The future of a prosperous Africa and EU Partnership

David McNair:
Executive Director at ONE Africa

What do you see in the following years regarding EU and Middle East & Africa relations? What will be the main challenges and opportunities?

The two continents are bound by geography, history, mutual demographics, environment, and political challenges. Europe has an ageing population, which presents challenges in fiscal issues, paying for pensions, and the economy's dynamism. Africa has a booming youth population that needs access to capital and opportunities. Working together to have the surplus investment capital from Europe and human capital from Africa makes tremendous sense. However, there is a trust and credibility challenge that the two partners need to address. There's real anger at the unfulfilled promises that the EU has made, the lack of fulfilment of the COP commitment of USD100 billion in climate finance and the EU monopolising COVID-19 vaccines. I think there is a need to take what has been promised and actually deliver.

How is it time for Europe to give back to Africa? What steps are needed for both countries to reset and work together towards sustainable development?

African countries know they have options. There are discussions with private investors in China. And I think African leaders have their eyes open regarding the risks and the opportunities. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said it clearly: "European investors are welcome to come, and we welcome their investment." But it's not an exclusive thing from their perspective. There's a realisation that Africa wants to be treated as a serious partner. Some very serious questions need to be asked: if Africa is an integrated part of the global economy, why does the African Union (AU) not have a seat at G20? What about the governance of the IMF and World Bank and the disproportionate role that Europe and North America play? Tackling those big structural questions is essential. The other thing that is not just a political desire but an imperative is that Africa needs to industrialise. A lot could be done there on the European side, particularly regarding energy transition and green technology investment. 

What are the lessons from the pandemic regarding global cooperation towards social sustainability between Europe and Africa? And how can both continents move forward? 

The takeaway is that each region has realised that they need a form of strategic autonomy - they can't afford to be too dependent on others. They need to develop their strategic autonomy regarding essentials, like health security. The main reason Africa was left behind in the vaccine rollout was that it depended on other regions for supply. Even Covax, the multilateral system that had the ambition of raising money and purchasing vaccines for low-income countries, didn't work because it wasn't funded adequately. Covax procured vaccines from India's Serum Institute. When India had a wave that affected the country badly, the country instituted an export ban, and those vaccines were delayed. The real lesson is that the AU doesn't want to depend on the west anymore. There is still ambition and hope that the EU Africa partnership might change that dynamic and trust and cooperation prevailing, but that's not the current reality. 

How do you see the ONE Campaign evolving in your ideal world?

We're trying to elevate African voices and raise those voices in the corridors of power in the multilateral system. Those voices must enter the relevant conversations and aim at changing the system so that the inequalities seen throughout the pandemic can be addressed.