European Union External Action

Remarks by High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini at the press conference on the 2018 State of the Union - a new "Africa-Europe Alliance for sustainable investment and jobs"

Bruxelles, 14/09/2018 - 17:54, UNIQUE ID: 180914_4
Statements by the HR/VP

Remarks by High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini at the press conference on the 2018 State of the Union - a new "Africa-Europe Alliance for sustainable investment and jobs"

Brussels, 14 September 2018

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You might remember that when we started our mandate four years ago, we said that it was not enough, it was not good anymore to work just for Africa, but that we wanted to shift the paradigm and start working with Africa.

In these last four years, we have been building step by step a different kind of partnership with Africa.   A partnership of equals, with the continent that is the closest to Europe – only fourteen kilometres away from our coast. A continent whose development and security guarantees also Europe's development and security

So, we have turned the page, shifting from a donor-recipient kind of relationship – the traditional one, based on development aid and humanitarian aid – to a partnership, based first and foremost on our political partnership. We work with Africa very closely on most global issues, starting from the multilateral frameworks in the United Nations. We work with Africa very closely on peace and security, especially in the Sahel, in the Horn of Africa, on all the different and many crises that are there.

But we have started since a couple of years, together with Vice-President [for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, Jyrki] Katainen and Commissioner [for International Cooperation and Development, Neven] Mimica, to work on the economic partnership between the European Union and Africa.

Now we are taking a new step in this direction, launching an "Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs", and this will be a major priority for our work in the year ahead.

This is a commitment we have taken and we have discussed with our African partners last year, when we had the EU-African Union Summit in Abidjan, where we discussed together with our African partners the fact that we have a joint interest in investment investing in all the rest - development aid stays, but all the rest is also important: trade, economic relations, investments, including private ones.

Over the last years, we have already strengthened our cooperation with Africa enormously and we have launched a couple of years ago a European External Investment Plan to bring more private investment to Africa.

Now, the next step, today, is to deepen our trade and investment relationship. We are already and by far Africa's first partner in trade, investment and development. I can give you a couple of numbers: 36% of Africa's trade is with the EU; the European investment is almost €300 billion a year. I hear a lot about China's presence in Africa. Let me give you one number: if EU trade with Africa is 36%, China's trade with Africa is 16%; if EU Foreign Direct Investment in Africa is 40%, China's is 5%.  So, I think that it would be good for us to realise how strong our partnership already is and now we are proposing to increase it to a new level.

Jyrki [Katainen] and Neven [Mimica] will share more details about the proposal itself, but I would like to underline one specific point that is particularly close to my heart and also to my work in these years: youth, the investment in the younger generation of the continent, which sometimes is seen as a "ticking bomb", when it is actually the greatest opportunity for growth of the continent.

Every time we have travelled to Africa – I have done it many times in these last years – we meet young entrepreneurs who are creating, for instance, online services, we meet young women, who are starting businesses mixing tradition and innovation and providing services to their communities. These are only two aspects of the creativity of the young generation in Africa that is ready and willing to work for the economic development of their own continent.

They often lack education and training, they often lack access to financial opportunities, and this is why we have proposed with this package, instruments to support the younger generation of Africa.

First of all, we propose to support Africa's own kind of Erasmus scheme with more funding to education that would allow the African youth to invest in their own training and education.  We will increase our support for scholarships and exchange programmes with the goal of letting over 100,000 students benefit from Erasmus+ in the next 10 years, and with the goal of also giving vocational training to 750,000 young Africans by 2020.

There is a huge potential in Africa. I know that we always refer to the continent in relation to either migration or conflicts and crises. The idea of this package is to focus on the opportunities and on the common interest we have to work together in partnership on economic development.

I will be travelling to Africa next month– in particular to the Horn of Africa and also to meet again with our friends at the African Union to follow up on these proposals. There will be also opportunities for me personally and for others among us to discuss these ideas and these proposals at the next UN General Assembly in New York in ten days from now.


Questions and Answers

Many things changed in the world and changed in the last years, but one thing that does not change is the regularity of the grand announcements of plans on Africa and what does not change is the discrepancy, or the gap, between the scale of the ambitions announced and the reality.


The easy answer would be "wait and see" but that would be too easy.

I would say ask the Africans or just look at what our partners in Africa, starting from the President of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki [Mahamat] stated last time he was here in Brussels; or what our friends from the G5 Sahel said last time they were here in June -  and they are here regularly.

I asked them what has changed in these months, in these couple of years, and what they see is changing in the European Union's attitude compared to a few years ago.  They replied already in these last couple of months and they will reply again, I believe, that what has changed is that the approach now is based on partnership.

I mentioned the fact that this package is based on discussions we had at the last Summit in Abidjan between the African Union and the European Union and the turning point has been that. At the Summit, we discussed together with the African Union and its Member States their priorities to see where their priorities matched ours. And we found that economic investments, jobs creation, trade, were common priorities for both of us, for different reasons.

Ask our business community in Europe, across the continent, if they do not know already that Africa is a big market and has a lot of potential for investments, for infrastructure, for energy, for digital.

There is not only a new narrative - which is also important - but there is a new approach, that we discuss priorities together and that we put forward proposals that respond not only to our interests, but also for their interests.

There is also the money. There is a different approach that is based on the experience of the Juncker Plan. There is an approach that mixes our budget that is already enormous for Africa. I asked to get an approximate figure on how much money the European Union provides in Africa in different sectors every year and it is around €20 billion a year. Our money in Africa is a lot.

