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European Conservatives and Reformists group has just announced its second Africa Summit, to be held in Brussels on 4 March (Photo: ECR)

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

Nelson Mandela once said: "I dream of an Africa which is at peace with itself."\n \nAs we move to explore new opportunities in a new decade, I believe Africa and its people can dare to dream of more.\n \nThey can dream of an Africa not only at peace with itself but at peace with the world: confident of its place as a global player, optimistic about its prospects culturally and commercially, and perhaps - at last - an Africa on the brink of its long-awaited awakening as a more prosperous, democratic, less hungry and lawless continent.\n \nOf course to talk of the whole continent Africa as though it were one homogenous society is a nonsensical trope which we come across all too often when discussing the emerging markets.\n \nThe potential for the typical African nation to become happier, less hungry, more prosperous and freer is there for all to see.

And, I believe, whether or not those countries achieve that potential will depend greatly on how they foster their relationships with the more-developed nations, particularly those in Europe, where for historical and geo-political reasons the closest links already exist.\n \nI believe it is hugely important that over time those relationships are transformed from one where a particular country is overly dependent on another, such as the paternalistic and patronising international aid system we see today, to a new one that is characterised by investment which benefits both sides, through trade in goods and services which become the bonds that bind equal parties together.\n \nWhen advice and training are required - in areas such as good governance, human rights, transparency and rules-based living – this should emanate from friends and partners not high-handed and culturally-autocratic former-colonial powers.\n \nThat is why the European Conservatives and Reformists group, which I co-chair in the European Parliament, has just announced its second Africa Summit - to be held in Brussels on 4 March.

Four panels

\n \nThe event will comprise of four panels examining the key factors which underpin Africa's potential and will be vital in unleashing such potential.\n \nThe first will examine the role of good, transparent, democratic governance in supporting growth, stability and inclusivity.\n \nThe second will discuss the role and representation of women in politics, government and public life. I believe the measure of a country's political health and development will be the extent to which women are fairly and equally enabled not only to take part in the political process, but also to shape it and lead it.\n \nForeign direct investment will be examined during the third panel. International investment is growing impressively in response to an increasingly competitive internal trading market within Africa, and the panel will seek to find ideas for helping to re-balance EU-Africa trading relations.\n \nThe role and potential of Africa's digital economy - not only as a driver for prosperity but as a support mechanism for human rights, freedom of expression and democracy - will occupy the attention of the final panel.\n \nIf the scope and ambition of our subject matter is impressive, then our line-up of speakers is equally so.\n \nOur 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.\n \nHis economic policies aim to revitalise the economy; transform agriculture and industry; revamp economic and social infrastructure; strengthen social protection and inclusion; and reform delivery of public service institutions.\n \nHis country will also host the 2023 Africa games, which he sees as a huge potential catalyst for regeneration and transformation.\n \nA worthy programme indeed and - dare I say - one that could become a model for many other African developing nations.\n \nOur other speakers will include further leading politicians, business figures, academics, medical experts, investment specialists and campaigners, drawn from across sub-saharan Africa and the EU.\n \nI believe this summit and our future conferences can be a key driver and launchpad for a radical, re-booted, revitalised relationship that will have huge benefits in Africa and also here in Europe.\n \nSo - having quoted Mandela at the outset dreaming of a better future, let me conclude with another vision - more recent, more concrete and indeed more positive. It comes from Dutch businessman Paul Polman, who until recently was chief executive office of Unilever.\n \nHe says: "Africa's vibrancy and entrepreneurial spirit is unmatched. There's huge potential here to grow business, create jobs, and to improve living standards."\n \nWe at the ECR-Africa summit second that.

On Wednesday 4 March 2020, the ECR group will host the ECR-Africa Summit, discussing policy options about governance, participation of women, foreign direct investment and the digital economy to develop a stronger relationship between the EU and Africa. For more information, click here.

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