscoring the imperative of continuing to provide life-saving assistance while collectively supporting Government-led long-term resilience building”, the statement added. 

Crisis worsening 

In December, the UN officials visited Mozambique to assess the needs of the displaced populations as well as of the host communities.  

They heard extremely moving accounts from displaced men, women and children in the city of Pemba, the capital of Cabo Delgado, and in the districts of Ancuabe and Chiúre – people whose lives have been upended by conflict and insecurity. 

While acknowledging that much has been done to help victims of the crisis, the UN officials stressed that with displacement increasing daily, the lack of adequate food, water, sanitation, shelter, health, protection and education, was exacerbating an already dire situation, which could be further complicated by on-going torrential rains.  

Urgent support needed 

The UN agencies also raised concerns over the continuing impact of the coronavirus pandemic, which is keeping most schools closed. 

There is an urgent need to expand protection, healthcare, food and nutrition programmes, vaccination efforts and psychosocial counselling, and to aid displaced farming and fishing families to re-establish sustainable livelihoods, they added. 

They also urged support for adequate resettlement of uprooted families straining the already limited resources of impoverished host communities, and Government efforts to effectively register and assist the displaced. 

The senior officials are urging the Government of Mozambique and the international community “to step up efforts to end all forms of violence in the country, including gender-based violence and child marriage, and to invest more in women and girls as agents of progress and change,” the statement said.

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‘Swift action’ needed in Tigray to save thousands at risk

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Ethiopian refugees fleeing clashes in the country's northern Tigray region, rest and cook meals near UNHCR's Hamdayet reception centre after crossing into Sudan. © UNHCR/Hazim Elhag

Two months after conflict forced humanitarian workers to withdraw from the Tigray region of Ethiopia, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), on Tuesday, stressed the need for “swift action” to restore safe access to “save thousands of lives at risk”. 

Granted one-time admittance by the Ethiopian authorities to conduct a needs assessment, UNHCR led the first humanitarian mission to Mai Aini and Adi Harush refugee camps since the start of the conflict in November and found Eritrean refugees in “desperate need” of supplies and services, agency spokesperson Babar Baloch told journalists at a regular press briefing in Geneva.  

“The assessment, which concluded last week, found help is urgently needed for the tens of thousands of Eritrean refugees in northern Ethiopia”, he said. 

Refugee plight 

Cut off from supplies and services for more than two months, Mr. Baloch explained that the refugees had run out of fuel for their water pumps, leaving them to fetch water from a nearby creek for washing, cooking and drinking – “resulting in diarrhea like illnesses”. 

While the only assistance they had received since the start of the conflict was a one-time food distribution conducted by the World Food Programme (WFP) almost a month ago, he said that “plans are underway for a second distribution”. 

Threat from ‘armed gangs’ 

The UN teams “thankfully” found that in both Mai Aini and Adi Harush camps, buildings and structures remain intact, including refugee homes, schools and clinics, “with little damage observed”, according to the UNHCR spokesperson. 

However, refugees told UNHCR staff that while they were not impacted directly by the fighting, they were threatened and harassed by various armed groups.  

“The refugees told us they continue to have safety concerns, reporting that armed gangs roam the camps at night stealing and looting”, Mr. Baloch said. 

“UNHCR is working with the Government and partners to re-establish a regular presence at the camps and launch a response based on the information collected”, he said, adding that the UN agency has also called on the Government to strengthen security in both camps. 

Still inaccessible 

Further north in Tigray, the UN refugee agency has not, since November, been able to access the Shimelba and Hitsats refugee camps.  

As highlighted in High Commissioner Filippo Grandi’s statement last week, UNHCR continues to receive a number of reports of significant damage to those camps and indications that many refugees have fled in search of safety and food.  

“We remain deeply concerned about them”, said Mr. Baloch. 

‘Restore safe access’ 

Meanwhile, some 5,000 Eritrean refugees have made their way to the town of Shire where they are living in “dire conditions”, said Mr. Baloch, painting a picture of many sleeping in an open field on the outskirts of the town, ‘with no water and no food”.  