Now, the effort is to bring also private investments to Africa with an eye on the environment they are going to invest into. You mentioned that and this is very important: anti-corruption, rule of law, human rights – I am not afraid of saying that, on the contrary, I am quite outspoken on that - the role of youth and women in their societies, transparency, participation, and the list could continue. This is also part of an investment in an environment that would attract investments and trade and that would make the economic development of Africa much more sustainable and effective.

So, there is a lot that has changed. Obviously, this effort will need to be sustained by our Member States as well. Here I make an appeal to our Member States to be coherent, because when they say that Africa is a priority and must be the priority and they ask for the Commission to put EU budget into that kind of relationship, then they have to match it with national budget. This is, let us say, still to be properly done, at least by many.

We are discussing now with the Development Ministers exactly this priority - the priority of our relationship with Africa.

I think that the real change will be when Jyrki [Katainen] will discuss with the Ministers that work with him on investments in Africa - not only the Development Ministers or the Foreign Ministers. But we will get there, I am sure, because this is exactly the kind of approach we are proposing and I think there is an understanding of the fact that we have to move forward with a much broader and consistent view.


Ms Mogherini, you said that youth in Africa is often seen as a time bomb but in fact, it is one of the greatest opportunities that Africa has. Do you think that this demographic problem in Africa – the fact that the population is exploding – can get under control?


There is a demographic problem in Africa. Let me say, it is first and foremost a demographic problem for the women of Africa; sometimes this perspective is missing. We only see the problem of the population growing; we do not see this from the perspective of those that are giving birth and maybe, we should introduce a human element in this.

So, yes, there is a challenge there that needs to be tackled. I know that many African leaders, including many women that are African leaders, are trying to address this in a context that has a culture and a tradition that is not used to managing this.

Having said that, I would always refuse to consider the young generation of Africa as a problem in itself, because I have met them. I know them. We have been working with them across the continent over these last four years and I can tell you that when you point out at the lack of transparency, you point out the corruption, you point out at the problem of rule of law, of democracy, of participation, the answer is in the younger generation of Africa.

So, no, the youth of Africa is not a problem. The youth of Africa is the biggest resource Africa has, I guess and I know together with the women of Africa and especially the young women of Africa - because we always separate into categories, forgetting that there are also young women that are taking a growing space in society and this is something we are supporting.

It does not mean that we deny that there is a demographic challenge in the continent, but we cannot imagine that a generation or a couple of generations, for the continent are a burden. No, they are the best energy of the continent; they are incredibly willing to invest in their own continent, in their own way, but they are lacking the means for doing that.

This is why I focused in my introduction especially on our investment in education for the African youth and on the support that we are trying to give, in particular, to youth across all the different sectors of support and investment in this package.

Uno degli obiettivi di quest'alleanza è di arrivare ad un area di libero scambio tra Unione Europea e Africa. E' realistico dal punto di vista politico avere quest'obiettivo nel momento in cui in Europa – penso - ci sono forze del governo nel paese che conosciamo meglio che dicono no alle quote libere da dazi dall'olio tunisino che erano state introdotte per aiutare l'economia tunisina nel tentativo di rafforzare la democrazia?

Credo che sia realistica, politicamente ed anche da un punto di vista economico, la creazione nel lungo periodo di un'area di libero scambio tra Unione Europea e Africa. Innanzitutto l'Africa sta già lavorando sulla sua area di libero scambio e noi la stiamo sostenendo. Abbiamo deciso di sostenere questo lavoro  - con €50 milioni iniziali per 2018-2020. Sostenere l'economia inter-africana – gli scambi, è un modo fondamentale per incoraggiare e per sostenere il loro sviluppo economico.

La prossimità geografica, culturale, la storia che l'Europa ha con l'Africa può consentirci in prospettiva questo scenario. Ho precedentemente citato delle cifre: già adesso i beni commerciati in Africa sono il 36% provenienti dell'UE. Siamo i primi investitori in Africa, con il 40% degli investimenti diretti esteri in Africa.

Spesso pensiamo che la Cina sia la presenza economica più forte in Africa, invece la Cina investe il 5%, e l'UE il 40% degli investimenti diretti esteri in Africa. Questa base di relazione economica forte che i nostri imprenditori europei conoscono molto bene può essere la base realistica per lavorare in prospettiva verso un'area di libero scambio.

Questo richiederebbe una politica coerente, non soltanto dalla parte delle Istituzioni europee, ma anche da parte degli Stati membri. Noi abbiamo proposto di aumentare del 30% il bilancio dell'UE per il prossimo periodo finanziario dedicato all'azione esterna dell'Unione.

Abbiamo proposto di prevedere per il prossimo bilancio europeo 40 miliardi di euro da dedicare al nostro con lavoro con l'Africa. Mi aspetto che gli Stati membri che dicono che il lavoro con l'Africa è prioritario sostengono questa proposta.

Do you still believe that the European Union will support a solution in the relations between Kosovo and Serbia if the solution is an exchange of territory, which means the changing of borders of existing countries most of whom are also candidate countries and potential candidates for EU?

I think we stick to Africa here, but I have answered your question many times in the last ten days. So, you can go and check my statements. But, yes, I still believe that a solution is possible.


Link to the opening remarks:

Link to the Q&A: