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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

United States COVID-19 vaccine delivery to Mozambique

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In an effective effort to make tremendous and recognizable contributions to help fight the spread of coronavirus, the United States Embassy in Mozambique has announced the arrival of more than two million doses of the Johnson & Johnson coordinated through COVAX in Maputo, Mozambique.

This is the United States’ fourth and largest bi-lateral COVID-19 vaccine delivery to Mozambique, bringing the total number of U.S.-donated vaccines to nearly 3.5 million, and maintaining the United States as Mozambique’s largest bi-lateral vaccine donor.

“The United States remains committed to sharing vaccines equitably, around the world,” U.S. Ambassador to Mozambique Dennis W. Hearne said. “No one is protected from COVID-19 until everyone is vaccinated. As more vaccines become available to all nations around the world, we have a shared interest in getting everyone who is eligible vaccinated.”

The U.S. Government has provided early and ongoing support for the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Mozambique, including assistance valued at $62.5 million. This assistance includes the recent donation of 60 oxygen cylinders and a PSA oxygen plant, 50 ventilators, personal protective equipment for healthcare workers, laboratory and oxygen equipment, training, and funding for increased medical staff, among other initiatives.

In close collaboration with the Government of the Republic of Mozambique, the U.S. Government provides more than $500 million in annual assistance to improve the quality of education and healthcare, promote economic prosperity, and support the overall development of the nation.

The Mozambican government’s target is to vaccinate about 16.8 million people. Excluded from the vaccination are pregnant women and children under 15 years of age. According to the latest figures from the Health Ministry, the number of people fully vaccinated against the disease now stands at 3,324,849, and 6,158,360 have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

Mozambique shares borders with South Africa where a new COVID variant (B.1.1.529), renamed Omicron, is currently spreading. Travellers from the region are monitored. The United States, Europe and Asian States have restricted flights from southern African region, and that include Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi.

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Sahel Leaders Commit to Ambitious Reforms to Support Access to Quality Education

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The summit on education in the Sahel under the theme of “Shaping the Sahel’s future in today’s schools,” just concluded today. The summit brought together President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, President Mohamed Bazoum of Niger, heads of delegations of the Sahel and the Vice President of the World Bank for West and Central Africa.

At the end of the meeting, the leaders of the Sahel countries committed in a joint declaration to deepen reforms for quality education in the region. The “Nouakchott Declaration” identifies three fundamental objectives: improving the quality of learning, increasing girls’ participation in secondary education, and strengthening the basic skills and literacy of young adults who have left school.

« I am going to work with urgency in rebuilding our educational system. The objective is to make the school a republican school as a place for integration of future generations, building strength and confidence to the youth. A youth that will be able to count its competences and assert citizen’s values to strengthen the state and society. Training in areas related to promising economic sectors will be a priority for young people, » said President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania.

A well-performing education system increases productivity and employment, leading to better health outcomes, well-functioning public institutions, and the preservation of peace. Over the past fifteen years, Sahelian countries have made significant progress by nearly doubling primary school enrollment and tripling secondary school enrollment. However, Sahelian countries still face many challenges in order to provide universal access to education and quality instruction to all of its youth.

« We are in a vicious circle. The more children we have, the less we are able to educate them, the less we educate them, the more children they will make in turn. In our social and economic context, these are driving factors for delays in development and growth, » said President Mohamed Bazoum of the Republic of Niger.

Knowing how important it is to tackle head on the challenges of promoting universal access to quality education, the Sahel delegations meeting in Nouakchott defined a roadmap to better prioritize and coordinate policies and investments in education over the next ten years.

« Given the urgency of addressing the challenges of the education systems in the Sahel countries, we will intensify our support to the sector as a whole with a particular focus on equitable access to education and learning improvement. International experience shows that if reforms are implemented in a coordinated and inclusive manner, success is possible, » said Ousmane Diagana, Vice President of the World Bank for West and Central Africa.

