Africa and the EU must establish a new partnership as equals, focusing on people’s needs and adjusting to the needs of a post-Covid world.
African and European societies face common issues and shared challenges, such as the coronavirus pandemic and climate change, creating the need for closer and more equitable collaboration.
On 25 March, MEPs approved Parliament’s proposals for a new EU-Africa strategy laying the foundation for a partnership that reflects the interests of both sides and gives African countries the means to achieve sustainable development.
Human development at the heart of future strategy
Africa is home to the youngest population in the world, with about one million Africans entering the job market every month. However, more than 390 million people are living below the poverty line, while less than 10% of 18-24 year olds are enrolled in some form of post secondary education or training.
Investing in people is therefore seen as a key pillar of the upcoming EU-Africa strategy, announced by the European Commission in March, with priority given to the fight against inequality, young people and the empowerment of women.
Chrysoula Zacharopoulou (Renew Europe, France), who wrote the Parliament’s proposals, emphasises the need to ensure access to quality education and provide young people, especially women and girls, with the necessary skills to access the job market.
Decent working conditions are seen as key to providing prospects to the rapidly growing population. This goes hand in hand with inclusive social protection systems, measures against child and forced labour and a transition from the informal to the formal economy. The informal sector makes up nearly 86% of all employment in Africa.
The new strategy should also improve health care and strengthen national health systems, making them more resilient to future crises. MEPs want to step up EU-Africa collaboration on health research and innovation to boost local production of equipment and medicine.
Reducing Africa’s dependence on imports
The EU-Africa relationship “must move beyond the donor-recipient relationship”, according to the Parliament report, emphasising the importance of supporting Africa’s domestic production through sustainable investment.
It also proposes boosting intra-African trade through the continental free trade area, investment in transport infrastructure and better access to global markets.
Public-private partnerships and funding small and medium enterprises are considered essential, as these smaller firms represent 95% of businesses in Africa and the private sector is expected to be decisive in the post-Covid recovery.
All agreements should be compatible with human rights, labour and environmental standards and in line with UN Sustainable Development Goals, said the report.
The report also calls on international lenders, such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, to do more to relieve the debt burdens of African countries, which have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
Partners for a green and digital transition
Africa bears the least responsibility for climate change, but it is bearing the brunt of its impact: in 2019, nearly 16.6 million Africans were affected by extreme weather events, 195% more than in 2018.
The report urges a transition to a clean and circular economy through investment in sustainable transport, green infrastructure and renewable energy. It also stresses the need to protect Africa’s unique biodiversity and indigenous communities, as well as ensuring fair and sustainable exploitation of raw materials, which account for 49% of EU imports from Africa.
A partnership on sustainable agriculture should be at the centre of EU-Africa relations, say MEPs, in order to develop environment-friendly farming practices, strengthen the resilience of farmers and address food system failures, aggravated by the closure of borders due to the Covid crisis.
The digital transformation will play a key role in the modernisation of the farm sector, but also education, employment, health and people’s participation in political decision-making.
A migration policy based on solidarity and shared responsibility
Since 2015, the EU and African countries have developed a joint approach to managing migration flows, which has led to a reduction in irregular migration and improved cooperation on the fight against migrant smuggling. Yet significant challenges remain. Sub-Saharan Africa hosts more than a quarter of the world’s refugees and Mediterranean crossings continue to cause loss of life and fuel criminal networks.
MEPs stress that the new EU-Africa partnership must put the dignity of refugees and migrants at its heart, addressing migration as a shared responsibility between European countries of destination and the African countries of origin. They also emphasise the need to tackle the root causes of displacement, guarantee fair asylum procedures and establish a migration policy that would create opportunities for skilled and unskilled workers.
South Sudan ‘determined to never go back to war’
South Sudan is “ready to turn a new page” towards greater peace, development and prosperity, Vice-President Rebecca Nyandeng de Mabior said in her speech in the UN General Assembly on Friday.
