Why Europe Needs Africa as an Equal Partner: Delving into the Immigrants crisis in the Mediterranean.
Europe and Africa came into close contact in Gibraltar and the interaction was uncomfortable to say the least, all because of what has become to be known as one of the most serious crisis facing the world in recent times; illegal immigration. The ancient Pillars of Hercules enclose the Mediterranean, the sea of ancient trade between the northern and the southern parts of the world that has now become synonymous to migrants trying to cross it. A dangerous feat that often leads to casualties: According to UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in 2017 over 3,000 immigrants went missing or dead. These were people trying to get into Europe and fleeing poverty, hunger, civil war, religious and racial persecutions among many other factors.
This crisis is the starting point of any conversation around the historic summit of Abidjan-Côte d’Ivoire between the African Union (AU) and the European Union (EU). From this ambivalent sea, which unites and divides at the same time with its businesses and its open wounds of colonialism, with the fragile Arab springs and the danger of Islamic radicalism that has become a terrorist threat in Europe. Starting from this unique moment in European history and trying to understand if and how a sustainable balance will be found between two areas of the world that need greater cohesion and understanding of each other’s needs in order to create opportunities.
The summit that took place in the economic capital of Ivory Coast has brought a number of innovations, a sign of good will; of great importance, the European Union and the African Union sat together at the negotiating table. This was a step forward as opposed to the past four summits where Africa was not represented in a unitary way by a continental organization. Another new feature was the main theme and tittle of the meeting that stated, “Investing in young people for a rapid and inclusive growth and for sustainable development”. It is mostly the young people that are fleeing Africa for Europe. It is therefore important to invest in them in order to start the virtuous circle that both continents would benefit from. It is a change – hopefully a shifting one, that came at the end of a 2017 during which the relations between the two shores of the Mediterranean became more intense. The idea is not only to tackle the immigration question, but also create partnerships with African countries to avoid being undercut by the Chinese investment in the continent, “we are not just looking at what we can do for Africa but also what we can do with Africa, together”, Federica Mogherini, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security, said in May 2017; when he was presenting the proposals for a strategic partnership with the continent. The same was echoed by the European Council President Donald Tusk in the final press conference of the Abidjan summit: “The European Union is the main partner of Africa and its closest neighbour. It is also the largest investor, the main trading partner, the largest donor of humanitarian aid and development and provides the most important contribution to peace and security. This summit demonstrated our determination to further strengthen our partnership “.
Statements of intent or concrete actions?
Did the summit bring forth something concrete beyond the statements by Tusk or just statements of intent? At the end of the meeting the participants signed a joint declaration containing the priorities of the partnership between Europe and Africa in four fundamental areas namely the economic opportunities for young people, peace and security, mobility and migration and cooperation in the field of governance. In particular, the new EU External Investment Plan the first and main topic of the summit was presented. The European Commission will provide € 4.1 billion to enable € 44 billion of sustainable investments by 2020 in five main areas: Energy sustainability and connectivity: investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy in transport ; Financing of medium and small companies and micro-enterprises: these companies represent the main employers; Sustainable agriculture, rural entrepreneurship and agribusiness: aims to facilitate access to finance for small landowners, cooperatives, and small, medium and micro enterprises in the agricultural sector, to address the issue of food security; Sustainable cities: activate investments in sustainable urban development, in municipal infrastructures including mobility, water, health, waste management and disposal, renewable energy; Digital for development: to promote the development of innovative digital solutions that respond to local needs, the demand for financial inclusion and job creation.
The hope is that from words you can move on to the facts, to give a signal of real change in the approach between the two shores of the Mediterranean, which in Gibraltar, drew very close but not close enough.
Euro-African Relations: Actions Speak Louder than Words
There is a saying that goes, between saying and doing, there is the sea. The sea really is between Europe and Africa both literally and figuratively. Salty water and words many of which in the past did not materialize. We talked about this with Giovanni Carbone, ISPI’s (please write this out in full) head of Africa Program and professor of Political Science at the University of Milan and this is what he had to say:
Is the relationship between Europe and Africa really changing?
In the first fifteen years of the new millennium, there has been a re-awakening in the attention of European countries, parallel to that of other states such as China, towards the African continent, generated by the good performance of the economies from this part of the world. The coming together once again between the two continents was the result of the positive trends in raw materials and capital coming not only from China, but also from India and Brazil, which contributed to the growth of African economies, and the fall in commodity prices that have changed future European prospects leading to great concern in terms of immigration and internal security in Europe.