Sahel leaders called for a long-term political commitment around three key gamechangers:

  • Prioritize action and funding around measurable targets for reducing learning poverty, promoting increased participation of girls in secondary education, and strengthening basic skills and literacy among young adults who have left school;
  • Improve teachers’ recruitment, training, and deployment, while participating in international programs for periodic assessment of academic learning and other types of learning outcomes;
  • Increase the share of education in public expenditure and gross domestic product to reach the Sub-Saharan African average by 2030, while striving to improve the efficiency and quality of spending.

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Rights experts call for end to violence against women in Tigray conflict

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photo: © UNICEF/Christine Nesbitt

Experts appointed by the UN Human Rights Council have called for urgent action to end violence against women and girls caught in the Tigray conflict in northern Ethiopia. 

In a statement issued on Friday, they expressed grave concern about the widespread sexual and gender-based violence attributed to Ethiopian, Eritrean, Tigray and Amhara forces, as well as allied militia. 

These incidents constitute some of the most egregious violations of human rights and humanitarian law, according to the experts. 

‘A deliberate strategy’ 

“They appear to have been used as part of a deliberate strategy to terrorize, degrade and humiliate the victims and the ethnic minority group that they belong to with acquiescence of the State and non-State actors’ parties to the conflict,” they said. 

“These brutal acts have devastating physical and psychological impacts on the victims, which are exacerbated by the lack of access to assistance, support and redress for survivors.” 

The UN continues to voice alarm over the war in Tigray, which began just over a year ago.  Last month, the UN Human Rights High Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, noted that the conflict has been marked by “extreme brutality”

Cases under-reported 

The rights experts said although the exact prevalence of gender-based violence is unknown, estimates are shocking. 

From November 2020 through June of this year, some 2,204 survivors reported sexual violence to health facilities across the Tigray region.

Furthermore, one of the one-stop centres reported that the majority of victims, or 90 per cent, were underage girls, and estimated that visits have quadrupled since the conflict began.  

However, the experts said these figures are an underestimation of the true extent of gender-based violence being committed.  Cases are severely under-reported due to fear, stigma and inability to access health or support centres. 

“Despite the humanitarian situation, proper access to facilities is vital to ensure adequate care, for instance for women and girls at risk of developing life-threatening infections, or to allow for abortion for women and girls who become pregnant as a result of rape,” they stressed. 

Displaced women vulnerable 

The experts reported that the violence occurred in both rural and urban areas, in the victims’ homes or in places where they were sheltering.  

In some cases, women and girls were raped because of their perceived or actual political affiliation, to pressure them to reveal the whereabouts of their male relatives, or as acts of revenge. 

“Internally displaced women and girls in Ethiopia, and Eritrean refugee women and girls living in the Tigray region, have been particularly exposed to sexual violence. Eritrean women and girls, specifically, have been seriously affected by the conflict and doubly victimized,” the experts said.  

“In addition to the grave consequences of sexual violence, most victims have also been harmed in other ways by the conflict including by having close relatives killed.” 

Respect and protect 

The UN experts reminded parties to the conflict of their duty to respect and protect human rights, and to prevent violations in any territory under their control. 

They also urged the sides to implement recommendations contained in a joint report by the Ethiopian Human Rights Office and its UN counterpart. 

Those recommendations include taking immediate measures to protect women and girls from rape and other forms of gender-based violence, providing redress to victims, facilitating immediate access to health care, and ensuring independent and impartial investigation of all incidences of sexual violence. 

Role of UN experts 

The 14 experts who issued the statement receive their mandates from the UN Human Rights Council, which is based in Geneva. 

They monitor specific country situations or thematic issues, such as violence against women, discrimination against women and girls, and the rights of internally displaced persons. 

The experts are independent of the UN and serve in their individual capacity.  As such, they are not UN staff, nor are they paid by the Organization. 

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