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Development Policy Forum Africa Summit organized by Friends of Europe

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Andris-PiebalgsAndris PIEBALGS, Brussels, 24 June 2014

"Introduction: Africa today

In a matter of decades, Africa has emerged from the shadows of colonial rule, apartheid, crippling debt and economic stagnation. It has entered a new era of unprecedented economic and demographic growth. Today it is the most dynamic continent, considered the world’s growth “reservoir”. It has a number of assets that will be vital to its ability to unleash its full potential. Let me highlight just two.

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"[1. Economic dynamism]

"First, there is growth. Between 2003 and 2011, while much of the world was stuck in recession, average GDP in Africa grew by 5.2 percent. In 2012, eight of the ten fastest-growing economies were African.

"[2. The youngest continent]

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"Second, there is human capital. Africa has the fastest-growing population in the world – and the youngest, too. In 1900, Africa represented 7% of the world population; today it represents 16% and it is estimated that in 2100, it will represent 38%. Between 2010 and 2015, Africa's working age population will more than double. And by 2050, a quarter of the world’s working age population will be African.

"Challenges ahead (pitfalls)

"You will agree, then, that in many respects Africa’s progress has been astounding. And with much of its potential still untapped, the path ahead looks promising. However, there will be many pitfalls to avoid along the way. For Africa is also a continent of contrasts. A number of huge challenges still prevent it from fully exploiting its potential.

"First, governance is still an issue. The 2013 Mo Ibrahim index showed that while most African countries had experienced widespread human development and improved economic opportunities since 2000, average scores in the safety and rule of law category had declined sharply.

"Second, violent conflict and the threat of extremism continue to dog the continent. The conflicts in Central African Republic, Mali, South Sudan and Somalia in particular have grabbed headlines worldwide.

"Third, famines, pandemics and climate change impacts are an ever-present danger.

"And fourth, solid economic performance still hides huge inequalities, which may prove destabilising. In sub-Saharan Africa the number of people living on less than 1.25 dollars a day has fallen from 56 to 41 per cent. And yet this is the only region where the number of people living in extreme poverty has risen steadily – from 290 million in 1990 to 414 million in 2010. In all, more than a third of the world’s poor live in sub-Saharan Africa.

"In short, today is the time to finally unleash Africa's huge and unrivalled potential. And I am very confident that this can be done. In recent years I have noticed strong willingness among African leaders and citizens alike to change the perception of Africa. They want Africa to become a continent of opportunity and success rather than a land of starving children and poverty. They want former and unjustified stereotypes to disappear once for all. In this regard, the African Union’s long-term strategy, Agenda 2063, sets out a vision and a plan to make full use of Africa’s potential to give its people a brighter future.

"More than ever, Africa is taking its destiny in its own hands while Europe is ready to remain Africa’s steadfast and reliable partner to make its vision a reality.

"EU-Africa: a privileged partnership

"The EU-Africa Summit which took place in last April demonstrated once again the privileged relationship both continents have The EU is Africa’s main development partner. It is its biggest trading partner and its top investor.

"Despite the economic crisis, in 2012 the EU as a whole committed 18.5 billion euro, or 45 per cent of global aid, to Africa. Between now and 2020, the Commission alone will provide more than 28 billion euro in development assistance for Africa.

"Aid really does work, ladies and gentlemen.

"Thanks to EU development assistance, since 2004 around 14 million new pupils have enrolled in primary education and more than 70 million people have been connected to improved drinking water worldwide. Over the same period, the EU has helped construct or renovate more than 8,500 health facilities worldwide. Between 2007 and 2012, the EU helped provide access to electricity to over 600 thousand households in Africa, with around 80 thousand jobs being created in the energy sector.

"These great results have been possible because donors and partner countries have worked together to achieve them. And yet, with the MDG deadline only some 500 days away, much remains to be done. Progress has been uneven and most sub-Saharan countries are still lagging behind. We must all redouble our efforts to finish the unfinished work and put Africa on the road to inclusive and sustainable growth for good.

