The European Commission and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy have proposed the basis for a new strategy with Africa

The European Commission and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy have proposed the basis for a new strategy with Africa

The European Commission and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy have proposed partnerships in five areas with Africa it hopes will define joint strategic priorities for the future.

The communication sets out proposals to intensify cooperation through partnerships in five key areas: green transition; digital transformation; sustainable growth and jobs; peace and governance; and migration and mobility.

Specifically, it aims to:

  • Maximise the benefits of the green transition and minimise threats to the environment in full compliance with the Paris Agreement
  • Boost the continent's digital transformation
  • Substantially increase environmentally, socially and financially sustainable investments that are resilient to the impacts of climate change; promote investment opportunities by scaling up the use of innovative financing mechanisms and boost regional and continental economic integration, particularly through the African Continental Free Trade Agreement
  • Attract investors by supporting African states in adopting policies and regulatory reforms that improve the business environment and investment climate, including a level-playing field for business
  • Rapidly enhance learning, knowledge and skills, research and innovation capacities, particularly for women and youth, protecting and improving social rights, and eradicating child labour
  • Adapt and deepen EU support to African peace efforts through a more structured and strategic form of cooperation, with a particular focus on regions where vulnerabilities are the highest
  • Integrating good governance, democracy, human rights, the rule of law and gender equality in action and cooperation
  • Secure resilience by linking humanitarian, development, peace and security interventions at all stages of the cycle of conflicts and crises
  • Ensure balanced, coherent and comprehensive partnerships on migration and mobility
  • Strengthen the international rules-based order and the multilateral system, with the United Nations at its core

Europe will engage discussions with African partners toward a new joint strategy to be endorsed at the European Union – African Union Summit in October 2020.

European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, said the strategy with Africa is "the roadmap to move forward and bring our partnership to next level.

"Africa is the European Union's natural partner and neighbour. Together we can build a more prosperous, more peaceful and more sustainable future for all."

The European commissioner for international partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen, added: "With the proposed five partnerships, built around our shared interests and values, Africa and Europe will together lead on the green and digital transformation, as well as promote sustainable investment and jobs. My key priority now is to ensure that the Strategy with Africa is owned by the youth and women, as it responds to their aspirations."

It is widely believed there will be a shift of garment production from Asia to Africa. One of the factors expected to help with this is the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which officially entered into force in May 2019. Of the 55 member states of the African Union, 54 have signed the agreement aimed at removing trade barriers and boosting trade between African nations, which should make it easier for African and foreign businesses to expand operations across the continent.

Included within the 54 signatories are key garment-producing countries Kenya, Morocco, Madagascar, Mauritius, Egypt, Ethiopia, South Africa, Lesotho and Tunisia. 

Nations such as the EU and US are particularly hoping to capitalise on trade opportunities with Africa.

At the beginning of the year, the EU concluded the first round of negotiations with five Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) countries – including clothing producers Madagascar and Mauritius – to deepen the existing Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).

The EU is the number one trading partner for the five ESA countries. In addition to improving the business and investment environment, a comprehensive free trade agreement would stimulate the economies of the five ESA countries, for instance by diversifying their exports to the EU. The process would also support the implementation of the Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs launched in September 2018.

And last week, the US said it was looking for a trade deal with Kenya that would "complement Africa's regional integration efforts", including the "landmark" African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).  The administration said it envisioned a trade agreement with Kenya that can serve as a model for additional agreements in Africa, leading to "a network of agreements that contribute to Africa's regional integration objectives and serve as an enduring foundation to expand US-Africa trade and investment across the continent."