Africa and the EU must establish a new partnership on an equal footing, focused on the needs of the people and adapting 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.
March 25, MEPs approved Parliament’s proposals for a new EU-Africa strategy lay the foundations for a partnership that reflects the interests of both parties and empowers African countries to achieve sustainable development.
Human development at the heart of the future strategy
Africa is home to the world’s youngest population, with around one million Africans entering the workforce every month. However, more than 390 million people live 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 considered an essential pillar of the future. EU-Africa Strategy, announced by the European Commission in March, with priority given to the fight against inequalities, young people and the empowerment of women.
Chrysoula Zacharopoulou (Renew Europe, France), who drafted the Parliament’s proposals, stresses the need to ensure access to quality education and to provide young people, especially women and girls, with the skills necessary to access the market work.
Decent working conditions are considered essential to provide prospects for the rapidly growing population. This goes hand in hand with inclusive social protection systems, measures against child labor and forced labor and a transition from the informal to the formal economy. the the informal sector accounts for almost 86% of all jobs in Africa.
The new strategy is also expected to improve health care and strengthen national health systems, making them more resilient to future crises. MEPs want to step up EU-Africa collaboration in health research and innovation in order to stimulate local production of equipment and medicines.
Reduce Africa’s dependence on imports
The EU-Africa relationship “must go beyond the donor-recipient relationship”, according to the Parliament report, stressing the importance of supporting Africa’s national production through sustainable investments.
It also proposes to boost intra-African trade through the continental free trade area, investment in transport infrastructure and better access to global markets.
Public-private partnerships and financing for small and medium-sized enterprises are seen as essential, as these small businesses represent 95% of businesses in Africa and the private sector is expected to be decisive in the post-Covid recovery.
All agreements must be compatible with human rights, labor and environmental standards and comply with United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, says the report.
The report also calls on international lenders, such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, to do more to ease the debt burden on African countries, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic.
Partners for a green and digital transition
Africa is the least responsible for climate change, but it is it that suffers the biggest impact: in 2019, nearly 16.6 million Africans were affected by extreme weather events, 195% more than ‘in 2018.
The report calls for a transition to a clean and circular economy through investments 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 to ensure 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 center of EU-Africa relations, say MEPs, in order to develop environmentally friendly farming practices, strengthen farmers’ resilience and address food system failures, aggravated by border closures due to Covid. crisis.
Digital transformation will play a key role in the modernization of the agricultural sector, but also in education, employment, health and citizen participation in political decision-making.
A migration policy based on solidarity and shared responsibility
Since 2015, the EU and African countries have developed a common approach to the management of migratory flows, which has helped reduce irregular migration and improve cooperation in the fight against smuggling of migrants. Yet significant challenges remain. Sub-Saharan Africa hosts more than a quarter of the world’s refugees and crossings across the Mediterranean continue to claim lives and fuel criminal networks.
MEPs stress that the new EU-Africa partnership must put the dignity of refugees and migrants at the heart of its concerns, seeing migration as a shared responsibility between European countries of destination and African countries of origin. They also stress the need to tackle the root causes of displacement, ensure fair asylum procedures and establish a migration policy that would create opportunities for skilled and unskilled workers.