Inclusive and sustainable development and poverty eradication strategy through the Agenda for Change

"The enormous changes in many African and developing countries, and a belief that we could and should get even better poverty eradication results from our development funds were some of the factors in my decision to carry out a fundamental reform of EU development policy to make it even more focused and effective.

"With the Agenda for Change the EU has set up a strategy that goes beyond the symptoms to tackle the very root causes of poverty. It is based on three principles: targeting our funds to those countries most in need; concentrating funds on a limited number of strategic sectors where we can have the greatest impact; and placing special emphasis on results.

"Over the past three years, we have put these principles in action.

Differentiation

"In today’s world, we can’t cooperate with China, India or Brazil as we do with Senegal, Somalia or Bangladesh. In the negotiations on the multiannual financial framework to set the European Union’s budget from 2014 to 2020 we succeeded in maintaining high levels of aid. Our aid budget, amounting to 50.1 billion euro, will be mostly targeted towards the poorest countries where our aid really has an added value. Indeed, 70 per cent of EU bilateral cooperation will be allocated to Least Developed Countries and other low-income countries. With 24 of the 25 poorest countries in 2013 located in Africa, the continent will be our major partner.

Concentration of aid

"The focus of our support will be directed to the three critical sectors for development identified by the Agenda for Change. They are, first, human rights, democracy and other key elements of good governance; second, drivers for inclusive and sustainable growth – notably agriculture and energy; and third, human development.

"Human development will remain a key feature of our development. We will therefore continue to allocate at least 20% of EU funding on health and education.

"This means, for example, that the EU will more than double its funding for vaccines and immunization worldwide, from 10 million to 25 million euro per year. We also strengthen our support to the Global Partnership for Education, whose objective is to achieve universal education goals by putting all 57 million primary-school-aged children in school and providing good quality learning. The Commission plans to double its contribution to the Partnership at the Replenishment conference on 26 June.

"Likewise, to escape poverty, countries must be able to feed their people and secure their energy supply. That is why we see agriculture and energy as catalysts for sustainable growth. For the next seven years, agriculture and food security will be a focal sector in more than 30 African countries. In today’s world of abundance, it is indeed unacceptable to see starving children, as I have seen in Somalia and Djibouti for instance. More than 3 billion euro will be allocated to support sustainable agriculture activities and around 3.5 billion euro to fight against stunting.

"Energy will also be an important focal sector. Under the Sustainable Energy for All initiative the EU will allocate more than 3 billion euro to energy over the next 7 years, which will in turn leverage investments exceeding 15 billion euro. I recently announced the launch of 16 energy projects across nine African countries under our new rural electrification programme. These actions will translate into projects bringing electricity to more than 2 million people in rural areas and will move us closer to our target of connecting 500 million people by 2030.

"So growth is an important factor in development. Yet we must not forget how fragile it can be without solid institutions and governance to support it. The Arab Spring has shown that there is a real thirst for transparency, accountability and respect for human rights. This is the reason why 25 per cent of the funds we allocate will be directed to good governance-related sectors, including support for civil society.

"Beyond these three main principles under the Agenda for Change, I must add a word on our support for peace and security. We all have in mind the terrible images of violence in Central African Republic or South Sudan. The EU is playing a critical role in those countries torn apart by conflicts which destroy any gains made in development and push millions of people back in extreme poverty.

"We have contributed more than 1.2 billion euro since 2004 to help finance Africa-led peace support operations, in Somalia, Sudan, Mali or CAR.

Post-2015

"Ladies and gentlemen,

"The Africa-EU partnership not only deals with concrete projects and development aid. It is also about cooperating on global political issues – such as the post 2015 agenda.

"What is at stake is critical: it is about putting the world on track towards poverty eradication and sustainable development.

"The EU made its position clear last year. We believe that the post-2015 framework should have poverty eradication and sustainable development at its core, and include five main elements: basic living standards; inclusive and sustainable growth; sustainable management of natural resources; equity, equality and justice; and peace and security.

