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EU and the Tony Elumelu Foundation join forces to improve economic empowerment of women

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The European Union and the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF), the leading champion of entrepreneurship in Africa, are joining forces to support more than 2,500 African women entrepreneurs, thanks to a partnership announced today. They will support the economic empowerment of women across Africa through increased access to finance and venture capital investment with a contribution of €20 million.

This partnership with the Tony Elumelu Foundation will help women participate in economic development, realise their full potential and accelerate economic inclusion. Empowering women entrepreneurs is a key driver for sustainable jobs and growth, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and in line with the objectives of our Africa Strategy. Women and girls represent half of the world’s population and they deserve equal opportunities”, said Jutta Urpilainen, Commissioner for International Partnerships. 

“At the Tony Elumelu Foundation, we are pleased to partner with the European Union, sharing our unique ability to identify, train, mentor and fund young entrepreneurs across Africa. This joint effort will prioritise and provide economic opportunities for African women, whom for too long have endured systemic obstacles to starting, growing and sustaining their businesses. Our partnership aims to alleviate the funding, knowledge and market constraints threatening the livelihoods of women entrepreneurs on the continent, to create more income, jobs, growth and scale for women-owned businesses,” said Tony Elumelu, Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation. 

The COVID-19 pandemic is more than a global health crisis, impacting labour markets and creating a social and economic crisis. Women, who often hold the dual role of breadwinners and carers, are among the hardest hit. Women earn less, save less, hold less secure jobs, and are more likely to be employed in the informal economy, with less access to social protection. The EU and its partners are now increasing their effort to build back better and ensure women are at the centre of the recovery. This new programme builds on the experience of the EU External Investment Plan to support gender focused lending, as well as the EU initiatives to support women economic empowerment within the EU Gender Action Plan (GAP III).

The European Commission is proud to partner with the Tony Elumelu Foundation to unlock the women’s potential, directly boosting Africa’s economic growth. TEF is one of the key organisations committed to contributing meaningfully to Africa’s prosperity and social development. Through this partnership, the two organisations will support more than 2,500 women entrepreneurs, providing gender sensitive entrepreneurship training, as well as seed capital for African female businesses to navigate through the start-up and early growth phases.

The European Commission values the key experience of TEF and its 10 years of leadership having trained, mentored and funded nearly 10,000 young African entrepreneurs across 54 African countries, through its Entrepreneurship Programmes. It has also provided capacity-building support, advisory and market linkages to over 1 million Africans through its digital networking platform, TEFConnect.

Some of TEF’s women success stories include Joyce Awojoodu, from Nigeria, who launched a luxury botanically based product line and spa clinic in Lagos, in 2015. The brand, ORÍKÌ, caters to both men and women, and strictly uses raw materials and natural ingredients from Africa. Awojoodu’s favourite part of the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme was the mentorship, which she described as “phenomenal” and “invaluable in an area of need for ORÍKÌ”. In her own words, “each TEF Entrepreneur was assigned a mentor and I could not have asked for a better one. TEF connected us. Now the mentorship continues and I know I will always have an ear to share my thoughts about the business with a person who can also offer advice.”

Mavis Mduchwa, an agribusiness entrepreneur from Botswana, founded Chabana Farms, a poultry farm that provides training and work for unemployed young people. Even though agriculture accounts for 32% of Africa’s gross domestic product, landownership and access to land remains a significant challenge for many farmers, especially women. According to Mduchwa, “in Botswana, about 80% of people survive on agriculture, and many of them are women. But, if as a woman you want to turn it into a business, you have a challenge of finding land.” Mduchwa has used the seed capital and training from the TEF to find new ways to grow her operations.

Background

This programme is jointly co-funded by the European Union and the Organisation of African, Caribbean, and Pacific State (OACPS), together with the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). It is implemented by the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ).

The EU’s Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025 sets out key actions for the next five years and commits to ensure an equality perspective in all EU policy areas. The EU Gender Action Plan (GAP III) in external relations (2021-2025) identifies women’s economic empowerment as a central pillar of the EU’s strategy to close the gender gap and for the successful achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Since 2015, the Tony Elumelu Foundation has launched the most comprehensive entrepreneurial programme in Africa, with a financial commitment of US$100 million. Successful applicants selected as TEF Entrepreneurs on an annual basis complete a rigorous online business management training supported by designated mentors, participate in the global TEF Entrepreneurship forum, and receive US$ 5,000 in seed capital.

