''Through financial support and a strong partnership, the European Union has helped Niger to reduce migratory flows to Libya and the EU by over 95%. In 2016, 330,000 people crossed Niger primarily directed to Europe via Libya. In 2017, this number went down to less than 18,000, and in 2018 to around 10,000. We must continue to support Niger in this action by offering all possible help for the economic, entrepreneurial and technological development of the country," said European Parliament President Antonio Tajani, ahead of his mission in Niger on 17 and 18 July.
''Niger is an example of the successes achieved by the European Union, also thanks to the optimal deployment of the Trust Fund for Africa. The resources are running out, and new appropriations are needed to help the country - among the poorest in the world - protect borders, manage migratory flows and guarantee security. My visit aims to strengthen the good partnership with Niger by offering concrete opportunities for economic growth through the network of entrepreneurs, researchers and international organizations that will accompany me," added Tajani.
Following the request of the President of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou, Tajani will lead a mission of economic diplomacy in Niamey with representatives of over 30 European companies, experts in research and innovation, and international organizations, including the FAO. The mission will be based on four pillars: political co-operation; boosting entrepreneurship; research, innovation and technology transfers and international co-operation.
Tajani will be received by President Issoufou, the President of the Nigerian National Assembly, Ousseini Tini and the Prime Minister, Brigi Rafini, with whom he will address the issues of security, border control and management of migration flows.
''Niger is doing an excellent job of hosting tens of thousands of migrants evacuated from UNHCR and IOM from Libya. It is in urgent need of new financial assistance to continue these operations. The new €500 million tranche for the Trust Fund for Africa must go largely to support the efforts of this country. A reform of the Dublin regulation is also needed to ensure that refugees identified in transit countries are distributed evenly among all EU countries. It is unacceptable that of the 1,700 vulnerable refugees evacuated in Niger from Libya, only a few dozen have been accepted by a few EU countries," said Tajani.
President Tajani will attend a meeting of the Speakers of the Parliaments of the Sahel 5 countries (Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Chad). The strengthening of cooperation between the countries of the Sahel is at the centre of this meeting, with the aim of an agreement on fostering stability of the region, security, immigration and development. Later Tajani will meet Ibrhaim Sani-Abani, Secretary General of Cen-sad, the Community which brings together 29 Sahel-Saharan countries to discuss in particular the stabilization and democratization of Libya.
The visit also offers the opportunity to promote a mission of economic diplomacy with the participation of more than thirty companies, European business associations and companies already present in Niger. The aim is to raise awareness of investment opportunities, improve the business climate and facilitate contacts and exchanges with production companies and with the country's authorities.
In this regard the President declared: ''Niger needs investment in agriculture, renewable energy and the digital sectors. At the request of President Issoufou, we have therefore brought together companies that operate mainly in these sectors and have a total turnover of €80 billion. A first concrete development of this initiative is the creation, desired by the president of Niger, of a permanent advisory economic council that will have the task of following up these initial meetings and contacts with European companies."
Research, innovation and technology transfers
The transfer of innovative technologies and production techniques is essential for the development of Niger. This is why Tajani will be accompanied by experts and researchers who will make available to the Nigerian authorities and local cooperation actors concrete solutions in the field of low-water agriculture, transformation of agricultural products, and digital innovation. Tajani will also present the opportunities for cooperation in the field of security, border control, aviation and agriculture offered by the EU, EGNOS, Galileo and Copernicus satellite systems.
The President’s visit will also include representatives of international organizations such as the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the African Development Bank (ADB) and the European Investment Bank (EIB). The goal is to work together to help achieve the sustainable development goals set by the UN.
Representatives of the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the Directorates General for Development and Co-operation, for Research and Energy of the European Commission will also take part in the mission.
The European Union is one of the most active financial contributors in Africa thanks to a wide range of tools and programmes:
The EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa
The European Union Emergency Trust Fund aims to promote stability in Africa by addressing the root causes of destabilisation, forced displacement and irregular migration.
For this reason the Trust Fund has so far pledged a €3.3bn commitment of the EU to three key regions of Africa – the Sahel and Lake Chad, the Horn of Africa and North Africa aiming to help more than 160,000 migrants in transit and create more than 250.000 jobs in Africa, including a commitment of €230m in Niger, which is the main beneficiary of the Trust Fund, now allowing for 11 different projects to assist with improved governance and conflict prevention, improved migration management and enhanced economic and employment opportunities.
Thanks to EU support from the Trust Fund, the International Migration Organisation has moved 23,000 migrants, since January 2017, from Libya to Niger and then subsequently returning them, pursuant to their own wish, to their country of origin. Over 1,700 vulnerable refugees and asylum-seekers have been evacuated from Libya to Niger since November 2017.
