The political, economic and social futures of the two continents are linked, write Jean-Yves Le Drian, Heiko Maas, Augusto Santos Silva and Anže Logar
On October 26, the European Union and African Union foreign ministers will meet in Kigali for the first AU-EU ministerial meeting since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. This gathering is of particular importance, as it will set the stage for the next AU-EU summit in 2022.
These two events underline the relevance of the EU-Africa partnership as a key priority of our foreign policies. It is not only geography that makes Europe and Africa natural allies. The two continents share a deep attachment to the principles of multilateralism, international cooperation and the rules-based international order. Our political, economic and social futures are linked.
The pandemic was another reminder that we must work together to build our common future. For this, we must take into account the increased political, security and economic role of the African continent, linked to the responsibility to promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth to ensure prospects for its young populations. To achieve this, investing in people – in quality education, skills development and access to decent work – is an essential part of our common efforts. Special attention should be paid to investing in education, health and economic opportunities for women and girls, which are fundamental to realizing the continent’s human capital.
The two continents benefit from a rules-based world order and regional integration. They also benefit from digital transformation and understand the importance of making it cyber-resilient and people-centered.
With its enormous renewable energy potential and rich biodiversity, we are counting on Africa to become a key partner in the pursuit of a more sustainable world, in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2063 of the African Union. The transition should not be seen as an obstacle but as the cornerstone of cleaner and more sustainable economic growth, improving connectivity and generating new and better jobs for young Africans and Europeans, while addressing important global challenges. climate change and the scarcity of natural resources, especially water.
We note that other global players have rightly realized the considerable economic and geostrategic importance of the continent. Europe remains, by far, Africa’s main trading partner, largest investor and most trusted ally in the pursuit of peace and security. We must build on this partnership and deepen our cooperation in a spirit of equality, solidarity and even greater mutual respect.
The meeting of African and European Union foreign ministers will address all these issues, as will the forthcoming Europe-Africa Summit. It will be an opportunity to recognize the road traveled together so far and to address the common challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
The three consecutive presidencies of the Council of the European Union by Germany, Portugal and Slovenia and the forthcoming one by France have strongly supported the vision of a renewed and mutually reinforcing political partnership between Africa and the Europe, which defines new roles on both sides.
Taking to heart the European Commission’s proposal for a ‘Global Strategy with Africa’, in a concerted effort as a ‘Team Europe’, the EU and its Member States have endeavored to expand a global mechanism for equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments; and strengthen African health systems by supporting vaccine manufacturing in Africa.
We also approved a new set of ambitious instruments such as the European Peace Facility (EPF) and the Neighborhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI), providing the EU with a better toolbox for work alongside our African partners in the areas of peace. , security, good governance, global challenges and sustainable development.
In addition, throughout the past year and a half, we have undertaken various initiatives related to debt relief and the promotion of new investments and finance for the continent, whether through the G20 Compact with Africa, hosted by Germany in August, the EU High Level Conference -Africa Green Investment Forum, co-hosted by Portugal and the EIB in April, or the Summit on Financing African Economies, hosted by France in May. Through these initiatives, we have sought to create building blocks for the upcoming summit, which should guide the efforts of the EU-Africa partnership to advance a truly sustainable post-COVID recovery. Further supporting the gradual implementation of the African Union Continental Free Trade Area will be another important step in this regard.
As the 6th EU-AU Summit approaches, it is time to put into practice our ambition for a deeper and more substantial common agenda. The Summit will also be an opportunity to explore synergies and links with the new framework for cooperation with African, Caribbean and Pacific States, as envisioned in the post-Cotonou Agreement.
We are not only united by common strategic interests, but also linked by the vision of a partnership that benefits the peoples of both continents. The pandemic has shown how closely our destinies are intertwined. Using this experience creates an unparalleled opportunity – for Africa and for Europe.
Le Drian, Maas, Santos Silva and Logar are respectively French, German, Portuguese and Slovenian Foreign Ministers