A decade after gaining independence from Sudan, the country remains “on a path of nation-building” and is working to implement a 2018 revitalized peace deal which led to the formation of a unity government last year.
“I want to assure our friends and partners that we are determined to never go back to war,” said Ms. De Mabior.
“We must replace the destruction of war with the productive use of our vast natural resources and national assets for the good of our people.”
The Vice-President recalled that when South Sudan became independent, the international community pledged to build capacity in nation-building, establishing a UN mission in the country, UNMISS, to support this process.
“However, after the outbreak of the war, that vision was abandoned, and priority was placed on protecting civilians and providing humanitarian assistance. As a result, support for capacity building of the State was terminated,” she said.
Ms. De Mabior stressed that supporting a State’s ability to govern responsibly and effectively is essential. It is also necessary to guard against what she called “the unintended consequences of dependency on humanitarian assistance.”
Given improvements in peace and security, she said it was now time to transition from emergency towards sustainable development.
“It is a painful and shameful situation for a country endowed with vast fertile land to be regarded as poor,” she added.
“We must ensure peace and security in the country and double our efforts to support our people who want to return, and are returning, to their areas of origin, for them to participate fully in nation-building and contribute to building food security in the country.”
Support youth and women
South Sudan is also “a youthful country”, and the Vice-President called for continued efforts to develop the skills of its youth and women “to provide an alternative to picking up the gun again and engaging in destructive behavior.”
Encouraging developments have included joint efforts by the national security forces and their UNMISS counterparts to promote rural peace and security, while the Government is set to unveil a national youth service programme.
“To fulfill the vision of our liberation struggle, we must use our oil revenues to fuel economic growth through investment in agriculture,” she said.
“We will invest in infrastructure to connect our rural communities to the markets. We need the public and private sectors, including foreign investors, to join hands in turning South Sudan’s potential wealth into a reality.”
Ms. De Mabior reported progress in implementing aspects of the Revitalized Peace Agreement, particularly in the creation of state and national bodies and public financial management reforms
However, “the glass remains half-empty” in implementing a permanent ceasefire and transitional security arrangements, she said, noting the urgency for a unified army.
“The security sector reform is the most challenging part of the Agreement as it contains elements at the center of the violent conflicts in the country,” she said, calling for continued dialogue.
“Building sustainable peace requires inclusivity, collective investment, determination, diligence, and patience.”
Meanwhile, relations with Sudan have also improved, though outstanding issues remain over the oil-rich Abyei border area.
Ms. De Mabior stressed her country is determined to learn from the past.
“We must make the Revitalized Peace Agreement succeed, and we can only do that with the support of our regional and international partners. Simply stated, South Sudan desires and is ready to turn a new page,” she said.
Niger to Improve Women and Girl’s Access to Nutrition and Health Services
The Nigerien government will be able to provide its population with better health coverage with financing approved today by the World Bank. This 15-year multiphase program will use innovative and comprehensive nutrition and health interventions to improve health system efficiency, equity, and sustainability, as well as boost girls’ and women’s empowerment.
Niger’s health system faces immense challenges. Despite progress in recent years, the country has a high under-five mortality rate of 77 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2020 and stunting continues to have devastating effects on the long-term development of Niger’s human capital. Lack of qualified health professionals, particularly doctors, nurses, and medical assistants, has an impact on overall public health. In addition, more than 75% of girls are married before the age of 18, and 30% marry before the age of 15.
“Improving health and nutrition outcomes, as well as empowering girls and women to accelerate the demographic transition will require a transformational commitment over the long term,” says Joelle Dehasse, World Bank Country Manager for Niger. “The World Bank is strongly committed to build human capital and improve the lives of the poorest in a fragile context. Refugees and host communities, who use health care services in the targeted areas, will also benefit from these improved basic services.”