One of the said 11 projects for instance invests €6.9m from the Africa Trust Fund to improve the transition from training to employment for young girls and boys in the regions of Zinder and Agadez. Furthermore, it is estimated that more than 9,000 young entrepreneurs managed to start their own business activity thanks to Trust Fund projects in Niger.
Following the European Council of 28 and 29 June an additional €500m have now been allocated to the Trust Fund.
Click here to read more in the EU Emergency Trust fund for Africa in Niger.
EU humanitarian Aid in Africa and other projects
EU aid is mainly channelled through the European Development Fund, now in its 11th edition allocating a total of €596m to Niger for the period 2014-2020, covering four main sectors including food security, governance and infrastructure. The total humanitarian aid for Niger in 2017 was €42.6m covering support for nutrition and food assistance to actions in response to Boko Haram violence in Diffa as well as supporting Malian refugees in Niger. In addition to EU aid, Niger also benefits from regional programmes for West Africa in certain fields including for instance in police information systems and transport. In 2015 the European Parliament launched also a preparatory action with an investment of €4.6m to improve nomadic health in north Niger and north Mali.
Click here to read more on the EU Humanitarian Aid in Niger.
EU investment plan for Africa
The External Investment Plan (EIP) was launched in 2017 with a view to attract significant private investment in the EU Neighbourhood and in Africa. It is expected to leverage €44bn of investment through an initial EU input of €4.1bn.
The Plan will do so by using public money to lower the risk of private investment in key sectors for the development of African economies like sustainable energy or small business lending. The instruments combined the EU's existing so-called 'blending' programmes (€2.6bn budget), which mix loans and grants with guaranteee (€1.5bn budget).
The investment plan has seen for instance a €64m investment into a hybrid energy power plant in Agadez in Niger, allowing the supply of electricity in previously off-the-grid rural areas and the construction of a solar power plant in Gorou Banda to supply the suburbs of Niamey including also the training of young African engineers in photovoltaic technology.
Click here to read more on the EU External investment plan.
Niger, although relatively small, is probably the single most important migratory transit country for the central Mediterranean route towards the EU. It is estimated that about 90% of migrants from West Africa en route to Libya and Europe travel through Niger.
Between 2016 and 2017, numbers were significantly reduced. In 2016 the International Organization for Migration (IOM) observed 333,891 individuals outgoing through Niger borders (mainly to Libya). In 2017 the number decreased to 17,634. The decreasing trend seems to be confirmed by 2018 estimates.
Restrictive measures taken by the government of Niger to crack down on irregular migration, the situation prevailing in Libya, and the repatriation of Nigerien nationals residing in Algeria, have led to a shift towards more perilous and fragmented migrant routes. It is estimated that, at a minimum, nearly 500 deaths (a number likely to be far higher) per year in the Sahara desert in Niger and Algeria only. There are also significant risks of kidnapping for ransom and trafficking in persons.
Niger is currently hosting over 300,000 refugees and displaced persons fleeing the crises in neighbouring countries. Refugee camps are concentrated in the south-eastern region of Diffa and the northern and north-western regions of Tahoua and Tillabery, where a major humanitarian crisis is playing out. More specifically, according to UNHCR data there are, as of January 2018, 310,626 persons of concern in Niger. Out of them, 129,520 are Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). The remaining are non-Nigerien nationals and come principally from Mali and Nigeria.
Click here to read the UNHCR briefing note on immigration in Niger.
Investment, connectivity and co-operation: Why we need more EU-African co-operation in agriculture
In recent months, the European Union has demonstrated its willingness to promote and support agricultural businesses in Africa, under European Commission’s Africa-EU Partnership. The Partnership, which stresses EU-African co-operation, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, aims to promote sustainability and biodiversity and have championed promoting public-private relationships across the continent, writes African Green Resources Chairman Zuneid Yousuf.
Though these commitments apply to the entire continent, I would like to focus on how increased African-EU co-operation has helped Zambia, my country. Last month, European Union Ambassador to Zambia Jacek Jankowski announced ENTERPRISE Zambia Challenge Fund (EZCF), an EU-backed initiative that will award grants to agribusiness operators in Zambia. The plan is worth an overall total of €25.9 million and has already launched its first call for proposals. In a time where Zambia, my country, is battling serious economic challenges this is a much-needed opportunity for the African agribusiness industry. More recently, just last week, the EU and Zambia agreed to two financing agreements that hope to boost investments in the country under the Economic Government Support Programme and the Zambia Energy Efficiency Sustainable Transformation Programme.
