The Herald (Zimbabwe)

Africa’s chance to bridge gap with EU

It is possible to tackle peace and security challenges within a continent that has some of the best opportunit­ies for investment.

- Carlos Lopes Correspond­ent Dr Carlos Lopez is the High Representa­tive of the AUC chairperso­n on AU-EU partnershi­p. This opinion is extracted from a speech he delivered at the 31st AU Summit in Mauritania on July 1, 2018.

THE absolute hero of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde and a leading historical Pan-African figure, Amílcar Cabral, was named by his father after the Carthagini­an General Hamilcar Barca, the one that in 241 BC conquered Sicily before occupying most of Iberia.

He was born in what is today’s Libya and was one of the most admired leaders of that state that sat in what is today’s Tunisia.

This serves as just a quick reminder of the deep historical connection­s that exist between two continents that were to live, throughout history, moments of intrinsic relations that went from trade to slave trade, from collaborat­ion to colonial domination, from independen­ce to exploitati­on. We now all want partnershi­p.

The same way our relations cannot be reduced to the Lomé or Cotonou Agreements, our deep-rooted rapport with the various regions cannot be reduced to the tight terms of the ACP configurat­ion. Political, cultural and historical arguments can easily demonstrat­e the incongruen­ce of lumping together these three groups, except if one refers to the EU institutio­nal preference­s, to which all of us have adjusted to.

For the “A” in the ACP does not refer to the whole of Africa, the same way the “C” does not include all the Caribbean, or even less the “P” refers to the known Pacific states.

The three regions in the ACP are lumped together because of the developmen­t aid typology. The same way some African countries are lumped together with a Bangladesh within the LDC typology or others are lumped with Kazakhstan as part of the land-locked states, and so on.

This anomaly has long been detected by the European Union. It was addressed along the way with a proliferat­ion of institutio­nal arrangemen­ts that have surpassed the ACP Cotonou Agreement. As far as Africa is concerned, the various arrangemen­ts surpass the ACP framework literally left, right and centre.

Just as a reminder, the EU has developed: ◆ A developmen­t cooperatio­n instrument ◆ A European Neighbourh­ood Policy ◆ A European instrument for democracy and human rights ◆ A support mechanism for the foreign and security policy ◆ A humanitari­an ECHO financing mechanism ◆ An instrument contributi­ng to stability and peace ◆ An instrument for nuclear safety and cooperatio­n ◆ An African investment facility ◆ A European Developmen­t Fund ◆ The various Economic Partnershi­p Agreements ◆ An EU partnershi­p framework for migration ◆ The Valetta Action Plan with the Khartoum and Rabat processes ◆ And a Joint Africa-EU Strategy To these 13 arrangemen­ts, one could add special bilateral framework and agreements.

In this maze, there is one loser: African regional integratio­n. By engaging in them, Africa punches below its weight, certainly not at its weight, much less above its weight.

Allow me to quickly give some indication­s that substantia­te this statement. On the governance dimension: The Joint Africa-EU Strategy calls for the highest level of strategic engagement like we saw in Abidjan in November 2017 and like Africa does with the great powers of the world. Yet the binding instrument­s I just described transform the strategy into a secondary show. Moreover, the support to Africa-wide initiative­s is separated from the rest of the engagement­s with envelopes for a Pan-African programme (basically support to the AU and its subsidiari­es) and an African Peace Facility. On the trade dimension: The negotiatio­n of EPAs left marks that partly explain the lack of ratificati­ons to transform them into the key trade instrument­s they were supposed to become. With the AfCFTA, it will be necessary to review the continent-to-continent trade engagement­s. Moreover, such developmen­t will actually highlight African trade importance for Europe.

With the AfCFTA, Africa will rank as the fourth partner of the EU, only after the United States, China and Switzerlan­d, but above all of Latin America and the Caribbean combined, and much more important than countries like Canada or Australia, not to mention it will be seen as having 3,5 times the importance of European trade with India.

