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Joint communication to the European Parliament and the Council: Towards a comprehensive strategy with Africa

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Towards a comprehensive strategy with Africa 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. With the 6th Summit between the African Union (AU) and the EU and the conclusion of the negotiations of the new partnership agreement between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, 2020 will be a pivotal year in living up to our ambition of an even stronger partnership. In Africa, new prospects and challenges are emerging from economic, political, social, technological, demographic, climate and environmental changes. We need to partner with Africa, our twin continent, to tackle together the challenges of the 21st century and to further our common interests and future.

Africa, in all its diversity, is home to over 1 billion people. It boasts the youngest, fastest-growing middle-class in the world. Africa’s young people have the potential to transform their continent’s political, economic and social prospects, but for this they need decent jobs, a place in society, access to social services, energy and infrastructure, and an active role in determining their countries’ future. In particular, African women are key drivers of sustainable growth, development and peace. Responding to their aspirations will determine the future of the continent.

Africa has been recording steady economic growth. In 2018, six of the ten fastest growing economies in the world were African. Thirty African States are middle-income or high-income countries. The continent’s economic expansion has the potential to accelerate and drive broader social and human development with new opportunities arising from the digital transformation, the demographic dividend, low-cost renewable energy, the green transition and a low-carbon, blue and circular economy. This reflects the vision of the African leaders transformative initiatives, including the African Union’s Agenda 2063, the African Continental Free Trade Area, the African Visa-free Area, a Single African Digital Market and the Single African Air Transport Market.

At the same time, a number of challenges remain. Thirty-six of the world’s most fragile countries are in Africa, often weakened by conflicts. The continent hosts 390 million people living below the poverty line. Growth has not always been inclusive, notably due to governance challenges. Africa, as the rest of the world, is also affected by the consequences of climate change, environmental degradation and pollution. The EU and Africa can work together to seize the opportunities and address these challenges and develop actions that ensure stability, peace, security, human rights, democracy, gender equality, sustainable livelihoods, sustainable economic growth based on healthy ecosystems, social cohesion and good governance.

To benefit both continents, our partnership should be based on a clear understanding of our respective and mutual interests and responsibilities, reflecting the comprehensiveness and maturity of our relationship. These interests include: developing a green growth model; improving the business environment and investment climate; boosting education, research and innovation, the creation of decent jobs and value addition through sustainable investments; maximising the benefits of regional economic integration and trade; ensuring food security and rural development; combatting climate change; ensuring access to sustainable energy and protecting biodiversity and natural resources; promoting peace and security; ensuring well-governed migration and mobility; engaging together on the global scene to strengthen the multilateral rules-based order, promoting universal values, human rights, democracy, rule of law and gender equality.

Positive developments in one of these areas depend on progress in other areas. Such progress can only be achieved by working together on the basis of shared global commitments, such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and Agenda 2063.

Africa’s potential attracts increased interest from many players on the world scene. This is a welcome development, as it increases Africa’s options and creates room for synergies. It also means that Europe, with the EU and its Member States working together in unison, must adapt the way it engages with Africa, ensuring its positioning is in line with our mutual interests, and giving more prominence to values, key principles, and good regulatory practices. The EU and its Member States are Africa’s biggest partner on all accounts, be it in terms of investment, trade, official development assistance, or security. This reliable, long-term, multi-faceted partnership should now also translate into a strong political alliance. Stronger political, economic and cultural ties between Europe and Africa are crucial in a multipolar world where collective action is sorely needed. Enhanced cooperation on global and multilateral affairs will be at the heart of our common action.

To strengthen the EU’s strategic alliance with Africa, the European Commission and the High Representative of the Union are proposing to engage discussions with African partners in view of jointly defining at the upcoming EU-AU Summit a new comprehensive EU strategy with Africa that could be built on five partnerships:

  1. A partnership for green transition and energy access;

  2. A partnership for digital transformation;

  3. A partnership for sustainable growth and jobs;

  4. A partnership for peace and governance; and

  5. A partnership on migration and mobility.

This new strategy and these partnerships are in line with the common priorities set by the EU and the African Union at the 2017 Summit in Abidjan. It takes inspiration notably from the very fruitful discussions between the European Commission and the African Union Commission, which took place in Addis Ababa on 27 February 2020 and reflects the EU’s proposals for the ongoing exchanges with African partners in view of defining a joint partnership agenda at the upcoming EU-AU Summit in October 2020. EU-Africa engagement will continue at bilateral, regional and continental level.