Europe’s collaboration and commitment to promoting African agriculture is not new. Our European partners have long been invested in promoting and helping African agribusiness realise their full potential and empower the sector. In June of this year, the African and European Unions launched a joint agri-food platform, which aims to link African and European private sectors to promote sustainable and meaningful investment.
The platform was launched off the back of the ‘Africa-Europe alliance for sustainable investment and jobs’ which was part of European Commission President’s Jean Claude Junker’s 2018 state of the Union address, where he called for a new “Africa-Europe alliance” and demonstrated that Africa is at the heart of the Union’s external relations.
The Zambian, and arguably the African agricultural environment, is dominated largely by small-to-medium sized farms that need both financial and institutional support to navigate these challenges. In addition, there is a lack of connectivity and interconnectedness within the sector, preventing farmers to connect with each other and realise their full potential through cooperation.
What makes EZCF unique among European agribusiness initiatives in Africa, however, is its specific focus on Zambia and empowering Zambian farmers. Over the past few years, the Zambian farming industry has grappled with droughts, lack of reliable infrastructure and unemployment. In fact, throughout 2019, it is estimated that a severe drought in Zambia led to 2.3 million people requiring emergency food assistance.
Therefore, a solely Zambia-focused initiative, backed by the European Union and aligned with promoting increased connectedness and investment in agriculture, not only reinforces Europe’s strong connection with Zambia, but will also bring some much-needed support and opportunity for the sector. This will undoubtedly allow our local farmers to unlock and leverage a wide range of financial resources.
More importantly, the EZCF is not operating alone. Alongside international initiatives, Zambia is already home to several impressive and important agribusiness companies that are working to empower and provide farmers with access to funding and capital markets.
One of these is African Green Resources (AGR) a world-class agribusiness company of which I am proud to be the chairman. At AGR, the focus is to promote value addition at every level of the farming value chain, as well as look for sustainable strategies for farmers to maximise their yields. For example, in March this year, AGR teamed up with several commercial farmers and multilateral agencies to develop a private sector financed irrigation scheme and dam and off grid solar supply which will support over 2,400 horticultural farmers, and expand grain production and new fruit plantations in the Mkushi farming block in Central Zambia. Over the next few years, our focus will be to continue promoting sustainability and the implementation of similar initiatives, and we are ready to invest alongside other agribusiness companies that seek to expand, modernise or diversify their operations.
Though it appears that the agricultural sector in Zambia may be facing challenges in the years to come, there are some very important milestones and reasons for optimism and opportunity. Increased cooperation with the European Union and European partners is an important way of capitalizing on opportunity and ensuring that we are all doing as much as we can to help small and medium sized farmers across the country.
Promoting increased interconnectedness within the private sector will help ensure that small farmers, the backbone of our national agricultural industry, are supported and empowered to collaborate, and share their resources with larger markets. I believe that both European and local agribusiness companies are heading in the right direction by looking into ways of promoting agribusiness, and I hope that together, we can all sustainably promote these goals on the regional and international stage.
Politicizing the telecom sector risks increasing costs for consumers
Speaking this afternoon (21 October) at an African Union (AU)-European Union (EU) webinar on the importance of EU-AU co-operation in research, Huawei’s chief EU representative Abraham Liukang warned that politicizing the future development of the telecom sector will only have the effect of pushing up consumer costs. “Basically, 4G and 5G were built around common technology standards. This brought benefits to consumers in terms of both the quality of new technology products that became available and in cost reductions for the end user. This process of advanced digitization has taken place due to global collaboration in research and science.
"The last thing that the world needs now is for de-coupling to arise as new tech solutions are built. The world should be about uniting together to fight issues like COVID-19 and climate change.
"Huawei has a strong history in taking part in EU research projects and we have also rolled out broadband in many rural parts of Africa, including through our innovative Rural Star project.”
Carlos Zorrinho MEP and who is also the joint chairperson of the EU-ACP Joint Parliamentary Assembly said: “The partnership of equals between the EU and Africa is just exactly that.
"There has to be an equal playing pitch in AU-EU relations when it comes to both the free movement of researchers and the free movement of ideas. Civil society in Africa needs to be engaged more by African governments on research issues. Science needs to be about finding solutions to key problems and it cannot be about controlling lives.
"The EU should support a new Wifi for All initiative in Africa.”
Annelisa Primi from the OECD said that “good science anywhere is good science everywhere. Make science, don’t buy it.
"Africa is helping the world to tackle Covid-19. Due to the experience of Ebola, Africa knows the priorities that need to be set in handling this pandemic.”
Moctar Yedaly, head of ICT at the African Union today said: “African governments need to invest in [email protected] or they will lose out from the benefits of digitization.