"When the African Union adopted its common position on the post-2015 framework last January, I was very pleased to see that it is extremely close to the EU position. During the last Africa-EU Summit, African and European leaders recognised that defining the post-2015 agenda provides – and I quote – a “unique opportunity to realise our common vision of a peaceful, just and equitable world that is free of poverty and respects the environment”.

"Both sides also committed to “work in partnership to support the definition and of an ambitious, inclusive and universal post-2015 development agenda that should reinforce the international community's commitment to poverty eradication and sustainable development”.

"We must now turn these fine words into real action by engaging further in the moves to set up an ambitious agenda ahead of the intergovernmental negotiations in 2015.

Conclusion: Future relations with Africa

"Ladies and gentlemen,

"The time has come for Africa and Europe to leave behind the traditional donor-recipient relationship and to develop a shared long-term vision for our relations in a globalised world.

"That’s why we’ve agreed to build a strong political relationship and cooperate closely in a broad range of priority areas – from peace and security to social and human development and economic and trade cooperation. Our relationship is founded on shared values, shared interests and shared strategic objectives. It strives to bring Africa and Europe closer together through stronger economic cooperation and more sustainable development, with both continents living side by side in peace, security, democracy, prosperity, solidarity and human dignity.

"Ours is a partnership of mutual interests. When terrorist activities spread in Africa or migration flows become unmanageable, they threaten Africa and Europe alike. Likewise, when Africa’s growth increases or inter-African trade expands, the opportunities for both Africa and Europe are evident.

"We may not agree on everything, but with a sense of common responsibility we can work together to find common solutions. That’s what a partnership of equals is all about. It’s a partnership to which we can and must aspire."

Libya

Reflections on the failures of Libyan talks at Geneva and beyond

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Libyans must themselves work to restore the long-lost unity of our nation. External solutions will only exacerbate our country’s already precarious state. It is time to end the series of failures that has plagued the collapse of talks and return the Libyan homeland to a state of legitimacy, writes Shukri Al-Sinki.

The demand to return Libya to constitutional legitimacy as it was last enjoyed in the country in 1969 is a genuine right of the nation. It is a plight to recover a stolen system of guaranteed rights and not the battle of an individual to reclaim his throne. Returning to constitutional legitimacy means returning to the state of affairs that Libyans enjoyed before 1969’s coup d’etat. The idea itself is not novel. The desire of Libyans to return to its original constitution and with it, restore the monarchy, was first introduced at a conference in 1992 in London, attended by representatives of the international press as well as several high-profile political personalities.

In line with the wish of the people, Prince Muhammad, the crown prince residing in London, has not publicized himself, nor will he appear as an aspirant to the throne until the conflicting factions of Libyan society agree to a compromise. Only the people can proclaim him a legitimate ruler. This is the legacy of the Senussi family, which Prince Muhammad has pledged to honor. The source of the family’s strength is precisely in the fact that it stands at an equal distance from all parties in Libya, in a neutral position. This is the kind of leadership that Libyans can seek refuge in should conflict intensify.

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“I know, my son, that our Senussi family does not belong to a single tribe, group or party, but to all Libyans. Our family was and will remain a large tent that all men and women in Libya can seek shelter under. If God and your people choose you, then I want you to serve as a king for all the people. You will have to rule with justice and equity, and be of assistance to everyone. You will also have to be the sword of the country when in need, and defend our homeland and the lands of Islam. Respect all local and international covenants.”

The time has come for Libya to recover after a prolonged period of hardship. The real solution to all of our existing divisions, wars and conflicts lies in a nationwide project deriving its legitimacy from the legacy that our founding fathers left behind. Independent from external pressures and internally imposed plans of the few, we must work together to restore legitimacy itself.

We have to come to terms with the fact that warring parties will not give in to each other’s requests out of their own volition, and will likely continue to battle. This threatens the entirety of our homeland’s existence. Perhaps a more easily acceptable and non-partisan leader, who is free of tribal and regional affiliations, could offer the remedy. A person of good standing and moral values who descends from a family chosen by God Himself. A family of both religious and reformist legacy whose forefather, King Idris, achieved one of the greatest accomplishments in the history of Libya: our country’s independence. The Al-Senussi heritage is one of nationalism and fighting for the people.

