Thursday

2nd Apr 2020

EU-Africa summit on youth met with scepticism

  • Juncker (r) 'It has been said the Europeans have been giving lessons to the Africans. I think this is a past era.' (Photo: EU Africa)

European and African leaders at a summit in the Ivory Coast have pledged to help youth find work and repatriate some 3,800 migrants stuck in a Libyan detention camp.

But youth groups and civil society say the summit was a missed opportunity as issues of migration and private investments appeared to take centre stage.

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Asked why people should expect leaders to honour their commitments on youth employment given past disappointments, Guinea's president Alpha Conde on Thursday (30 November) said Africa was no longer divided.

"The difference is that Africa was not speaking with one voice and was not acting together. Today we are united," he said.

He said the plan is to have Africa replace China as the "factory of the world".

Around 60 percent of the African population is under 25. With the population set to double by 2050, EU leaders are hoping to trigger a renewed relationship with the continent as part of a broader effort to keep people from taking boats to Italy and Europe.

Young people denied speaking time

The two-day summit, which ended on Thursday in Abidjan, was billed to focus on youth but the issue appeared to have been broadly sidelined.

In a tweet on Thursday, the German youth advocacy group Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevoelkerung (DSW), which was scheduled to talk at the summit, said young people were simply not heard.

"Having first been placed on the agenda, civil society (EU and African) and youth were then prevented from speaking - at a summit all about youth! It beggars belief," it tweeted.

A contact at DSW told EUobserver that civil society groups for young people were instructed of the ban around half an hour before their scheduled appearance on Thursday morning.

"They went all the way there, they were sitting in the seats with their speeches in hand, and it didn't happen," he said.

He said some of the African delegations did not want civil society groups to take the floor despite pressure from their EU counterparts.

"They were each supposed to be given two minutes," he said.

A half dozen civil society groups, in a joint-statement, said the surprise ban "makes a mockery the lofty rhetoric we have heard in Abidjan this week."

Global advocacy group ONE made similar criticisms.

"If this summit is a deception, it's a collective responsibility," said Friederike Roder, the ONE director for France, who was also present at the summit in Abidjan.

EU spins hope

This perception appears to have not been shared by the EU side.

Donald Tusk, the European Council president, told reporters that both African and European youth representatives had been heard at the summit, "which brought a new energy to our discussions".

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said the EU plans to invest more in Africa and on an equal basis.

"The partnership between the African Union and the European Union is a partnership between equals," he said.

Juncker then repeated EU plans to shore up some €44 billion by 2020 from private investors for projects in Africa.

Moussa Faki Mahamat, the African Union Commission chair, said joint declarations had also been signed on youth and Libya.

But as of writing, neither declaration had been published. Mahamat instead spoke about Libya and the need to repatriate some 3,800 migrants from a detention camp.

"Together the European Union, the United Nations through the IOM, we have decided to set up a task force to act now, to at least repatriate the 3,800," he said.

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