Thursday

22nd Feb 2018

Opinion

EU-Africa Summit: Time to end preconceptions?

Zimbabwe's boycott of the fourth EU-Africa summit in Brussels on 2-3 April because the EU will not waiver its sanctions on President Mugabe’s wife, Grace, hurts Europe a little, but Zimbabwe more.

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe had been invited to the summit and the EU travel ban on him has been suspended. This invitation signaled the desire to normalise relations by many EU members after the July 2013 landslide election victory for Mugabe’s party, ZANU-PF.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

But President Mugabe, angered that the EU would not waiver sanctions on his wife, ordered Zimbabwean officials to push for an African Union boycott or postponement of the EU-Africa summit. This Zimbabwean effort failed and about 60 European or African heads of state have confirmed their attendance.

Zimbabwe urgently needs Foreign Direct Investment and faces an acute liquidity crisis. Zimbabwe’s finance minister admitted that in January 2014 its central bank only holds gold reserves worth US$501,390.

The biggest single impediment to attracting investment is the lack of clarity over the investment climate in Zimbabwe. Corruption, indigenization and uncertainty over land ownership and tenure inhibit investors’ appetites, especially as many other African countries offer much more attractive business environments.

Zimbabwean officials could have used the pre-summit Business Forum in Brussels to clarify how they plan to make their economy more business-friendly.

Chatham House published a report this week on Zimbabwe’s international re-engagement arguing that heightened Western re-engagement and Zimbabwe attending the EU-Africa summit would have been an important step in normalisation. Zimbabwean officials have tried to frame the refusal to allow the First Lady attend the summit as a neo-colonial conspiracy, encouraged by Britain.

Past summits have been unable to escape the taint of Europe’s past imperialism in Africa. But both Africa and Europe have changed. With multiple suitors competing for access to Africa’s natural resources and markets, European countries can no longer assume advantage of access as a neo-colonial legacy.

Reciprocally, African states should not assume that rhetoric about imperialism will continue to hold water as a means to influence Europe.

A cluster of European countries, such as the Baltic States, obtained independence from the Soviet yoke more recently than the majority of countries in Africa, and may not share the strong pro-Africa interests evident in the policies of their counterparts such as the UK, France and Portugal.

EU-Africa relations matter

Common security and prosperity are in the neighbours’ interests but Europe needs to move away from paternalism and humanitarianism while African states must cease to wield Europe’s guilty past for leverage.

A more honest discussion of the core interests of both continents is needed.

Common positions are never simple to arrive at and can be hard to maintain, but both regions need to define what they want to and can achieve as continental bodies. A large majority of least developed countries are in Africa (34 out of 49, as identified by the UN) and even today three out of every four Africans live in poverty.

As such, Africa remains a priority for Europeans within their development agenda. The EU correctly remains the most important donor for Africa, giving close to €24 billion of Official Development Aid (ODA) for the period 2007–2012. Europeans are the top 10 donors by share of aid to Africa.

European investors still lead with Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). In 2012 the United States was the largest single source of FDI into Africa, followed by France and the UK in second and third place respectively, ahead of India and China. Preferential or free access to the EU for African goods remains important for African growth and while Asian economies may be driving demand for raw materials, the EU is the largest importer of manufactured goods from Africa. The benefits of this can be increased by Europe opening its markets further.

Africa’s prosperity and security is in Europe’s strategic interests. The Sahel or North Africa, areas of insecurity, are part of Europe’s extended neighbourhood, and piracy in the Gulf of Guinea and Indian Ocean impacts international trade, hitting European and African business by, amongst other things, spiking insurance premiums. Countering radicalisation in Africa and in Europe are in the immediate interests of both continents.

European economic underperformance also hurts Africa, resulting in less trade, tourism, and remittances from diasporas. As the world’s most youthful continent, skilled and mobile Africans could assist in lifting both Africa’s and Europe’s economic performance, given the space and opportunity to do so. Nigeria is soon to become the world’s third- largest country by population after India and then China, and Lagos, Dar es Salaam and Bamako are among the fastest growing cities in the world.

Look forward to 2100 and ten of the top twenty largest populations in the world are projected to be African, according to a UN study.