"There must be a paradigm shift in thinking by African governments on this investment matter.
"Investing in clean and green technologies is key – if the UN Sustainable Development Goals are to be reached.
"Cybersecurity and data projects are very important as people around the world want to transact business without any danger.”
Declan Kirrane, managing director of ISC Intelligence said: “There is already ground-breaking research going on in Africa.
"The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) astronomy project is a global scientific initiative. African researchers are very strong too in the areas of data and computational sciences.
"Capacity building in Africa must improve if African researchers are to fully benefit from Horizon Europe and there should also be an alignment between Africa and the EU on GDPR and related policy subjects such as the health sector. The European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership is also making strong advances in tackling HIV, AIDS and malaria.”
Senior MEP calls on Parliament to 'restore calm' in Guinea after elections
A senior MEP has called on the EU to press Guinea to “restore calm” after the weekend presidential elections left the trouble-torn African country in further turmoil.
Official results will not be known for several days and the local media have been banned from publishing exit poll results. But it is widely rumoured that the main opposition candidate, Cello Dalein Diallo, beat the sitting president Alpha Conde by over 50%.
There are now fears of unrest with Diallo suggesting the incumbent may “cheat” and dispute the outcome of Sunday’s (18 October) election in a bid to stay in power.
Diallo is apparently in hiding following rumours that he might be arrested.
Belgian Socialist Maria Arena, chairwoman of the European Parliament’s sub committee on human rights, told this website: “It seems important to me that the European Union, namely the external action service but also the member states, use political and diplomatic dialogue to try to restore calm in Guinea.”
On Monday (19 October), speaking exclusively to this website, Diallo said: “I am convinced from the results obtained that I won this election despite fraud and intimidation. I appeal to officials, territorial administrators and members of the branches of the CENI (Commission Electorale Nationale Indépendante) to ensure that all compatriots observe and respect the electoral code and other laws and good practices so that our country does not sink into violence.”
He added: “We don't need it. But, the risk is that if Alpha Condé wants at all costs, and whatever the results of the ballot box, to proclaim itself the winner. Let him understand that we will not accept.”
Diallo went on, “I now ask the international community to take its responsibilities to save Guinea from drift.”
In the vote, which followed months of political unrest where dozens of people were killed during security crackdowns on mass protests, 82-year-old Conde sought a controversial third term.
Diallo told reporters, “Alpha Conde cannot abandon his desire to grant himself a presidency for life.” He warned his rival not take power using “cunning and violence”.
Diallo said that in the election observers had encountered obstructions at polling stations while Guinea’s Prime Minister Ibrahima Kassory Fofana admitted there had been “incidents.”
Ten other candidates besides Conde and Diallo contested the poll and, if necessary, a second-round runoff vote is scheduled for November 24.
Much of the tension in Guinea relates to a new constitution Conde pushed through in March, in defiance of mass protests, arguing that it would modernise the country.
The move controversially allowed him to bypass a two-term limit for presidential terms. Conde became Guinea’s first democratically elected president in 2010 and won again in 2015 but rights groups now accuse him of veering towards authoritarianism.
Maria Arena, also a member of the Parliament’s influential conference of committee chairs and foreign affairs committee, noted that an emergency resolution had been voted by the assembly in February condemning Condé's desire to change the constitution by referendum to allow him to exercise a third term.
She said: “In this resolution, the European Parliament had already pointed out human rights violations and urged the government to organize transparent, pluralist and inclusive elections.
"But Condé, who called himself the president of democracy (“the Mandela of West Africa”) changed his ways and took the path of repression by locking up opponents.”
Turning to the current post-election period, she said: “We must avoid repeating the scenes of violence of 2009.”
She added: “Unfortunately the covid pandemic did not allow the EU to deploy an election observation mission. This is damaging for Guinea.
“Guinea, like the other African countries, has signed the Cotonou Agreement, which is still applicable and this agreement provides for sanctions mechanisms in the event of non-respect for good governance and democracy. The European Council will also be able to use this tool if the elections lead to a failure to respect these principles and if the Guinean population is a victim.”
Further comment comes from foreign affairs committee chairman German MEP David McAllister who told this website he did not want a repeat of the violence seen during the legislative elections and a constitutional referendum in March which he said “was deeply shocking”.
“The EU has rightly called on the authorities to carry out independent and thorough investigations so that those responsible can be prosecuted.
“The presidential election on Sunday was included amongst the 2020 priorities for an EU-Election Expert Mission but the political situation in the country made it impossible to deploy a mission, as the minimal conditions were clearly lacking. Furthermore, the Guinean authorities did not actively send any invitation to the EU for an election observation,” said the EPP deputy.
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