Africa and Europe need a strong partnership to tackle the key challenges of today, writes Ursula von der Leyen
The European Union and Africa are longstanding strategic partners, whose prosperity and security are closely interlinked. The partnership between Africa and Europe is finally coming of age and it’s time to take it to a new level. Africa wants to take its future into its own hands and Europe needs a strong Africa. Our aspirations coincide. We both want to create good jobs, manage human mobility, drive the digital innovation, reconcile economic growth and the environment, and silence the guns in Africa. We are both ready to play our part to achieve these goals.
In the coming months, our two continents will discuss how to turn these aspirations into reality. (This week) the African Union’s Commission and the European Commission hold the tenth meeting in our history – as the first milestone in a year that can redefine cooperation between our continents, shortly before the EU presents its new comprehensive Africa Strategy. The goal is for both sides to take their cooperation to a new level in the Africa-Europe Summit in October.
Our two continents are changing fast and the world is much more complex, but with the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development or the Paris Agreement we have showed that if Europe and Africa join forces we can help shape a better future for the next generations.
We need a stronger partnership to tackle the key challenges of today, be it the green transition or the digital transformation, attend to the aspirations of our youth and fight inequalities.
Economic growth in Africa continues to outperform that of the other continents: Africa will be home to the majority of the world’s fastest growing economies in the coming years. Business environments are improving and the digital revolution is spreading fast: three in four Africans have a mobile phone, and African start-ups attract investment from all over the world. The African Continental Free Trade Agreement could add a multiplying effect to all these trends.
We owe it to the future generations to leave them a healthy planet. The future will be green or there will be no future. It depends on our collective ability to stop global warming. No place suffers more than Africa from climate change. European Commission is pushing for bold action inside Europe on all these issues. The European Green Deal will make Europe the first climate neutral continent. But solutions will only be sustainable if they are agreed and shared across continents.
Together we can create an economy that works for the people, boosting investment in strategic sectors and investing in the education and skills our youth need to succeed in the labour market. We can scale up the use of digital technologies to improve business, health care and service delivery. And we can do so lowering the carbon footprint in the process. Africa does not have to repeat the same mistakes that other continents did: it can move directly to a new economic model, which is more respectful of the planet and more technologically advanced.
Our cooperation does not start from scratch. Our sister organizations have been working for over two decades. The EU is Africa’s first partner in trade, investment, development assistance and security.
We are working closely together in support of Africa’s initiative to silence the guns by 2020.
Europe has consistently supported African solutions to African problems and has mobilised 3.5 billion euros since 2004 through the African Peace Facility.
This year has to bring about tangible change for Africans and Europeans. The 2020s can be the decade of a new and more mature friendship between our two continents. Together we can build solutions that work for Africa and for Europe alike.
Ms. Ursula von der Leyen is the President of the European Commission.