By Theresa Kef Sesay
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 is 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. Both want to promote women and create jobs for youth, drive the digital innovation, promote sustainable economic growth and opportunity, and silence the guns in Africa.
In the coming months, the two continents will discuss how to turn these aspirations into reality. Recently, the African Union Commission and the European Commission held the tenth college-to-college meeting. It was the first milestone in a year that can redefine cooperation between our continents through a series of high-level meetings culminating in the EU-AU Summit in Brussels in October.
Our two continents are changing fast and the world is much more complex, but with the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, and the AU’s Agenda 2063, we have shown that, if Europe and Africa join forces, they can help shape a new paradigm for multilateralism and a better future for the next generations.
The two need a stronger partnership to tackle the key challenges of today, be it the green transition or the digital transformation, and to attend to the aspirations of our youth, fight inequalities, and alleviate suffering of refugees, displaced persons and victims of violations of human rights.
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 adds a multiplying effect to these trends by creating a market of 1.2 billion people, but they need to overcome problems of connectivity and bridge the skills gap in the labour market through education and training. They can scale up the use of digital technologies to support development, economic transformation and business.
The cooperation builds on over two decades of partnership between the two organizations. The EU as a bloc is Africa’s first partner in trade, investment, development assistance and security, and Africa as a whole is the EU’s third largest trading partner.
Both are working closely together in the implementation of Africa’s initiative to silence the guns. Europe supports African solutions to African problems, and are committed to adapt support to African institutions in the face of changing security threats, such as terrorism, trafficking, and transnational crime.
Recognizing that Africa is among the most affected by climate change, the two continents have played a key role in the adoption of the Paris Agreement displaying ambitious targets for climate action. Europe aims at becoming climate neutral by 2050, while Africa wants to add to adaptation and mitigation its desire to promote cleaner industrialisation and urbanisation paths. Together they should promote sustainable technological solutions that preserve the planet
This year must bring about tangible change for Africans and Europeans. The 2020s can be the decade of a new and more mature friendship between the two continents. Together they can build solutions that work for Africa and for Europe alike.