So this fourth EU-Africa summit should be a stepping stone to a deeper, more strategic relationship between Africa and Europe and not be distracted by a Zimbabwean boycott.

Nobody should expect dramatic results from this Brussels summit given its timing, but it should assist incremental progress. Acknowledging what is truly important and strategic for both Europe and Africa can help deepen this process.

The writer is Chatham House’s Africa Programme Head.

Greek government's steady steps to exit bailout programme

Growth predictions are positive, exports increasing, unemployment dropping and credit-ratings up, says the head of Greece's Syriza delegation to the European Parliament. Now the government in Athens is looking to design its own reform programme.

Analysis

We are not (yet) one people

Talks on the next EU budget will start on Friday. Brussels wants to do much more than before – and needs a lot more money. But arguing about funds won't be enough.

Intellectual property protection - the cure for Europe's ills

The European Commission is considering rolling back medical research incentives, on the faulty assumption they are somehow driving higher drug prices. But not only is that premise flawed – the proposed fix will do nothing to benefit ordinary health consumers.

News in Brief

  1. Report: EU to increase sanctions on Myanmar
  2. Juncker 'worried' by Italian elections
  3. EU migration to UK at lowest since 2012
  4. MEP Andrieu will chair parliament pesticide committee
  5. Juncker's right-hand man warns of 'institutional blockage'
  6. Greek parliament to open probe on PMs and EU commissioner
  7. May gathers Brexit ministers to hammer out UK position
  8. Tajani asks Juncker for all EMA Brexit relocation documents

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUMovie Premiere: 'Up to The Last Drop' - 22 February, Brussels
  2. Aid & Trade LondonJoin Thousands of Stakeholders of the Global Aid Industry at Aid & Trade London
  3. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.European Free Alliance Joins MHRMI to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism Year to Promote Business and Mutual Ties
  5. European Jewish CongressAt “An End to Antisemitism!” Conference, Dr. Kantor Calls for Ambitious Solutions
  6. UNESDAA Year Ago UNESDA Members Pledged to Reduce Added Sugars in Soft Drinks by 10%
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsUzbekistan: Investigate Torture of Journalist
  8. CESICESI@Noon on ‘Digitalisation & Future of Work: Social Protection For All?’ - March 7
  9. UNICEFExecutive Director's Committment to Tackling Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region 2018: Facts, Figures and Rankings of the 74 Regions
  11. Mission of China to the EUDigital Economy Shaping China's Future, Over 30% of GDP
  12. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.Suing the Governments of Macedonia and Greece for Changing Macedonia's Name

Latest News

  1. Greek government's steady steps to exit bailout programme
  2. Frontex: Europe's new law enforcement agency?
  3. Poland and Greece broke EU environment laws, rules court
  4. Dutch MPs vote on ending 'Ukraine-type' referendums
  5. Corruption report: Hungary gets worse, Italy makes progress
  6. UK seeks flexible transition length after Brexit
  7. Commission defence of Barroso meeting leaves 'discrepancies'
  8. MEPs bar WMD and killer robots from new EU arms fund

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Dialogue PlatformBeyond the Errors in the War on Terror: How to Fight Global Militarism - 22 February
  2. Swedish EnterprisesHarnessing Globalization- at What Cost? Keynote Speaker Commissioner Malmström
  3. European Friends of ArmeniaSave The Date 28/02: “Nagorno-Karabakh & the EU: 1988-2018”
  4. European Heart NetworkSmart CAP is Triple Win for Economy, Environment and Health
  5. European Free AlllianceEFA Joined the Protest in Aiacciu to Solicit a Dialogue After the Elections
  6. EPSUDrinking Water Directive Step Forward but Human Right to Water Not Recognized
  7. European Gaming & Betting AssociationGambling Operators File Data Protection Complaint Against Payment Block in Norway
  8. European Jewish CongressEJC Expresses Deep Concern Over Proposed Holocaust Law in Poland
  9. CECEConstruction Industry Gets Together to Discuss the Digital Revolution @ the EU Industry Days
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Relations in the New Era
  11. European Free AlllianceEnd Discrimination of European Minorities - Sign the Minority Safepack Initiative
  12. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Diversity Shouldn’t Be Only a Slogan” Lorant Vincze (Fuen) Warns European Commission