On17th February 2022, the first day of the two-day 6th European Union-African Union (AU-EU) Summit in Brussels, Belgium, Brand South Africa hosted a special debate on the sidelines of the gathering, which was attended by 60 leaders from Africa and Europe.
The debate titled “The South Africa perspective: Can the EU & Africa reboot their relationship” was hosted by Brand South Africa in partnership with Euronews, Europe’s leading international news media, and its sister channel Africanews. The discussion was live-streamed on euronews.com and africanews.com, and across the channels’ social platforms.
Globally acclaimed former Euronews anchor, Chris Burns, moderated the panel discussion that focused on key issues shaping AU-EU relations, which range from vaccine production, sustainable development, security, energy, education and economic integration and recovery.
The panel was made up of the following speakers and guests:
- Luisa Santos, Deputy Director General, Business Europe
- Domenico Rosa, Head of Unit/Head of the Task Force on Post Cotonou, European Commission
- Bajabulile Swazi Tshabalala, Senior Vice President, African Development Bank Group
- Dr Carlos Lopes, African Development Economist and Honorary Professor, Nelson Mandela School of Governance
- Ronak Gopaldas, Director, Signal Risk
- Colin Coleman, Former CEO Goldman Sachs, Lecturer at Yale University
The debate by the panellists largely focused on what can be done by EU and AU leaders to shift the relationship between the two continents.
Dr Carlos Lopes, Professor at the Nelson Mandela School of Governance described the relationship between the two regions as resembling a colonial model, with African countries primarily exporting minerals to Europe and relying on donor funding from Europe to bolster their national budgets.
New Deal for Africa to strengthen African economies
In the run-up to the Summit, President of France Emmanuel Macron, the Summit host, gave a frank take on the relationship, arguing that it was “tired” and needed of a drastic overhaul.
President Macron said Europe and Africa needed to establish a genuine system of peace and prosperity to build investments in African economies and build a shared future. He promised an economic and financial New Deal for Africa.
That “New Deal” came in the form of the Global Gateway African Investment Package, which pledged €150 billion in investment over the next seven years.
Partnership of Equals, not European paternalism
Luisa Santos, Deputy Director General of Business Europe told fellow panellists that this investment package could be a springboard for creating “a partnership of equals” that help both continents to build mutually beneficial relationship.
She pointed out that, to facilitate investment, there was a need to remove risks for small businesses, reward transparency and establish local joint ventures that help create a “strong emphasis on the cooperation between the public sector and the private sector”.
Ronak Gopaldas of Signal Risk, a risk management company in Africa, added on the points made by Santos, arguing that Africa wanted a genuine partnership with Europe, not paternalism.
This could be done by capacitating Africa to self-fund its investments and institutions, develop its own capital markets, and be less reliant of outside sources of financing.
In other words, the relationship with Europe must be restructured to reduce dependence on Europe and Africa must take centre stage in finding solutions to its own challenges.
African Youth Bulge an opportunity for Europe
Colin Coleman, former CEO (Sub-Saharan Africa) at Goldman Sachs and Chairman of Youth Employment Fund (YES), warned that if the EU does not take a lead in reconfiguring the relationship and help drive economic development in Africa, the continent could become “one of the largest threats to the world peace” and an exporter of terrorism.
Coleman believes Africa presents a big opportunity for Europe, thanks to its growing young population which will be a driver of world economy’s consumption this century. The continent has a combined population 1.2 billion people and it is projected to grow to 4 billion over the next 80 years.
“The youth is the bulging population, and we need to have Europe focus on the fact that it will be the biggest frontier of global growth in the world,” he said.
He also pointed out that Africa’s engines of growth, South Africa, Egypt and Nigeria, need to move and therefore it was important that those countries undertake reforms that make their economies to grow. Without these economies growing fast, Africa’s future was bleak, he said.
Another theme that received attention in the discussion is economic integration.
Swazi Tshabalala, Senior Vice President at African Development Bank, pointed out that Africa has to look within and step up economic integration to accelerate its economic development.
“We have built good foundations over the last 20-30 years. The regional economic committees that have been set up throughout the continent have done a lot of work to integrate economies,” she said.
All panellists felt that it was possible to restructure the relationship if EU and AU member states followed up on agreed commitments from previous summits instead paying lip service.
About Brand South Africa
Brand South Africa is the official marketing agency of South Africa, with a mandate to build the country’s brand reputation, to improve its global competitiveness. Its aim is also to build pride and patriotism among South Africans, to contribute to social cohesion and nation brand ambassadorship.
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