The programme directly addresses some of the most endemic challenges to African start-ups – skills and capacity gaps, financial constraints and lack of access to mentoring, networks and market linkages. Following completion of the programme, the entrepreneurs stay connected to the Foundation and to each other through their lifetime membership on TEFConnect. TEF has also set up Country Chapters in 54 African countries to support the entrepreneurs as they grow and expand their businesses.

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Conditions worsen for stranded migrants along Belarus-EU border

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At least eight people have died along the border between Belarus and the European Union, where multiple groups of asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants have been stranded for weeks in increasingly dire conditions. 

The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCRappealed for urgent action on Friday, to save lives and prevent further suffering at the border with Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. The latest casualty was reported within the past few days. 

UNHCR warned that the situation will further and rapidly deteriorate as winter approaches, putting more lives in danger. 

For the Agency’s Regional Director for Europe, Pascale Moreau, “when fundamental human rights are not protected, lives are at stake.” 

“It is unacceptable that people have died, and the lives of others are precariously hanging in the balance. They are held hostage by a political stalemate which needs to be solved now,” he said. 

According to media reports, the EU regards the increase in asylum seekers at the border, a direct result of Belarus, in effect, weaponizing migrants, in retaliation for sanctions placed on the Government over the suppression of the protest movement following last year’s disputed re-election of President Lukashenko.  

International group 

Among those stranded are 32 Afghan women, men and children. They have been left in limbo between Poland and Belarus since mid-August, unable to access asylum and any form of assistance. They do not have proper shelter and no secure source of food or water. 

A group of 16 Afghans tried to cross into Poland this week, but they were apprehended and not allowed to apply for asylum. They were also denied access to legal assistance. Within a few hours, they were pushed back across the border to Belarus. 

So far, UNHCR has not been granted access to meet with the group from the Polish side, despite repeated requests, and only met them a few times from the Belarusian side to deliver life-saving aid. 

International law 

The Agency has been advocating for the group to be granted asylum, since the Afghans have expressed their wish to settle either in Belarus or in Poland. 

The request has been ignored by both sides. For UNHCR, that is “a clear violation of international refugee law and international human rights law.” 

“We urge Belarus and Poland, as signatories to the 1951 Refugee Convention, to abide by their international legal obligations and provide access to asylum for those seeking it at their borders.  

“Pushbacks, that deny access to territory and asylum, violate human rights in breach of international law”, said Mr. Moreau. 

UNHCR urges the authorities to determine and address humanitarian and international protection needs, and find viable solutions. The agency also stands ready to support refugees, together with other relevant stakeholders. 

“People must be able to exercise their rights where they are, be it in Belarus or in Poland or other EU States where they may be located. This must include the possibility to seek asylum, access to legal aid, information and appropriate accommodation”, Mr. Moreau concluded. 

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Focus on the recovery from the pandemic at the 19th EU Regions Week

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The annual European Week of Regions and Cities has shown how the EU and national and regional governments can support European citizens and their local communities with public policies aimed at investing in a fairer, greener and more digital future for recovery. Under the theme ‘Together for Recovery’, more than 300 sessions, including debates with high-profile officials, regional and local representatives, an inspiring Citizens’ Dialogue, various workshops as well as an Award for outstanding young journalists, celebrated the EU values of cohesion and solidarity.

Taking place in a hybrid format, with sessions both physical and virtual, the 19th EU Regions Week had one main mission: highlighting the role of EU investments in the recovery from the pandemic and in facing common challenges. The event kicked off with a press conference with Apostolos Tzitzikostas, President of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) and Elisa Ferreira, Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, who underlined that “Cohesion Policy was one of the first responders in the emergency phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, driven by the core value of EU solidarity”.

The second annual local and regional barometer was presented by Apostolos Tzitzikostas, followed by a debate with members of the European Committee of the Regions. The report confirmed that the pandemic related measures put at risk regional and local finances, resulting in a 180 billion budget cut for local and regional authorities across Europe. At the same time, 1 in 3 local and regional politicians want regions and cities to become more influential in EU policy-making on health issues.

