The European Commission wants a continent-to-continent free trade deal with Africa, shifting relations away from development towards trade.
The proposal is a long-term goal for what it describes as a “new alliance” with the continent amid promises to create up to 10 million Africa-based jobs in the next five years.
Speaking to reporters in Brussels on Friday (14 September), the EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the latest plan is different from all the past announcements on Africa.
“We have turned the page somehow, shifting from a ‘donor-recipient’ kind of relationship, a traditional one based on development aid and humanitarian aid, to a partnership based first and foremost on our political partnership,” she said.
The announcement of the new alliance comes as the EU pushes to get reluctant north African states to accept disembarking migrants rescued in the Mediterranean.
The EU is increasing pressure, using “all incentives and leverages”, to get governments to take back their rejected nationals.
But it also comes against a background of the turmoil in Libya spiralling out of control.
Mogherini, who was speaking alongside development commissioner Neven Mimica and vice-president Jyrki Katainen, insisted the latest plan is a partnership of equals with African counterparts.
Echoing statements made earlier this week by commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in his State of the Union address, Mogherini described the relationship as one increasingly built on private enterprise.
“We are taking a new step in this direction, launching an Africa Union alliance for sustainable investments and jobs. This will be a major priority for our work in the years ahead,” she said.
As Africa’s population is set to double by 2050, the EU is hoping to turn the demographics to its advantage. Some 60 percent of the population are under 25.
Mogherini said that generation represents an opportunity for economic growth and prosperity and will help weed out corruption and improve human rights and rule of law.
Part of that effort requires better education and training, she said, noting that the EU would help finance vocational training for 750,000 people over the next two years. A further 100,000 will take part in Erasmus by 2027.
But the biggest plan in the new alliance scheme builds on EU’s external investment plan.
Launched in 2016, it seeks to turn €4bn from the EU budget into €44bn of private investments in Africa over the next few years.
Full article: EU wants continental free-trade deal with Africa (euobserver)