These conditions also led the European Union to reflect on the need to return to investing in Africa in order to avoid the progressive disintegration of many of its countries, and to stop the massive migratory flow towards European coasts. On the one hand Europe recognizes the potential of these countries, on the other hand its trying to solve the problem of migration through the controversial slogan of “help them at home”. Italy for example has shown a significantly greater interest than in the past. This was confirmed by the visits, three by Matteo Renzi, the Italian Prime Minister and one by Paolo Gentiloni (Who is he?) in the last four years compared to the past when no prime minister in office bothered to visit Sub-Saharan countries. Overall, I would say that there is a growing interest in economies that have done well and, driven by concerns about migratory flows, the obstacle of the slowdown in the last two years is being overcome.
The President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani spoke about the Marshall Plan for Africa. Is this really serious this time?
The Marshall Plan is an expression that has been evoked, but not formalized, on several occasions. Tajani has asked to bring the Investment Fund to € 44 billion, a figure that thanks to the leverage effect should put in motion investments for around € 500 billion. We have to see if it will happen and if the answer is yes it will be in the years to come. These resources must be included in the Union budget and it is still worth waiting to see if they will be approved. There have also been concrete initiatives in the past, such as the Trust Fund for Africa, whose resources however, as on other occasions, have been diverted mainly to the countries and areas useful in the controlling of the immigration phenomenon.
Afro-Euro Relations : The North Africa Perspective
Written by Hassen ???
The Afro-European summit held last November in Côte d’Ivoire gave the Maghreb countries the opportunity to present their points of view on the pending issues with their European counterparts. The two sides, the north and the south of the Mediterranean, have common problems, with different ideas on how to tackle them.
The migration issue is the most topical issue. Many European countries are worried, especially those bordering the Mediterranean directly, such as Spain and Italy, which have witnessed an unprecedented flow of migrants. But, if we look carefully, beyond the contingent urgency, this problem has been existent for several years: at least a decade, and the representatives of the two sides have been discussing it for a long time, without reaching a lasting and effective solution.
Adopted for some years now, the European approach to the migrant problem is to make the Maghreb states a sort of containment zone for those fleeing sub-Saharan nations. In other words, the Maghreb countries have been asked to become “gendarmes” instead of their European counterparts, in exchange for some symbolic financial aid. Even if some European countries have not spared the European funds allocated for this project, reality shows day by day that the migration phenomenon cannot be stopped by the mere installation of detention centres or pure repressive measures . The migration flow is so far reaching that the resources available to the Maghreb countries are not adequate to counter it effectively, bearing in mind that the situation in Africa continues to deteriorate. In simple terms, it’s like trying to empty the ocean with a spoon!
Algeria has tried everything possible to stop illegal immigration. Highly expensive rejection operations; long and often unsuccessful negotiations with the embassies of the countries from which migrants flee, clustering centres, strengthened border controls, especially after the deterioration of the situation in the Sahel, but still the migration flow has never been as serious as in recent times. As transit countries for sub-Saharan migrants, the Maghreb states have themselves become a host country, with thousands of irregular migrants, who move and who work illegally, often exploited. And, in addition to sub-Saharan citizens, it has also become the homeland of Maghreb migrants. From Morocco alone, there are about 250,000 migrants who have come to look for job opportunities across the border. Algeria has so far paid about 100 million dollars to manage this problem, but without managing to stop the flow of migrants or preventing the boats of death from heading to the south of Europe. It is clear that under such circumstances, the problem cannot be reduced to a matter of public order and police, because this will never be a solution. On the contrary, the development policies for sub-Saharan Africa, which give these economic immigrants the hope of a substantial improvement in their lives and of greater dignity, are suitable and therefore, most welcome.
The second pending issue is the security situation in the Maghreb and its neighbouring territories. Even here, despite bilateral cooperation agreements, there are still differences between Europeans and Africans. Issues like the French military intervention in Libya and in the north of Mali, and also the refusal of Algeria, for example, to intervene militarily outside its borders, both in Libya and in Mali, and the initiatives taken, outside of the African Union (UAE) and the European Union (EU) agreements, by some countries contribute in a certain way, to maintaining this climate of mutual distrust.
On the other hand, the efforts made by Algeria for the peaceful resolution of the Mali crisis through long and difficult discussions between the warring factions were short-circuited by the French military intervention. Also the project for the creation of an inter-forces major state of the Sahel countries, based in Tamanrasset, in southern Algeria, was placed in the closet by the creation, from Paris, of a G5 Sahel force. In this context Algeria, which had provided over $ 100 million in aid to the countries of the region, as part of the fight against terrorism, and which provided many training sessions for the benefit of its officers in the field, still refuses to be part of the African force created by France.
Finally, the economic question. The Maghreb countries expect even more from the European Union, especially in terms of direct investments, while now only trade exists between the two economic areas. European investments in this region of Africa are at their lowest according to these countries, who are eager to pull their economies out of their dependence on old systems that keep them at the mercy of fluctuations in global markets. The Maghreb countries dream of having their industrial fabrics able to create jobs and wealth, in order to give hope to their youth. They also dream of seeing their products placed on European markets: in particular, agricultural products that could provide them with some foreign currency.
The aforementioned “win-win” partnership is not yet on the agenda. The Maghreb is still perceived as a small market for European products which may only be appropriate as an alternative for European companies in difficulty.
Euro Africa RelationsWhy Africa can no longer be ignored
The 2017 Abidjan summit between Europe and Africa also focused on Young people and the title “Investing in young people for rapid and inclusive growth and for sustainable development” says it all. Young people of whom there are much more in Africa than in Europe. According to data from the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations (UNDESA) updated in 2017, 60% of Africans are below the age of 24 (41% less than 14) while just 27% of Europeans are below the age of 24 . Europe is, in this respect, the Continent with less young people, Africa the one with the most.
The trend does not seem destined to change in the near future, considering the fertility rate of the European populations (under 2.1 between 2010 and 2015) compared to that of the African populations. Still according to the surveys conducted by UNDESA, in the five-year period 2010-2015, 22 countries had a birth rate of more than five children per woman, 20 of these were African countries. Even considering a downward alignment of the birth rate of emerging countries, population projections see Europe fall from 742 million in 2017 to 716million in 2050 and to 653 in 2100, Africa double from 1.266 billion in 2017 to 2,528 billion in 2050 and again at 4,468 billion in 2100.
Whether Europe likes it or not, it will continue to be the destination of migratory flow from Africa in the coming years. The solution can no longer be an emergency, in an attempt to block or control these flows. The African continent must be seen as an opportunity for growth, a market still to be developed, almost completely; something the Chinese have long realised. Compared to China, Europe has been rather late to this realization. However, the historical links shared since antiquity and geographical proximity are an advantage that Europe still maintains over China, with regard to trade. According to the European Commission’s Directorate General for Trade, 36% of Africa’s trade takes place with Europe against 15% with China. The figures for 2016 of the European Union indicate an overall trade exchange between the two continents of over 260 billion euros, 116 of imports from Africa and 145 of exports to Africa; 82% of imports and about 88% of exports are on industrial products.
How the Abidjan Investment Plan is set to work.
The external investment plan (EIP) discussed at the Abidjan summit is the largest investment program ever launched for Africa, because other countries bordering the European Union can also benefit from it. With a contribution of € 4.1 billion from the European Commission, EIP is expected to activate, according to estimates based on previous experience, € 44 billion of investments by 2020. The financing vehicle for the Plan is the European Fund for sustainable development (EFSD), to which the individual EU member states and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) can contribute directly or by providing a guarantee. The mechanism through which the money to be invested is to be collected should be typical of fundraising through the issuing of bonds guaranteed by EFSD’s holdings, for collection of liquid assets for co-financing, together with private individuals and development projects. This would explain the multiplier effect that leads to 44 billion.
The funds for the Plan relating to investment will be assigned to suitable financial institutions, identified by the European Commission. These include: European Investment Bank (EIB), European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), African Development Bank (Afdb), French Development Agency (AFD), Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (Cdp), Spanish Society for development finance (Cofides), Deutsche investitions undeEntwicklungsgesellschaft (Deg), Kreditanstalt für wiederaufbau (Kfw), Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (Aecid), Nederlandse Financierings-maatschappij voor ontwikkelingslanden (Fmo), Promotion and participation for coopération économique (Proparco).
Submiting a project
Companies interested in benefitting from EIP or wishing to make an investment must contact the financial institutions selected to manage the investment phases, where they will find all the information on the available mechanisms. A portal and a secretariat dedicated to the Plan will also be activated, which, among other things, will be able to direct interested companies to selected financial institutions. Moreover, if the project does not present the conditions to be financed with the EFSD guarantee, the secretariat will provide a list of financial institutions active in the regions of interest.
An example, the Climate Investor One
The Climate Investor One (IOC) is a fund managed by the FMO, one of the financial institutions already accredited by the European Commission. Its goal is to provide sustainable energy at affordable prices in emerging markets. The fund provides support to energy projects from start to finish, trying to solve market failures and inefficiencies at every stage of project development. By improving the quality of projects, the CIO aims to attract private investors and finance for countries with low and medium-low income, particularly in Africa. The EU contribution to the Climate Investor One is 30 million euros for an amount of investments activated of 900 million euros.
More information can be found here: