Thursday, 06 March, 2014
Africa and EU stakeholders issue key messages to shape the future of Africa-EU Partnership
As the preparations of the IV Summit of the Africa-EU Partnership reach the final stage, African and European stakeholders gathered at the 6th Lunch-time Seminar on 6 March 2014 to express their expectations regarding the Partnership as well as to make suggestions on how it can deliver tangible results in the future. The seminar attracted more than 130 participants from African and European organisations, think-tanks, Embassies and representatives from Member States, witnessing the great level of interest by stakeholders involved in the inter-continental partnership.
The panel of speakers of this 6th and last Lunch-time Seminar comprised a variety of stakeholders. Françoise Moreau, Head of the Pan-African Unit at the European Commission, opened the seminar by laying down the context and providing a summary of the key messages of the first five seminars. Lord Paul Boateng, Member of the UK Parliament set the discussion by providing his reactions to these key messages. Interventions from other involved stakeholders followed, including Alix Masson from the European Youth Forum, Joseph Chilengi representing the Africa-EU Civil Society Steering Committee, Serguei Ouattara from the EU-Africa Chamber of Commerce representing the private sector, Xavier Verboven from the European Economic and Social Committee and Sally Nicholson from the Africa Civil Society Steering Committee. Speakers from African and European States included H.E. Ms Brave Ndisale, Ambassador of Malawi; Filip David from the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs; H.E. Mr. Jagdish Koonjul, Ambassdor of Mauritius, as well as François Cornet d’Elzius from the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Moreover, Geert Laporte, Deputy Director of the think-tank ECDPM issued his views followed by Dr. Nick Westcott, Managing Director for Africa at the EEAS, who informed participants on the negotiation process in preparation of the Summit, and H.E. Ajay K. Bramdeo, Head of Mission of the AUC to the EU, who delivered a few closing remarks. The session was moderated by Laura Shields, a senior associate at 'The Media Coach', in an interactive manner allowing speakers and the audience to respond to each other's statements.
The panellists collectively acknowledged the relevance of the Africa-EU Partnership, emphasising the 'two-way street approach', while also noting the complex character of that Partnership which inevitably leads to implementation challenges. The views expressed particularly pointed out the need for three sets of actions:
(a) Consolidate and build on results achieved by the Partnership in a constructive manner;
(b) Draw more from potential of both continents, focussing on common interests, the value of people-to-people exchanges and 'knowing each other', involving the private
sector and business, broadening the circle to actors outside the traditional 'development' community;
(c) Develop mutual understanding for respective priorities, identities and cultures to achieve concrete results.
- Restart the regular political dialogue as a driver of the Partnership between Summits: the horizontal and sectoral political dialogue at ministerial level is considered a necessity to steer the relations between the two continents.
- Mutual recognition of results and creation of higher impact: Africa and Europe should raise the visibility of positive achievements made so far, particularly in the areas of Peace and Security, Maritime Security, Democratic Governance, Human Rights, Fight against Trafficking of Cultural Goods, Migration, Research and Innovation, Infrastructure, Space technology applications, Capacity Building and make more efforts towards improving the direct impact on populations in Africa and Europe.
- Create more awareness on the partnership in African and EU States: It was pointed out that the Partnership should be further promoted at a national level in Africa with the help of civil society, in particular organisations unrelated to development cooperation, and that particularly new EU Member States should be sensitized for the strategic interest of the Africa-EU Partnership for both sides.
- Deliver a ‘people-centred’ partnership by reinforcing the participation of and support to African and European youth organisations and civil society. Empowerment of and strategic support to non-institutional stakeholders are seen as an essential element if the two continents are to realise the potential and opportunities of their relationship.
TAPPING ON NEW OPPORTUNITIES AND THE POTENTIAL OF THE TWO CONTINENTS
- Africa is the last frontier to investment: Market opportunities in Africa are unknown to many EU firms; Africa and EU private sectors need to develop a mutual understanding to more effectively work with each other (e.g. lack of communication facilities may affect response times, cultural differences including business cultures need to be understood and addressed).
- Africa and Europe can make a difference in tackling global solutions: Cumulatively representing nearly one half of UN membership, Africa and EU can be very influential in tackling global issues, such as the ongoing negotiations on Climate Change and the Post-2015 development framework.
- Invest more in social protection: More African countries are realising the importance of investing in social protection to achieve equitable and sustainable growth and can draw useful know-how from Europe in this area.
- Mainstream Science and Technology in all partnership areas: Africa and Europe should invest more in Research, Science, Technology and Innovation, for example to boost agricultural production. Universities and the private sector should be invited to collaborate more and play a key role in this venture.
- Boost the investment in the African and European youth: Employment, prosperity and peace on both continents require more inclusion of and financial support to joint youth activities. A proposal was made to put in place joint youth volunteering and youth innovation programmes that could help the youth to deepen mutual understanding and develop more opportunities for mobility and exchange as well as to promote youth entrepreneurship on both continents.
DEVELOP MUTUAL UNDERSTANDING FOR RESPECTIVE PRIORITIES, IDENTITIES AND CULTURES
- Take a fresh look at each other: Mutual perceptions that both continents have of each other need to change and old stereotypes should be avoided. Africa offers solutions to many of Europe’s problems and vice-versa. Whereas Africa should not solely perceive Europe as a neo-colonial power in Africa, Europe should not look at Africa as a continent ravaged by conflicts and as a mere source of problems.
- Take into consideration the cultural identity and differences between EU and Africa: There should be mutual respect while trying to have agreements in terms of human rights, political, social and economic aspects without any cultural alienation between the EU and Africa.
- Work smarter: There was a general recognition of the need to prioritise more in order to achieve better, more tangible and visible results and to build momentum. Meanwhile, it was acknowledged that prioritisation processes require time and resources, specifically when it comes to developing joint priorities.
- Lead the way through “coalitions of the willing” between peer groups of African and EU ministers and/or 'JAES ambassadors' that can be practical mechanisms for reaching useful outcomes.
- Apply the principle of equality to the Partnership: Although the principle is recognised in the JAES, it is not systematically applied by either side. While Europe should sometimes use less prescriptive approaches and avoid double standards Africa should make an effort to increasingly finance its own initiatives and thus ensure greater ownership.
- Acknowledge that the partnership is a 2-way process: Africa can teach lessons from which Europe can learn and vice-versa; Be more explicit about interests: Both partners should define their interests more clearly in order to develop an understanding of mutual priorities and thus to facilitate cooperation.
- Deal with irritants, tensions and contradictions: The ongoing negotiations on the EPAs have been a main irritant impacting on the Partnership over the last years. Meanwhile, a deal was struck in West Africa on the conclusion of an EPA with the EU which could lead to a more open and constructive discussion on the topic. Other irritants relate to the overly normative approaches and conditionality applied by the EU whereas the EU criticises a lack of progress on the Africa side to become less dependent on EU funds in spite of numerous declarations to build a partnership that is no longer dominated by aid.
- Show results on issues that matter on continental level to build momentum: The Partnership should put more emphasis on global issues that impact on both continents such as multilateral negotiations, reform of international institutions, mobility, global threats.
- Establish more effective delivery and monitoring mechanisms: home-grown processes and systems should be used and supported to achieve better results and create ownership. Moreover, performance indicators should be agreed to measure progress and impact as well as the efficiency of political decisions. This will help to measure the value and investment done in fora and workshops and correlate it with practical achievement in the field.
- Involving diaspora: The African diaspora in Europe and the European diaspora in Africa need to be involved in discussions on the Partnership. Their unique role in promoting entrepreneurship, creating job opportunities and sharing experience should be acknowledged.
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