Unless we measure the state of our regions and cities, we cannot understand the state of our Union” said Apostolos Tzitzikostas, President of the European Committee of the Regions. “Only by taking the pulse of our communities, we can decide how effective the EU has been on the ground, and what the EU needs to do to help its people”.

Further taking stock of the EU cohesion policy response to the coronavirus pandemic as well as informing the general public, various workshops touched upon life before and after the pandemic, including explanations regarding the role of regions and cities for a Green Transition, the Cohesion Policy 2021-2027 and NextGenerationEU, as well as the CRII, CRII+, React-EU support packages for regional and local healthcare services and equipment.

Young journalists were also invited to take part in the EU Regions Week 2021, getting the opportunity to debate with Elisa Ferreira at the Citizens’ Dialogue. In the Youth4Regions programme for aspiring journalists, Irene Barahona Fernandez from Spain and Jack Ryan from Ireland won the 2021 Megalizzi-Niedzielski prize for aspiring journalists.

About the event

The European Week of Regions and Cities (#EURegionsWeek) is the largest EU-wide event on regional development. It is co-organised by the European Commission and the European Committee of the Regions.

In total, more than 12 000 participants and 900 speakers joined the 4-day event either physically or online, showing engagement in all corners of EU society – from our vibrant youth to our high-profile officials, local and regional representatives, academic experts and professional specialists, displaying a common readiness to tackle what the future holds, together.

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EU and Qatar sign landmark aviation agreement

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The European Union and the State of Qatar today signed a comprehensive air transport agreement, upgrading rules and standards for flights between Qatar and the EU. The agreement sets a new global benchmark by committing both sides to fair competition, and by including social and environmental protection. The signing means new opportunities for consumers, airlines and airports in Qatar and the EU.

Qatar is an increasingly important aviation partner for the EU. It was the 15th largest extra-EU market in 2019 with 6.3 million passengers travelling between the EU and Qatar. Ensuring open and fair competition for air services between both is therefore crucial, also for routes between the EU and Asia.

Adina Vălean, Commissioner for mobility and transport, said: “This agreement, the first one between the EU and the Gulf region, is a global benchmark for forward-looking aviation agreements. It is testimony to our shared commitment to economically, socially and environmentally sustainable aviation, based on a modern framework covering fair competition and closer cooperation on social and environmental matters. This agreement will bring new opportunities, more choice and higher standards for passengers, industry and aviation workers.”

Today’s agreement creates a level playing field that is expected to result in new air transport opportunities and economic benefits for both sides:

  • All EU airlines will be able to operate direct flights from any airport in the EU to Qatar and vice versa for Qatari airlines.
  • EU airports in Germany, France, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands will be subject to a gradual build-up of capacity until 2024. For more details on this, see the Q&A.
  • Strong provisions on open and fair competition will guarantee a level playing field.
  • The parties recognised the importance of social matters, agreed to cooperate on these and to improve their respective social and labour laws and policies as per their international commitments.

The agreement will facilitate people-to-people contacts and expand commercial opportunities and trade. Going beyond traffic rights, the EU-Qatar agreement will provide a single set of rules, high standards and a platform for future cooperation on a wide range of aviation issues.

Background

Qatar is a close aviation partner for the European Union; more than 6 million passengers travelled between the EU and Qatar per year under the existing 26 bilateral air transport agreements with EU Member States prior to the pandemic. While direct flights between most EU Member States and Qatar have already been liberalised by those bilateral agreements, none of them include provisions on fair competition, or social and environmental issues, which the Commission considers essential for a modern aviation agreement.

In 2016, the European Commission obtained authorisation from the Council to negotiate an EU-level aviation agreement with Qatar, which started on 4 March 2019. While the agreement still needs to be ratified by the parties before formally entering into force, it will start being applied from today’s signature.

Similar EU comprehensive air transport agreements have been signed with other partner countries, namely the United States, Canada, the Western Balkans, Morocco, Georgia, Jordan, Moldova, Israel and Ukraine. Further air transport agreements with Armenia and Tunisia are expected to be signed in the coming weeks.

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