Europe in Africa: AU-EU Summit, EU’s Global Gateway for Africa and Covid Jabs’ Absorption

Written by | Monday, February 14th, 2022

EU-AU SUMMIT —- The upcoming European Union-Africa Union summit that will be held in Brussels on 17-18 February – organized under the French EU and Senegalese AU presidencies – will “completely overhaul” the partnership, according to French president Emmanuel Macron. But while the EU seems rather optimistic, the African side reacts much more cautiously also given the complex agenda. Health and Covid-19 could monopolies a major part of the discussions. While the EU will repeat its promises to deliver more vaccines and its readiness to support pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity in Africa, some African leaders may consider this to be too little too late. But also other tensions could rise for the partnership. With its €300bn Global Gateway investment plan, the EU hopes to boost large-scale investments in infrastructure, transport, energy, digital and green transitions, but African leaders may view the plan simply as a smart rebranding of earlier European funding promises. Moreover, the African side is reluctant to engage in discussions on energy and the green transformation during the summit, as it first wants to come to grips with the possible consequences of European measures, including the EU carbon border adjustment mechanism. Also, the growing political insecurity and instability in west and central Africa and in the Horn of Africa might cause a headache. The civil war in Ethiopia, the turmoil and growing jihadist terror in the Sahel, along with five recent military coups have given rise to strong popular reactions against Europe, and France in particular.
€150 BILLION INVESTMENT PLAN FOR AFRICA —- African states look set to benefit from the EU’s Global Gateway investment scheme worth over €150 billion, with billions earmarked for infrastructure projects. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who is on a two-country Africa trip to promote Europe’s Global Gateway investment scheme. The Commission chief made the announcement on Thursday (10 February) in a joint press conference with Senegal President Macky Sall, who has just taken the reins of the African Union. “Today, I’m happy to announce over €150 billion for the Africa-Europe program. It is the first regional plan under Global Gateway two months after the launch of the strategy,” von der Leyen said. The Global Gateway initiative seeks to invest €300 billion in public and private infrastructure schemes around the world by 2027. The funding comes by way of a combination of EU funds, member state investments and capital raised by European investment banks. The scheme has been presented by Brussels as a big step for the EU in building influence around the world. The European Union said the Global Gateway Africa-Europe investment package would see EU members support projects in priority areas. The investment plan is widely considered to be a response to China’s Belt and Road initiative, which also seeks to develop infrastructure around the world and began in 2013.
PROBLEM WITH COVID VACCINE ABSORPTION IN AFRICA —- Top EU officials have said low absorption of Covid-19 vaccines in African countries had become the main problem in the global vaccine rollout following a recent increase in supplies of jabs. This comes as the World Health Organization’s regional head for Africa said that Africa is transitioning out of the pandemic phase of its Covid-19 outbreak and moving towards a situation where it will be managing the virus long term. “The pandemic is moving into a different phase,” Dr Matshidiso Moeti said. “We think that we’re moving now, especially with the vaccination expected to increase, into what might become a kind of endemic living with the virus.” African nations began their vaccine campaigns much later than wealthier states which rushed to secure the initially limited doses starting in late 2020. But in recent months, supplies have increased exponentially, and many states have trouble absorbing them, with some, such as Congo and Burundi, having reportedly used less than 20% of available doses. “The problem seems no longer to be the level of donations,” France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told a news conference in Lyon on Wednesday, adding that “the problem is absorption.” However, the European Commission chief said the EU would keep sending doses to Africa, with the aim of delivering 450 million vaccines by mid-year, three times higher than the volume already shared. According to Le Drian, vaccine absorption will be a key issue at a summit of EU and African Union leaders next week in Brussels.

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