The first phase of the MPA, the Niger – Improving women’s and girls’ access to improved health and nutrition services (Lafia-Iyali) project aims to increase the utilization of reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health and nutrition services and improve key behaviors known to improve health and nutrition outcomes, as well as girls’ and women´s agency in Zinder and Maradi region. Specifically, the project will increase the coverage, utilization and quality of the integrated package of services, as well as the continuity of services to address under-five child mortality, maternal mortality and sexual and reproductive health. It will support demand for health and nutrition services to promote key behaviors for increased demand. About 6,500,000 people, including refugees, and IDPs will benefit from the project by 2026.
The total financing for the project’s first phase is $125 million. This includes a $25 million grant from the Global Financing Facility (GFF), a global partnership hosted at the World Bank that supports country-led efforts to prioritize investments in the health, nutrition and well-being of women, children and adolescents while building more resilient and inclusive health systems. The project aligns with Niger’s investment case, supported by the GFF, to accelerate health and nutrition outcomes for women, children and adolescents.
Africa faces 470 million COVID-19 vaccine shortfall this year
Africa needs around 470 million doses to accomplish the global of fully vaccinating 40 per cent of its population by the end of the year, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.
The international COVAX initiative aimed at guaranteeing global access to the vaccines, recently announced that it was being forced to slash planned deliveries to Africa, by around 150 million doses this year.
The scheme is now expected to deliver 470 million doses through the end of December. These will be enough to protect just 17 per cent of the continent, far below the 40 per cent target.
To reach the end-year target, that 470 million figure needs to double, even if all planned shipments via COVAX and the African Union are delivered.
Export bans, vaccine hoarding
WHO Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, said that “export bans and vaccine hoarding have a chokehold on vaccine supplies to Africa.”
“As long as rich countries lock COVAX out of the market, Africa will miss its vaccination goals. The huge gap in vaccine equity is not closing anywhere near fast enough. It is time for vaccine manufacturing countries to open the gates and help protect those facing the greatest risk,” Ms. Moeti said.
Besides export bans, challenges in boosting production and delays in approvals have constrained deliveries. COVAX has called for donor countries to share their supply schedules to give more clarity on deliveries.
The initiative has also called for countries with enough doses, to give up their place in the queue. Manufacturers must deliver in line with their prior commitments, and countries that are well-advanced must expand and accelerate donations.
About 95 million more doses are set to arrive in Africa via COVAX throughout September, which will be the largest shipment the continent has taken on board for any month so far. Just 50 million people, or 3.6 per cent of its population, has been inoculated to date.
Only around 2 per cent of the nearly 6 billion doses administered globally have gone to Africans. The European Union and the United Kingdom have vaccinated over 60 per cent of their populations and high-income countries have administered 48 times more doses per person, than low-income nations.
“The staggering inequity and severe lag in shipments of vaccines threatens to turn areas in Africa with low vaccination rates into breeding grounds for vaccine-resistant variants. This could end up sending the whole world back to square one,” warned Ms. Moeti.
WHO is ramping up support to African countries to identify and address gaps in their COVID-19 vaccine rollouts.
The agency has assisted 15 countries in conducting intra-action reviews and offered recommendations for improvements. The reviews have shown that vaccine supply security and uncertainty around deliveries has been a major impediment.
With over 300 staff in place across Africa supporting the COVID-19 response, WHO is deploying experts and producing support plans in specific areas, including securing staff, financing, strengthening supply chains and logistics and boosting demand for vaccines.
As of 14 September, there were 8.06 million COVID-19 cases recorded in Africa and while the third wave wanes, there were nearly 125,000 new cases in the week ending on 12 September.
This represents a 27 per cent drop from the previous week, but weekly new cases are still at about the peak of the first wave, and 19 countries continue to report high or fast-rising case numbers.
Deaths fell by 19 per cent across Africa, to 2,531 reported in the week to September 12th. The highly transmissible Delta variant has been found in 31 African countries.
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