“Africa does not need charity, it needs true and fair partnerships. And Europe needs this partnership just as much.” The message of EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, delivered during the State of the Union address in Strasbourg, September 12, is explicit. Europe’s broad, unsettled, “cumbersome” neighbouring continent, fully exploited by the former throughout the centuries, is in dire need of democracy and peace that won’t arrive with a magic wand or humanitarian aids, but through education, economic growth and social development. After all, Europe – or at least the part of Europe that is prone to reasoning – is well aware that Africa’s development and stability can only benefit Europe, in every way: less turbulences, less acts of violence, wars and terrorism; decline in migratory flows, a strengthened immense and – under many aspects – rich economic partner (this was already clear to China twenty years ago).
All the above helps us understand the lengthy document presented by the EU Commission the day after Juncker’s speech, designed to create “a new Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs between Europe and Africa.”
With the aim (or the mirage?) to create 10 million jobs in Africa in the next five-year period. The package of proposals had been planned for a long time, also thanks to the summits in Malta and Abidjan, starting with investment and trade to encompass road networks, schools and healthcare. Neven Mimica, EU Commissioner for International Cooperation & Development, declared: “This Alliance is about unlocking private investment and exploring the huge opportunities that can produce benefits for African and European economies alike.” The new approach aims to ensure mutual advantages through a free trade area, by mobilizing public and private investments (with an innovative combination of grants and guarantees), by enhancing the skills of African youths (education and training), and by promoting entrepreneurship. The plan envisages a considerable financial allocation “as reflected in particular in the ambitious proposal for the future Multi-Annual Financial Framework of the EU on external funding, where Africa is highlighted as a priority region.”
The optimistic – albeit incomplete – forecasts contained in the document released by Juncker’s Executive are rather impressive.
Expected results, in addition to 10 million new jobs (in a continent with 1.2 billion inhabitants, mostly in working age) include: EU support to 105 thousand students and academics from Africa by 2027 through the Erasmus+ programme; vocational training for 750thousand people; 30 million people and companies benefiting from access to electricity; new roads and transport infrastructures. US and Chinese interests are doing much more in various African regions, but for Europe this would be a good start. Also because, unlike Washington and Beijing, the EU pledges to adopt the approach of partnerships, namely, via shared – and not imposed – decisions. In Africa, a territory that has been sadly afflicted by the worst form of colonialism, the alliance with Europe would be something completely new. “The Alliance – said Brussels’ experts – will take into account the diversity across the African continent and the specificities of every Country.” The Commission’s proposal proceeds along the right track. Now it’s a matter of understanding whether EU Countries’ governments, the true decision-making bodies within EU institutions, will seize the opportunity or if , blinded by short-sighted nationalisms and blinkered xenophobic drives, they will give in to anti-African sirens, doomed to repeat the tragic past mistakes we are still paying for.