The EU’s relationship with Africa is a key priority for the new Commission, which launched earlier this year the basis for a new strategy with Africa. In his first video blog (“vlog”), HR/VP Josep Borrell elaborates on this and reflects on EU-Africa relations - following the European Council’s recent discussion on this subject.
The vlog focuses on five key topics: 1) The EU-Africa partnership and why it is important, 2) The impact of the coronavirus and how the EU and Africa cooperate on combatting the Covid-19 pandemic, 3) How to manage the partnership in practice, 4) The relationship with view to migration, 5) The implications of the EU Green Deal for EU-African relations.
In answering these questions, HR/VP Borrell underlines that the EU has to be ambitious, but realistic, should be clear about its interests, and that it is crucial to be concrete and visible to achieve results.
In addition to the written blog posts, the HR/VP’s personal Blog A Window on the World will as of now feature regularly vlogs on pertinent EU foreign policy issues presenting his view.
HR/VP vlog on the partnership between Europe and Africa
Well, last week, the European Union Council discussed about Africa - about the European Union partnership with Africa. And I wasn't able to attend because I was in quarantine by Covid-related measures. But I followed this discussion and in the coming weeks, we'll have to continue reaching out to Africa in order to prepare the Summit between African Union leaders and European Union leaders. So we are going to talk a lot about Africa in the next days. Let's start.
Q: Why does Africa matter and why should we invest more into EU-Africa relations?
Africa matters a lot for a fundamental reason: because our political, economic and security interests are at stake. Instability in Libya or in the Sahel or in Somalia affects our security. And from a demographic and economic point of view, we are going to build our future, for the good or for the bad, in Africa.
And also because we are the first partner of the continent - we have been the first partner, we still are in many areas – but we are facing more and more competition. Africa has become a field for geopolitical competition - a competition for resources, and they have immense resources, and for influence. Third countries are there and they are playing against us, against our influence and our capacity to be the partners of African people. And also because the pandemic will have dramatic effects and the needs will be so huge that our African partners will understandably look for quick wins; they will turn to partners that offer us the quickest and the easiest and the least conditional support. And we have to table something serious if we want to keep the pace with them.
Q: How do you see the impact of the coronavirus on Africa? And how should Europe work with Africa to deal with the consequences?
We were very much afraid about the virus reaching Africa, but I have to say that according to the information available, it seemed that Africa is handling this crisis much better than expected - from the health point of view, better than expected. But the economic impact is going to be severe. Everything that is a source of income will be reduced. So it's going to create political tensions and social inequality. So we have to be ready to support them because it is a way of supporting ourselves. You know, last time I went to Addis Ababa, the African leaders told me: "Well, you came here in the beginning of the mandate of the new Commission, saying that you were going to be the best partner of Africa". Well, now the virus has come and this is a big opportunity for you to really prove that you are going to be the best partner of Africa.
Q: How do we manage this strategic partnership in practice?
I think that we have to be as ambitious as realistic. We can't do everything everywhere. We have to focus on sectors where we have an added value - and we have it. In renewable energy for example, we have the expertise, we have the technology, we have the financing capacities. On that we are the best - well, one of the best. And Africa has a potential that is unmatched. So let's join forces and let Europe become “the partner of choice” for Africa in this area. The second thing that we Europeans need in our relationship with Africa is to stand more united. There are the Member States of the European Union and then there are the European Union institutions and both have to work together. That's what we call the "Team Europe". We are a team and we start doing that with our answer and our support when the pandemic came. And this idea of working together has to be further developped. It should not to be the exception, but the rule. And last but not least, I think that we have to be more concrete, more concrete and visible. Apart from the great sentences like "We are their biggest and better partner", we have to go to concrete steps so that people can visualise that we are really a good partner. Let's put an example. Our support to the WTO candidate, an African candidate. And I think that the Europeans should be behind this candidate or pushing for a debt relief and not just delaying payments, but real debt relief restructuring.
Q: How do you see the relationship between Africa and Europe on migration?
You know, the European people look at Africa through the eyes of migration. For many European people Africa is a source of migrants. They are watching on their TV screens almost every day people trying to go through the Mediterranean, to the European shores, and some of them die on the travel. But, you know, 90% of the overseas migration from Africa is through regular channels. For sure, there is a big demographic imbalance between Europe and Africa. And this imbalance will be growing. We are an old society and they are a very young society. And this imbalance has to be managed, pushing for their development and sharing with them many things. We need their skills. We need their young people. We need their products. We cannot refuse that at the same time there are people and there are products. If we want to be partners we have to share both things.
Q: How can you sell the Green Deal to a sceptical African audience?
For us the Green Deal, is a new economic growth strategy, is a new model for creating jobs, green jobs. And it is not going to be easy, but the sooner we start, the lower will be the cost and the sooner we will get the benefits. But I have to recognise that if you go to a refugee camp in Africa and you see hundreds of thousands of people there, it's quite abstract and distant from their reality to tell them that "Don't worry! Your future will be green and digital". They will tell you "And what about my present?". And that's true, we have to make the link between how we build the future and how we face the challenges of the present. And we have to present the Green Deal not as a hidden form of protectionism. It's a way of building the future better. Tackling climate change is not a luxury, is not a 'top-up' coming from the Western world. It's something that we can afford and the others cannot. We need to engage Africa on the next wave of economic development, and the Green Deal is the next wave of economic development. And maybe they can learn from our mistakes or not to do this thing the same way we did.
Q: What strikes you most when you think about Africa?
Children - children and young people. The streets of Africa are full of young people, full of children. If you compare with Europe, where we are missing children, there are plenty of them. It's a young society and you see the figures. The proportion of people below 20 years old in Africa is incredibly high. And this is an asset, this is wealth. And the other thing is landscapes - the immensity or their landscapes, the diversity of their landscapes. The part of the nature in the geography is still much bigger in Africa. We have a domesticated nature and there nature is still nature.