Towards a new Africa-Europe partnership after the Corona crisis

[Photo EPA-EFE/Daniel Irungu]

The EU must look beyond its borders, deliver the global leadership the coronavirus crisis demands, and shape a new partnership with its closest neighbour, Africa, in the process, argue the directors of the European Think Tanks Group.

Anna Katharina Hornidge is the director of the German Development Institute. Carl Michiels is the director of the European Centre for Development Policy Management. Sara Pantuliano is the chief executive of the Overseas Development Institute. Nathalie Tocci is the director of the Istituto Affari Internazionali. Sebastien Treyer is the director of the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations. Geert Laporte is the director of European Think Tanks Group (ETTG), and Vera Mazzara is the ETTG coordinator.

The coronavirus crisis presents an extraordinary global challenge. With Europe now at the epicentre, the response of the European Union has been hotly debated, raising fundamental questions about the EU’s solidarity and credibility.

Nevertheless, it is imperative that the EU looks beyond its borders and delivers the global leadership this crisis demands, particularly in the relation with Africa as its closest neighbour.

The EU can do so by supporting major economic recovery programmes that are environmentally sustainable, by helping to build effective public services and by moving towards a reciprocal interest-driven partnership.

In March, before the pandemic took hold, the EU outlined a long-awaited new Africa strategy with the ambition of forging a “partnership of equals”. The coronavirus now puts this strategy at risk and will be the first major test of the EU’s ambition. As the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said: “If we don’t solve the problem in Africa, we will not be able to solve the problem in Europe. Africa is of particular concern to us”.

History has taught us that major crises create opportunities for accelerating social, economic and political reforms. The coronavirus crisis provides an opportunity to finally transform the old paradigm of donor-recipient aid relations towards a model of genuine international cooperation between Europe and Africa.

While the health impacts of the pandemic have not yet hit Africa as hard as Europe, the costs to economies and livelihoods could be enormous. The collapse of oil and commodity prices will have a devastating impact on several countries that depend on these for more than half of their exports. Sectors that depend on demand from Europe’s consumers are reeling – from hospitality to horticulture. African finance ministers have called for an economic stimulus of at least $100 billion to curb the impacts of coronavirus.

Our analysis shows that the average stimulus in Europe so far is 15 times higher than in poorer African countries. Therefore, while welcome, the EU Foreign Affairs Council’s recent decision to reallocate €15 billion from existing budgets to partner countries, including Africa, to offset some of the health and economic impacts can only be a first step.

Read the full article via Euractiv.

[Photo EPA-EFE/Daniel Irungu]