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Madam Chairwoman Zuma, my friend, Ambassadors, Members of the diplomatic community,
Thank you for your invitation to speak here, in the political, diplomatic heart of Africa. It is a great honour for me to be the first European Union High Representative and Vice-President of the European Commission to address the African Union in its headquarters. And it is an honour to speak in this hall dedicated to Nelson Mandela, one of the greatest men of our age, an inspiration to the whole of Africa and all of us.
I am not a big fan of quotes. But more than once I have made an exception for Madiba. So let me start by quoting the way in which Mandela used to describe his continent, your continent, as “a region of vast untapped potential”. And this is exactly what I feel when I meet my African friends. This is what I felt all through my visit in Niger, a month ago. I met so many young men and women willing to engage. Men and women willing to work for the wellbeing of their communities. To take responsibility for their own life and their own country. This is a land of immense energy. Of immense potential.
Such potential is only waiting to bear fruit. Making the most out of this potential – this is the goal of our cooperation, of cooperation between Africa and Europe. A cooperation we both need – a vital one, for Africa as well as for Europe.
In part, I am talking of an economic potential. For more than a decade, Africa has been one of the fastest growing regions on Earth. This continent is an increasingly attractive place to do business. Trade with the EU has increased by half in less than ten years. And more and more, Africa's exports to Europe are made up of processed products, not just raw materials.
But your greatest natural resource are the people of Africa. The continent's population is growing fast. You know it better than me. By 2035, the number of young African men and women reaching working age and trying to enter the job market will exceed that of the rest of the world put together. Africa is getting stronger. Children mortality is still tragically high, but it has been reduced by 40 per cent in twenty years. In many of your countries the fight against malaria has cut by half the number of infections, in just one decade. And think of Ebola: just one year ago we were facing the worst and fearing an even more dramatic development, and today we are into the third week with zero cases, crossing all our fingers. That is also thanks to the African Union mobilisation and our cooperation.
There is good news coming from Africa, to the rest of the world. And there are not many places offering good news in these difficult times. On the contrary. The point is: is the rest of the world ready to listen to Africa? Listen to its good news, and to the warnings you give when you see that something does not go in the right direction? The answer for Europe is: Yes. Our partnership is real, our friendship is real.
This is also my personal way of looking at Africa. As I said one year ago in front of the European Parliament, just few days before taking office as EU High Representative and Vice-President of the Commission: "Africa is not only a receiver of aid, but a political partner for us".
As a relatively young European, let me tell you that there is a new generation in Europe that is looking at Africa with new eyes. Free from the heavy past of colonial history, open to explore our common future in a pragmatic and responsible way. Your youth is your strength. As well as our youth is our strength.
And let me add: Africa's women are your strength. As well as Europe's women are our strength. I'm happy to say this in the presence of Chairwoman Zuma, who has put women's right in the centre of Africa's development.
This is not only good for women, it is good and needed for the entire society. But we must make sure that this potential has the opportunity to express itself. We must make sure that more kids get the education they need. Starting from girls: more learning opportunities for young women will make your economy and your societies much stronger. As it is the case for our economy and our societies.
I know the challenge is huge. At the current pace, Africa will need to create 18 million new jobs per year to absorb all the young people who are coming of age. This will be hard at the current growth rates – and this year growth in the continent has slowed down due to the fall of oil prices. Africa remains very reliant on exports of raw materials and vulnerable to downturns in demand overseas. So, even if we are getting much good news from Africa, it is clear that business as usual is not an option for Africa.
Growth must be boosted and must benefit all people in society. This will require more schools, more infrastructures, better conditions for doing business and more investments. It will require putting an end to conflicts and civil wars. It will require stronger democracies.
These are challenges you don't face alone. Your challenges are ours. As real partners, as real friends, we support each other in difficult times. And these are difficult times indeed, for all.
From Europe's point of view, this calls for a new mentality. It is time to turn the page. We will not forget the mistakes of our past. But we now need to focus on our common future. There is no other way to draw a common future, than doing it together. You need partners. And we need partners. If we, Europeans, really want to open a new chapter, we should not ask what we can do for Africa. The right question to ask is: what can we do with Africa?
Answering this question is the task ahead. Of course, we don’t start from scratch. We can build on years of common work. So let me focus on two things we have learnt over the years – two words that might help us understand what we can do together.
The first word is: investments. We must move beyond this model of donor-recipient relationship. When Europe puts money on the development of Africa, it is not charity work. It is not to cleanse our conscience. We have a clear interest in doing so. Europe needs strong partners. Europe needs a strong Africa. Europe’s interest is to invest in Africa’s growth. Europe and Africa must invest in each other.
Investments from European companies in Africa total over 200 billion euros: Europe is already Africa’s leading investment partner. But the potential for expansion is huge. For this reason we are working together with the African Union to promote industrialisation, diversification and the creation of added value. To boost agriculture, and improve climate resiliency. To invest in the infrastructure that Africa badly needs. To facilitate technology transfer. To intensify joint research and development.
When I talk about investments, what I have in mind is not an old-fashioned top-down approach. Ultimately companies, not governments, create jobs. But governments can create the conditions for private sector to thrive, in Africa and Europe alike.
Last year in Brussels, the Business Forum was originally planned as a side event to the EU-Africa summit. It ended up being one of the summit’s most attractive events, the main reason for many to come. Creating a good investment climate will benefit European investors as much as African ones. And for this to happen, we all know that red tape and corruption need to be tackled urgently.
It is important to use the resources you have in your backyard. It is often more expensive for you to trade with your neighbor than with the rest of the world. Does it make sense? Our European experience tells us: it doesn’t. The integration of our internal markets has given a powerful boost to Europe’s growth. So we fully support the African Union in its ambitious target of creating a Continental Free Trade Area. You can tear down the barriers which hold back trade and investment between African countries. We are ready to share with you the experience we gained in building the European Single Market: the two processes, the two realities are different but we can share our expertise that is unparalleled in the world. And a healthier African markets is your interest as much as it is ours. Our markets will remain open thanks to the Economic Partnership Agreements we are concluding with most of African regions. These agreements should boost trade between us and the growth we all need. They will become an important stepping stone towards your own continental integration.
But there is another condition – and a crucial one – to make Africa a better place for its people, and a more attractive place for business: peace and security. There is no development without security, as much as there is no security without development. Peace in Africa is possible. Again, think of Europe. The peoples of my continent have fought against each other for centuries. After World War two we said: enough. This is why the European Union was born. Peace came with economic prosperity. And vice-versa. So we totally support African aspirations to silence the guns by 2020 and provide good governance for its people.
And there is probably no field where our partnership is strong as on building peace. I cannot imagine any action taken in Africa without consulting and working together with the African Union, with sub-regional organisations and with the UN on security matters. By now, we have learnt that acting together is key to our success. Wherever we do so – think of Mali, the Central African Republic, Guinea Bissau, Somalia and most recently Burkina Faso – our cooperation bears fruit. Let's deepen it on the ongoing tragedy in South Sudan, and in Burundi.
Ten years ago the European Union answered to your call to do more together for peace in your continent. Since then, almost two billion euros have been invested on the African peace facility. We are proud of that, and let me pay tribute to all African peace-keepers who have lost their lives in Somalia, in Mali or elsewhere, and to all those working hard in very difficult conditions.
But the best way of paying tribute to their work and to their lives is to make sure we act strategically, and we make the most of our cooperation. We need to focus more on capacity building. We can train, mentor and provide equipment to African peace keepers. By 2016, on top of the African peace facility, we will have trained 17,000 African soldiers, border guards, policemen and gendarmes.
We appreciate your current discussion on how Africa can gradually take on a share of the financing, and to involve other partners. And the United Nations, too, are trying to find innovative solutions. Peace in Africa does not only matter to Africa, but to the whole world. The threat posed by a terrorist organisation goes well beyond geographic borders: it concerns the whole of us. A refugee crisis sparked by a local conflict can spread worldwide. These are global challenges, and call for a global response.
So peace-keeping or fighting terrorism is crucial, but it will not be enough. Reacting to the latest crisis is essential, but we must also work to prevent the next one.
So let me get to the second part of the answer to “what we can do with you”. The second word is: resilience. Resilience means making the next crisis less likely to happen. Resilience is about job opportunities, and economic growth. But it also about the legitimacy of governance, rule of law, justice and reconciliation.
The partnership between Europe and Africa is strong because it is based on a common vision and on values we share. It is no coincidence then that 2016 has been designated the African Human Rights Year. The African Governance Architecture is impressive work. Inclusive and open societies, accountable governments mean stronger societies. Elections are not a panacea but they are defining moments in any democracy.
Resilience depends on inclusive and credible elections, on democratic transitions to power. But also on what happens the day before, and after elections. Also on respecting constitutions, including on presidential term limits. In its Charter on Democracy, Africa has set a good rule: that if you change the constitution it should be for your successor, not for you. We want to see countries respecting that rule, which is in your Charter.
Resilience also means making each family aware of the dangers of extremism their kids might be exposed to. Resilience is something that governments can foster, or favour, but governments cannot succeed alone. We need civil society to get on board. We need local leaders to play a role for peace and reconciliation. We need religious leaders to take their part of responsibility in passing the right messages.
Let me be clear on one thing. Terrorist groups such as Da’esh, or al Qaeda, or al Shabaab, or Boko Haram – they have nothing to do with Islam. They use religion as a cover-up, to conceal their true goals, their true interests, their fight for power and money. Da’esh has nothing to do with Islam – as much as the Lord’s Resistance Army has nothing to do with the Lord. Only with warlords, and black magic.
Resilience, in the long run, is about fighting climate change. You know better than anyone else how destabilising a flood or a drought can be. You know that, in today’s wars, a dam can be more strategic than an oil refinery. It is by no chance if the most vulnerable part of Africa is the belt running from Mauritania to Somalia, all through the Sahel. Resilience is about fighting desertification, and promoting climate-smart agriculture. Resilience is about reaching a strong and universal agreement at the climate summit next month in Paris.
But let me also congratulate ourselves, Europe and Africa, on (agreeing) the Sustainable Development Goals Summit last month in New York and on the achievement in July on the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on financing. In both cases, Europe and Africa had a united position, which was very similar indeed. And this has paid back. We now need to work together on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Let us work together to build this resilience. Let us deepen our partnership, strong because of common interests and shared values. Common interests and shared values. This is also the basis for our common work on migration. The world is facing an unprecedented magnitude of people on the move. Conflicts and crisis multiply, poverty and inequalities grow, climate change and natural disasters destroy or destabilise large parts of the world, human rights violations and poor democratic systems push people to look for societies where they hope they can live in dignity and peace. This has to be our first common commitment: to tackle together the root causes.
Still, this is not going to stop any time soon. And the magnitude of this phenomenon is hitting first and foremost Africa: each and every African country is, at the same time, in most cases, a country of origin, of transit and of destination, and often hosting large numbers of refugees. So this is not a "European crisis", this is a global one. And what do partners, friends, do to face a common, global crisis? They sit down, together, and find common ways to tackle a common challenge. Sharing responsibilities, on the basis of our common interests and of our shared values.
I believe human mobility can still provide both our continents, Europe and Africa, with great opportunities. But to let these opportunities emerge and to cope with the challenges, we need to work side by side, together.
In less than a month European leaders will meet with our African partners at the Valetta Summit on Migration – which I have just discussed with Dr Zuma, and I am delighted she will participate in the Summit. In Valletta we expect to agree on concrete actions to maximise the development benefits of migration and address root causes; to better organise legal channels for migration and mobility; to ensure international protection for migrants and asylum seekers; to intensify the fight against criminal networks engaged in migrant smuggling and human trafficking; and to step up our cooperation on return and readmission.
At the summit we will also officially launch a European Trust Fund to support African countries dealing with border control, or fighting human smugglers, and to build opportunities – job opportunities, educational opportunities, resilience. The European Commission will make a first contribution of € 1.8 billion to the Fund. And our aim is to get as much money from our Member States, and other countries that want to contribute, as the Fund is open to contribution.
It is not about giving money in exchange for keeping migrants in the region, or having them returning. It is not an exchange. It is finding the resources to address a common interest: managing together the migration flows in all their aspects.
This is the key to addressing the migration crisis: opportunities. Creating new opportunities. The opportunity to live life free of fear and persecution. The opportunity to find a job, and a good one. The opportunity to contribute to your country's public life, through open and inclusive democratic processes. We can only deal with the current flow of migrants and refugees if we realise this is not about numbers, but about people – men and women seeking a better life. This is something the European Commission has been repeating for months. Europe can only manage migrations by working with you to create new opportunities in your countries.
And you can manage migration only by working with us. We need each other. We are together in this. And it will be building opportunities – not building walls – that will solve this crisis.
The challenges we face are huge, and they will not be easy to overcome. But if we join forces, I am sure we can make it. Our partnership has not yet met all its potential.
We need to build on the strength of being in the same part of this difficult world, somehow neighbours. And on a long history, not an easy one but one that makes us know each other well, for good and for bad. Geography and history make us natural and almost indispensable partners.
Let me go to the roots of my native language: latin. 'Ex Africa semper aliquid novi', 'From Africa always something new', said historian Plinius the Old. What comes in these days from Africa, what is new is the need, which we also share, of a new partnership looking to the future. Our common future. Thank you.