Sunday

7th Jun 2020

Opinion

EU development policy needs a fresh start

  • Development aid as a broader foreign policy instrument must come with higher demands and expectations on the recipient countries policies on human rights, climate change and migration (Photo: Adam Patterson/Oxfam)

European development aid and EU-Africa relations need a fresh start. The Union's approach to Africa, our neighbouring continent, has been lukewarm and hesitant, shaped by a development policy built on an obsolete donor-recipient mentality. A shift of thought is now needed.

Over the next years, the EU will dedicate over €30bn to sub-Saharan Africa. To make the most of this commitment, European policies must recognise and build on the trends that are rapidly re-shaping the continent.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • The African Union HQ in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa (Photo: EUobserver)

Most notably, the African economy is on the rise.

According to the African Economic Outlook 2020, the real GDP growth is estimated at 3.4 percent in 2019, and 4.1 percent in 2021.

Six economies in Africa are among the fastest-growing in the world. However, the growth is far from inclusive. While extreme poverty levels are at a record low, the high population growth means that the number of people living in poverty will continue to increase. In 2030, global poverty will be almost exclusively centred in Africa.

Moreover, Africa is facing an unparalleled demographic development.

The African population is projected to grow from 1.2bn to 2.5bn by 2050, which is more than China and India combined. Nigeria alone will be the world's third-most inhabited country.

Without investments into the African economy, inequalities and scarcity of resources will spur conflict. Moreover, migration will accelerate, both within Africa and across the Mediterranean, resulting in pressure on transit regions and political instability.

China and Russia

Africa has also become the scene for rejuvenated geopolitics, with China and Russia already having established presence.

For many African countries, China is the most important trading partner. According to the American Enterprise Institute, Chinese investments in sub-Saharan Africa over the past ten years have amounted to $269bn [€247bn].

Similar in ambition, Russia is attempting to re-establish old Soviet-Africa relations, be it by other methods than economic strength.

Russian trade volumes are going up, as well as arms exports and military cooperation agreements. During the period 2014-2018, Russian arms amounted to 49 percent of total imports to North Africa and 28 percent of the imports to sub-Saharan Africa.

The determined presence of China and Russia in Africa comes at a time when the US is withdrawing from the world stage, leaving a void for the EU to fill.

These trends demonstrate how Africa is a different continent today, than it was when European development policies were cemented. In order to maintain the relevance for European aid, this must translate into an increased focus on strategic sectors and aid effectiveness, as well as a clear vision of the end game, beyond development aid.

Four steps

I believe that four key priorities should be visible across the field of action.

First, job creation. European development aid must contribute on a large scale to quality jobs and investments in skills and education, in particular for young people. 30 million young people are expected to enter the African labour market every year as of 2030. More than a 100 million jobs will have to be added to the economy within the next decade. If not, social disruption and forced displacement will be unavoidable.

Second, gender equality is key to tapping into the full potential of the African economy. Promoting female entrepreneurship, access to finance and financial services that enables equal control of family earnings, not only advances gender equality and human rights – it is smart economics.

Third, a focus on small-scale actions. Fighting poverty is best approached by dividing it into smaller issues.

Accordingly, EU development aid should target the practical barriers to quality education, democratic participation, etcetera, as opposed to large-scale projects, which also risk fuelling corruption. This requires a constant evaluation of the effectiveness of measures, beyond simple references to the volume of the aid.

Finally, ambitious conditionality criteria are needed, in particular as regards budget support.

It should be used as a means to achieve strategic political objectives, in line with the more for more principle.

Development aid as a broader foreign policy instrument must come with higher demands and expectations on the recipient countries policies on human rights, climate change and migration, among many other things.

It has to be carefully balanced, but incorporating development policy into the broader foreign policy agenda is a natural step to take.

In conclusion, a new start for European development aid and EU-Africa relations must be more than just a continuation of the present, with a twist.

It must effectively contribute to the strategic interests of both parties, fuel economic growth and investments and by doing so make the most of the promising – and challenging – transformation of the African continent.

Author bio

Tomas Tobé is a Swedish MEP with the centre-right European People's Party (EPP) group and chair of the European Parliament development committee.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Stakeholder

Our summit can re-boot Africa's relations with Europe

Our keynote speaker is the president of Ghana Nana Akufo-Addo, His policies have included the introduction of free secondary education across Ghana, which he rightly calls "necessary investment" in the nation's future workforce.

Agenda

Africa visit and EU parliament missions This WEEK

The European Commission will visit the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, for a joint meeting with the African Union, ahead of the EU-Africa strategy being unveiled. MEPs will carry out missions in the Czech Republic, Turkey and the US.

Feature

Promises and doubts: Africa's free-trade adventure

The EU is hoping that a continent-wide free trade agreement in Africa will help lift millions out of poverty and help solve issues of security and migration. But its message of values and equal partnership do not resonate with everyone.

Borrell: Africa 'needs guns' for stability

The EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the EU will help provide Africa with more guns to fight terrorism. "We need guns, we need arms, we need military capacities," he said in Addis Ababa.

News in Brief

  1. Poland accused of 'blatant violation' of EU court injunction
  2. EU concerned by US approach to Kosovo and Serbia
  3. City morgues cast doubt on Putin's virus data
  4. ECB increases pandemic stimulus to €1.35 trillion
  5. New EU cloud computing platform 'moonshot'
  6. City of Berlin passes anti-discrimination law
  7. Iran hits record corona cases in second wave
  8. EU job losses tell tale of pandemic damage

Column

Hawks to doves? Germany's new generation of economists

For many Europeans, Angela Merkel's change looked sudden. But the groundwork started two years ago. Germany slowly ripened for the Merkel-Macron plan. This explains why it didn't meet massive public resistance in Germany.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  3. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  5. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers call for post-corona synergies between economic recovery and green transition

Latest News

  1. EU warns UK to abide by Brexit political declaration
  2. Internal EU borders open by 15 June - bar V4, Portugal, Spain
  3. CAP 'failed to halt biodiversity loss', auditors find
  4. After Covid-19, deserted Venice struggles to survive
  5. Commission plans strategy to 'maximise' vaccine access
  6. How spies use women to steal EU secrets
  7. Hong Kong - when the Chinese Dream became a nightmare
  8. Right of reply: Letter from the Hungarian government

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us