EP Committee on International Trade
MEP Helmut Scholz
This report calls on the European Union to become aware of the fact that exhilarated, sustainable and inclusive economic development in Africa is in the interest of not only the AU and the people in all its 55 Member States. It is equally in the interest of the EU and the people in all its 27 Member States. Achieving the sustainable development targets agreed upon in the United Nations’ Agenda 2030 on both our continents must become the benchmark of success for our relations, including our trade and investment policies. I welcome in this regard, that the 6th EU – AU Summit on the 17th and 18th of February 2022 in Brussels was able to agree on a Joint Vision for 2030.
Quality investment in Africa today creates the conditions for flourishing and fair trade relations tomorrow. For too long, Africa has been reduced to supplying Europe, the U.S., Russia and, nowadays, China with raw materials and agricultural commodities, with its creative potential untapped and its ability to manufacture value-added products constrained. Due to the continued direction of trade from colonial times, wealth is being transferred continuously from the African periphery to the industrialised and increasingly digitised Centres. This has resulted in poverty for a huge share of the population in Africa. The EPAs were not able to change this.
Nevertheless, among its 1.2 billion people, half of which are youth, the growing view during recent years is to see Africa as the continent of the future. Pan-African projects like the African Continental Free Trade Area are perceived as bearing the potential to boost intra-regional trade and economic relations. The European Union and other international partners should actively support the strengthening of intra-regional links, including physically. The announcement of an investment package of at least 150 billion Euro announced at the EU – AU Summit in support of “our common ambition for 2030 and the AU Agenda 2063” came at the right moment.
The renewed EU-AU Partnership “A joint vision for 2030” by the EU-Africa summit at 18 February 2022 will only be successful, if all related crucial decisions are made jointly by the European and African partners, providing for a sense of ownership in the determination process of the objectives of both the commercial and investment policies. This simultaneously calls for increased consultation of civil society, including business, and in particular, the SME sector, from the various African partner countries about directions and conditions of investments, in order to enable a restructuring towards a self-reliant economic development in the interest of the citizens.
Our people and our economies are struggling to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic. Globally, households are plagued by inflation, as decade-high food prices drive poverty. Energy and mobility are becoming unaffordable for many. The war in Europe launched by Putin is likely to worsen the situation. The billions of Euros being now redirected into arms acquisition and ultimately in destruction exceed by far the means invested into an ecologically and socially future-proof planet.
Anti-cyclical investment is needed to stimulate the economies and trade. Rebuilding our economies is an opportunity to make them more sustainable and resilient, both in Europe and in Africa. Governments should be enabled to invest in health and education of the population as one of the keys to future well-being. Too often, debt prevents that. In the course of the pandemic, the number of low-income countries in debt distress has doubled to 60 percent, many of which are in Africa. As states have no reserves for economic stimulus packages, development
gaps could widen, forcing more and more people to leave home in search for jobs and survival. Climate change is dramatically adding to this situation, causing the loss of livelihood for millions of smallholder farmers and their families. We must learn to cherish the role of farmers in climate protection, and in the protection of regional food sovereignty and biodiversity.
Jointly, our continents have to and can work to limit climate change and to mitigate its consequences. We can invest in harvesting Africa’s enormous potential in renewable energies. First, we need to contribute to make clean energy available for all in Africa. Like in Europe, transition programmes jointly financed could help to move away from fossil fuelled economies and societies towards solar and other renewable energy sources. Making clean energy available in abundance can attract industry and digital service providers. Ultimately, Africa could become an exporter of its energy surplus to Europe. An economically strong African continent is the trading partner needed and desired by Europe for its own future.