Europe faces major challenges within climate, migration, health and security. The likelihood of a solution highly depends on European cooperation throughout the African continent. However, if our two continents are to succeed, a prioritisation of the cooperation is required.
Africa is among Europe’s closest neighbour, with strong ties as a result of our shared interests. The EUs commitment to Africa has furthermore been clearly underlined by Ursula von der Leyen, who chose Addis Ababa as the destination for her first visit abroad. There, she presented an ambitious plan for a new EU-Africa strategy, in which climate, digitalisation and sustainability goals in particular were highlighted.
The EU-Africa partnership has thus already contributed to engagement in policy dialogues since it was established in 2000, and strives to bring Africa and Europe closer together through economic cooperation and promoting sustainable development. The ambition is to co-exist in solidarity, human dignity, democracy and security.
Confronted with global challenges, the EU and Africa are hence working together, with a commitment to an effective system that promotes their multilateral agenda. The significance of this cooperation is emphasised by the EUs minister of foreign affairs Josep Borrell, who has stated that:
«There is nothing more important for us from the point of view of climate change and migration than what is going to happen in Africa. Africa can count on our renewed support to meet its objectives in terms of sustainable development, digitalisation, climate change and governance, peace and security» (March 9th 2020).
Following the 5th African-EU Summit, the cooperation currently focuses on job creation, climate change and economic development. This reflects the vision of the African leaders´ transformative initiatives, including the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the African Continental Free Trade Area.
Africa is further home to over one billion people, and has 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 to transpire they need decent jobs, access to social services, energy and infrastructure, and an active role in determining their continent’s future. African women have especially proven to be key drivers of development and peace. Giving them the opportunity to take part in the development would therefore be crucial.
At the same time, several challenges remain. Thirty-six of the world’s most fragile countries are in Africa. Africa is further highly affected by the consequences of climate change, environmental degradation, and pollution. Large parts of the continent can become uninhabitable if we don’t succeed with the goals of the Paris Agreement. The EU and Africa must therefore work together to address these challenges and develop actions that ensure sustainable livelihoods and sustainable economic growth long-term.
Innovation is further a key to drive this green transition in Africa and Europe. Investments should therefore be geared towards strengthening scientific capacities in Africa by providing access and local adaptation to technologies, as well as educational cooperation. So far, the focus in EU-Africa educational cooperation has mainly been in primary schools. Higher education, research and innovation must therefore be prioritised to strengthen the scientific environment and innovation across the continent. The inclusion of Africa in the Erasmus+ program is therefore significant.
Ensuring long-lasting peace and security in Africa is moreover as much in Africa’s interest as it is in the EUs, as peace and security are fundamental conditions to succeed in the challenges we face. These goals can only be achieved through cooperation on the basis of our shared global commitments, where the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and Agenda 2063 is crucial for success.
The challenges facing Africa and Europe were already severe. However, the ongoing pandemic has worsened the situation considerably for both continents. The pandemic has thus resulted in the collaboration being more important than ever, and it is urgent. The pandemic and its consequences have among other things triggered concern that 25 years of important progress in Africa is now in danger of being reversed. Both continents will therefore be dependent on effective cooperation, if we are to solve the challenges of the present and save the generations to come.