A 10-POINT PLAN FOR A CLOSER EU-AFRICA PARTNERSHIP Europe is without doubt Africa’s most valuable partner

5 March Print

By Louis Michel A deeper relationship with Europe based on economic development is needed to unlock Africa’s potential, argues Louis Michel. He puts forward 10 concrete proposals.

 Africa, the cradle of humanity, is also the continent of the future. Its population is growing by 2.5% a year, twice as fast as average growth in the rest of the developing world, and at this rate sub-Saharan Africa will have 1.8bn people by 2050, one and a half times as many as India today. Its middle class, which may well reach 280m people by 2020, is Africa’s engine of change.
 Africa’s spectacular economic growth over the past 10 years has averaged more than 5% a year. Now courted by emerging powers as well as its traditional partners, the African continent has secured its place as an integral part of the global political and economic scene.

Globalisation offers the world unparalleled advantages. For it to be universally beneficial, though, it must be directed by governments that will seek to stimulate market forces while harnessing their power to improve the collective well-being, and that will forge social cohesion and consolidate democracy. In short, it must be driven by impartial governments that will scrupulously respect the rights and needs of individuals.

 It is the responsibility of governments to deal with crises – whether over the economy, finance, food, climate or energy – and to encourage research. That is why African countries must develop as quickly as possible “impartial public power” that will ensure universal access to education, culture, administration, justice, social and health services – the public goods that guarantee human dignity. To prevent abuses and excesses, African states must be involved in establishing ecologically sustainable funds, food security, energy and climate change governance, and managing natural resources.
 As Jacques Attali put it not long ago, we need “to dare to think the world”, and create a global political space. At present, global growth is managed by weak institutions with zero regulatory powers and there’s no global decision-making mechanism able to impose a course of conduct on international players. As no “universal law” exists, lessons must be drawn from the financial crisis. We need to understand that building global governance must be done in the context of the fast-growing global economy, and by giving it a political dimension when needed.
 When development issues cannot be managed at a national level, then they must be dealt with at a global one.

In today’s rapidly globalising world, Europe is without doubt Africa’s most valuable partner, and Africa is indisputably the most promising partner for Europe. Africans and Europeans together have the capacity to adapt globalisation so that it better reflects their shared values and respects their identities. Without such an alliance, we’ll have no choice over what direction globalisation takes. Europe is in a unique position with respect to Africa, and not just because of geography. History has left us with much in common. We share languages, and memories – often painful ones – of the colonial period. Since then, cultural exchanges, especially via diasporas, have created a web of human and personal connections between the two continents.

 Europe is not only Africa’s leading trade partner but also the leading importer of its agricultural goods. Europe represents 68% of direct foreign investment in Africa, and, most importantly, Europe has been the largest donor of aid to Africa – Official Development Assistance or ODA – over the past 40 years.
 The European Commission has worked with the African Union to re-establish a relationship in which both partners have equal rights and duties.
 The Lisbon summit in December 2007 marked the beginning of this new phase in relations, and in December 2010 at the summit in Tripoli, EU-ACP heads of government renewed their commitment for the years to come.

The major challenge that Africa faces is improving political and economic governance. At the political level, governance falls under the concept of the “just state”, a state that guarantees democracy and the fundamental rights of male and female citizens.

 The state must seek to ensure social cohesion by managing resources in a responsible and impartial way to make sure they are distributed fairly. Without social cohesion, it is unrealistic to count on a country’s citizens to show commitment, determination and active contribution. It is fundamentally important that each citizen has the right to be treated with fairness, justice, respect and dignity.

A state that invests, regulates and guarantees social cohesion and democracy must be able to restore the faith of those who are discouraged or worried about globalisation or innovation.

 At an economic level, the EU supplies more than half of the ODA that Africa receives. To overcome the hurdles that they face, however, poor countries need finance that goes well beyond what they can expect from future aid increases. Each percentage point of economic growth can benefit Africans more than the entire amount of the aid that the continent receives. This is not to say that there is any justification for reducing ODA, but that it is essential that Africa finds complementary sources of finance.
 To be effective, the EU-Africa partnership should adopt the following concrete proposals:

1.     Use a substantial part of ODA to promote economic development. Europe should focus its aid much more on supporting the emergence of an African economy driven by market forces, which is the only way to foster prosperity and finance the social services essential to public well-being.

  2.     Improve the business environment by supporting states based on laws that guarantee justice for companies, an impartial legislative framework and a macroeconomic context that favours private initiative.
 3.     Establish a tax system based on citizens’ ability to pay and on fair taxation of transparently exploited natural resources, giving states the means to carry out their missions.
 4.     Promote legal security for investments. The private sector, whether local or international, is ready to accept levies and take risks as long as it has a minimum of legal security. Investors will commit more easily if states put in place institutions and policies that respect human rights and strengthen the fight against corruption.

5.     Promote policies that support the development of small and medium-sized companies, which are vital to job creation. Access to credit, technology transfer, professional training and management must become high priorities.

 6.     Ensure the honest and fair exploitation of natural resources. This is essential in a global economy so that countries can avoid indebtedness as well as looting and an inadequate remuneration of exploited resources. This means strengthening the legal arsenal to ensure better traceability of minerals from illegal mining, through international market controls for natural resources that could be inspired by the Dodd-Frank Act passed by the U.S. Congress.
 7.     Require companies operating in developing countries to subscribe to a code of ethics – with particular reference to the legislation on corporate social responsibility – whose application should be contractually assessed and verified.
 8.     Propose triangular co-operation with emerging countries like China, India and Brazil in order to allow more virtuous approaches. The impressive growth of emerging economies is a source of inspiration for African countries, and as both donors and aid recipients, they occupy a unique position in development policy terms.

9.     Promote budget support rather than project aid. Budget support strengthens governance, increases the coherence of the national budget and, most importantly, commits states to setting priorities and achieving results. It allows full ownership by each country of its own development.

 10. Promote regional integration as an engine of economic development. We must push for the early conclusion of Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) so that developing countries can benefit from globalisation as soon as possible.

They need to invest more in education: good quality education, gender equality, strengthening of human resources, free meals at school, development of new ideas such as itinerant schools, multi-level teaching and alternative education programs. They should work towards a standard minimal level of social protection and also promote culture, which remains the most important expression of a people’s identity and is the foundation of social cohesion.

So it is up to all of us, whether Europeans or Africans, to rise to the challenges which we face, and to develop an essential alliance between two continents with a common destiny.Louis Michel MEP was Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister from 1999-2004 and European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid from 2004-2009. The article is published in the Spring issue of Europe’s World.

 

African countries must develop as quickly as possible “impartial public power” that will ensure universal access to education, culture, administration, justice, social and health services.

 

The major challenge that Africa faces is improving political and economic governance. At the political level, governance falls under the concept of the “just state” that guarantees democracy and fundamental rights.

 

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