EU-Africa Summit 2021: Time to Reinvigorate Good Neighbourly Relations

Written by | Wednesday, October 21st, 2020

This year was supposed to be crucial for Europe-Africa relations, culminating in the sixth EU-African Union Summit, originally to be held on 28-29 October in Brussels. But with COVID-19 pandemic hitting both continents very hard, a decision was finally taken to postpone the summit to sometime in 2021. And „although that summit has now been postponed, EU-Africa was still on the agenda of the latest European Council meeting (15 October), mainly to show – to Africans and to Europeans – that member states take the relationship seriously,“ says Carl Michiels, Director of the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM). In his opinion piece titled ‚Memo to Michel‘, he suggests to Charles Michel, President of the European Council, that the 27 member states focus their discussions on several important issues: COVID-19, its health and economic consequences; economic growth, digitalization and integration; security and migration; Green Deal ‚with‘ Africa, climate crisis and green transition.
This is possible, according to Charles Michel, because „discussing EU-Africa is not divisive like other files.“ On the other hand, he argues that „the risks are lack of direction and imagination; and to fly on auto-pilot and see in a few years’ time that Africa has gone its own way. But with the right framing and deft handling, you can turn this agenda item from an orphan into a transformative discussion.“ Therefore, he welcomes the postponement of the summit because it gives both Europe and Africa the time to sit down and agree on some of these shared ideas. For Iratxe García, the leader of the Socialist and Democrat (S&D) group in the European Parliament, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of strong EU-African relations. As her political group launched its Africa Week (13-15 October), she told the media that S&D „advocates … value addition and inclusion of Africa in the global value and supply chains … besides, the sale of minerals is susceptible to price shocks on the global markets, it creates instability and uncertainty … just like we witnessed during this era of COVID-19.“
On the issue of the “resource curse”, García said that „it is also important to ensure that the natural resources are used to the benefit of the population, and not just a few … the problem is still there, and it is unfair. We all have a responsibility to turn natural resources into a blessing.“ The S&D group leader then also appealed to the EU to offer technical assistance in Africa‘s transition to become a leader in the production and use of renewable and efficient energy. „In Europe we already have big solar projects – some of them in my own country, Spain – and the experts who can help the transition to self-management in Africa. We also have to bear in mind that companies in the EU can partner with Africans in rolling out the energy infrastructure. This would not only generate energy but jobs on both sides,“ she said.

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