“UNHCR reiterates the UN wide call for full and unimpeded access to all refugees in the Tigray region and remains committed to work with the Ethiopian government to seek solutions together”, he stated. 

The conflict between the Ethiopian Government and regional forces of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) began in early November, when the Prime Minister ordered a military offensive after rebels attacked a federal army base.  

Government forces reported that the region had been secured at the end of November, but TPLF resistance has continued amid accusations of extrajudicial killings and rights abuses.

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CAR: Displacement reaches 120,000 amid worsening election violence

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Poll workers carry ballot boxes during the 27 December 2020 presidential elections in the Central African Republic. MINUSCA/Leonel Grothe

“Worsening” election violence in the Central African Republic (CAR) has forced 120,000 people from their homes, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said on Friday. 

In an appeal for an immediate end to all bloodshed – which has included deadly clashes with UN peacekeepers – UNHCR also said that mass displacement has continued outside the country since the 27 December Presidential poll, reversing a trend of people returning to CAR in recent years. 

“What is clear is the situation has evolved, it has worsened, we have seen that the number of refugees has doubled in just one week”, said spokesperson Boris Cheshirkov, during a scheduled press briefing in Geneva. 

Despite attempts by rebel groups to obstruct presidential and legislative elections, on 27 December, nearly two million Central Africans successfully cast their votes. 

UNHCR and partners in CAR “are gathering reports of abuses by armed groups, including of sexual violence, attacks on voters and pillaging”, Mr. Cheshirkov continued, underscoring the agency’s call “for an immediate return of all parties to meaningful dialogue and progress towards peace”. 

“We were reporting 30,000 refugees last Friday, today it’s already 60,000, and much of that is the increase we’ve seen in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). This is coming with reports of intensified violence, people are being forced to move from their home and the situation has not calmed down for the moment.” 

‘Fear and dread’ 

Echoing concerns for the deteriorating situation, the UN-appointed independent rights expert for CAR called on Friday for the arrest and prosecution of all those “who continue to fuel violence” there. 

Because of them, the country’s people live in “fear and dread”, said Yao Agbetse, before deploring the fact that Central Africans “were unable to exercise their right to vote and that many were victims of torture or ill-treatment and death threats for exercising their right to vote in the first round of elections”.  

Calling out the so-called Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), Mr Agbetse alleged that the group  had “obstructed the country’s electoral campaign in December, prevented the deployment of election materials, disrupted the mobilisation of voters to carry out their democratic right and burned polling stations”. 

The CPC had also recruited children for its work, the rights expert maintained, “a crime under international law”. 

Several localities were targeted, including Kaga Bandoro, Bossangoa, Batangafo, Bozoum, Bocaranga, Koui, Carnot “and other locations in the centre, west, and east of the country”, along with the capital, Bangui on 13 January, said the rights expert, who reports to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.   

In his statement, Mr Agbetse noted that CAR’s “already fragile humanitarian situation” had worsened, with “more than half of the population in vital need of humanitarian assistance”.  

Prices soaring 

The premises of some humanitarian organisations had been ransacked, he added, while basic necessities “are becoming scarcer and their prices are soaring in Bangui because of insecurity on the supply routes to the capital”. 

Today, schools and training centres are closed outside the capital “and pastoralists and farmers can no longer carry out their activities because of insecurity and fear. Ultimately, food insecurity and extreme poverty are likely to worsen,” Mr. Agbetse said. 

10,000 cross in just 24 hours 

On Wednesday alone, 10,000 people crossed the Ubangui river that separates the two countries, UNHCR’s Mr. Cheshirkov said. 

He added that in addition to the 50,000 refugees in DRC, another 9,000 have reached Cameroon, Chad and the Republic of Congo in the past month. 

In an appeal for funds, the spokesperson said the inaccessible terrain and poor infrastructure along the Ubangui river where people have sheltered, has complicated aid access. 

“UNHCR was already seeking $151.5 million this year to respond to the CAR situation. The needs of the recently displaced Central Africans are mounting, and we will soon face a substantial funding shortfall,” Mr. Cheshirkov explained 

Inside the Central African Republic, another 58,000 people remain displaced.

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