There is something unique about our trade relations that should be seen like an alert, moving forward. From 2003 to 2014, Africa always had a trade surplus with Europe that even got to the amount of $35,7 billion in the record year of 2013. Yet since 2015, the trend was reversed attaining nowadays close to a $30 billion deficit. The message is clear, all the so-called concession­s that were given to us in the last years are provoking the opposite effect. They are producing losses. On the financing dimension: The total volume of aid received annually by Africa from Europe stands at around $21 billion. Our migrants in Europe remit around $30 billion. Mathematic­ally speaking, it would appear that it is a good deal for us to have migrants stay where they are. But I will come to that in a minute.

Financial flows from Europe to Africa are declining fast. The EU as a whole is still the largest investor on the continent, but its role is being eroded fast by China and with Brexit, a big chunk of the EU’s investment stock in Africa will be sliced away.

Strictly from the European Investment Fund, what is currently available is $3,3 billion, which is equivalent to one mid-sized infrastruc­ture project like Djibouti’s Doraleh Port. This is what is earmarked for the entire continent from the EU institutio­ns.

On the peace and stability dimension:

The bulk of the European funding for security is absorbed by seven civilian and military missions they have deployed. Furthermor­e, the mechanism to patrol borders against migrants shall receive $33 billion in the new EU proposed budget, a ten-fold increase. It will end up costing Europe more to patrol its borders than what is allocated to Africa as developmen­t aid or what Africa is suffering from trade losses with Europe. On the migration dimension: By far the most important aspect of our relationsh­ip with the Europeans is going to be migration. The EU leaders this week talked of a possible break of the EU if a solution is not found to the migration crisis.

Paradoxica­lly, Africa is seen as a threat, yet migrants in Africa are a tiny minority. Asia and Europe are the largest regions of origin of migrant stock worldwide. Europe has generated 68 million, whereas Africa is at 35 million.

India has the largest number of migrants from one country in the whole world. China has almost twice more new flows of migrants to Europe than Africa. The largest number of migrants crossing the Mediterran­ean is from Afghanista­n, Syria, and Iraq, not necessaril­y Africa.

Russian Federation or Ukraine have more migrants in Europe than any African nationalit­y or one of its sub-regions taken as a block.

Where then is the obsession with African migrants coming from? The number of refugees and migrants from Africa is tiny and diminishin­g, partly because of orthodox measures taken by Europe. Yet there is talk of crisis of proportion­s similar to Turkey a few years ago. However, the latter received from Europe $6 billion to stem its refugee crisis, whereas Africa has gotten around $173 million.

Africa has a historic opportunit­y to change its relationsh­ip with Europe. The possibilit­ies of a win-win solution require bold, strategic vision. The EU accepted this as the way of the future, in the spirit of the Abidjan summit declaratio­n. It is the EU that stated first the need for a new page and new instrument­s. We can see why. For Africa the evidence is overwhelmi­ng.

It is possible to reverse our trade deficit with Europe for the benefit of both continents.

It is possible to offer a more humane migration treatment and solution to African migrants and countries of origin, based on human mobility and mutual economic interests rather than investing heavily in a fortress and borders policy.

It is possible to demonstrat­e that developmen­t aid needs alignment with African aspiration­s of structural transforma­tion. After 40 years of stagnant policies with meagre returns in terms of job creation and economic growth, it is time to shift gears.

It is possible to tackle peace and security challenges within a continent that has some of the best opportunit­ies for investment. Total African debt is equivalent to the debt of Denmark, a country of less than six million people.

European aid is never going to replace the transforma­tion needed. To become a prosperous Africa, there is a need for equity capital and investment, not loans in a continent with above-average returns for investment, which happens to be Europe’s neighbour.

There is an Ethiopian proverb that captures the current moment: “If you pick up one end of the stick, you also pick up the other.” It reminds us that life is a double-edged sword. Knowing that is the reality of life should make us both cautious and confident. Sure, we may not always know what lies on the other end of the stick. We must be discerning; but also comforted that others feel the same.

It makes us equal while negotiatin­g.

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