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We must overcome the ones who meddle with the future of Libya in the hope of putting their hands on our national resources, deriving personal benefit, or hoping to favor foreign agendas and impose authoritarian means of governance. We have to reject the further prolongation of the transitional period lest we risk inviting more opportunities for disputes and bring unwarranted danger back to Libya. We have had enough of wasting the country’s resources as well as the people’s time. We have had enough of taking on additional risks. We have had enough of walking down an unknown path. We have a constitutional heritage within our grasp, which we could call on any time. Let us call on it, let us invite our legitimate leader back, and let us pledge allegiance to a united Libya.

Shukri El-Sunki is a widely published Libya based writer and researcher. He is the author of four books, his most recent being Conscience of a Homeland (Maktaba al-Koun, 2021,) which chronicles the stories of Libyan heroes who faced and resisted the tyranny of the Gadhaffi regime.

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Africa

Rapprochement between Israel and Arab countries set to drive economic growth in MENA

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Over the past year, several Arab countries have normalized relations with Israel, marking a significant geopolitical shift in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. While the details of each normalization deal vary, some of them include trade and tax treaties and cooperation in key sectors such as health and energy. Normalization efforts are set to bring countless benefits to the MENA region, boosting economic growth, writes Anna Schneider. 

In August 2020, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) became the first Gulf Arab nation to normalize relations with Israel, establishing formal diplomatic, commercial, and security ties with the Jewish state. Shortly after, the Kingdom of Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco followed suit. Some experts have suggested that other Arab nations, such as Saudi Arabia, may also consider fostering relations with Israel. The string of normalization efforts is historic, as hitherto, only Egypt and Jordan had established official ties with Israel. The agreements are also a major diplomatic win for the United States, which played a critical role in fostering the deals. 

Historically, Arab nations and Israel have maintained distant relations, as many were staunch supporters of the Palestinian movement. Now, however, with the growing threat of Iran, some GCC nations and other Arab countries are beginning to lean towards Israel. Iran is investing significant resources in expanding its geopolitical presence by way of its proxies, Hezbollah, Hamas, the Houthis, and others. Indeed, several GCC countries recognize the danger Iran poses to the region’s national security, critical infrastructure, and stability, leading them to side with Israel in an effort to counterbalance Iranian aggression. By normalizing relations with Israel, the GCC can pool resources and coordinate militarily. 

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Furthermore, the trade agreements featured in the normalization deals allow Arab nations to purchase advanced US military equipment, such as the famed F-16 and F-35 fighter jets. Thus far, Morocco has purchased 25 F-16 fighter jets from the U.S. The U.S. has also agreed to sell 50 F-35 jets to the UAE. Although there are some concerns that this influx of weaponry into the already-unstable MENA region could ignite current conflicts. Some experts believe such advanced military technology could also augment efforts to combat Iran's presence. 

Mohammad Fawaz, director of Gulf Policy Research Group, states that “advanced military technology is essential in obstructing Iranian aggression. In today’s military arena, aerial superiority is perhaps the most critical advantage an army can possess. With Iran’s military equipment and weaponry heavily dampened by decades-long sanctions, a formidable airforce will only work to further deter the Iranian regime from escalating provocations.” 

The normalization agreements could also enhance cooperation in the health and energy sectors. For example, during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UAE and Israel developed technology to monitor and combat the coronavirus. The two nations are also exploring collaboration opportunities in the area of pharmaceuticals and medical research. In June, the UAE and Israel also signed a double taxation treaty, citizens to generate income in both nations without paying double tax. Additionally, Bahrain, the UAE, Israel, and the US  have agreed to cooperate on energy issues. In particular, the quartet aims to pursue advancements in petrol, natural gas, electricity, energy efficiency, renewable energies, and R&D. 

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These noteworthy agreements could help boost economic growth and social benefits in the region. Indeed, MENA nations are currently battling with a new outbreak of COVID-19, thanks to the Delta variant, which is severely impacting economies and health industries. In order to improve the region’s critical institutions, such normalization deals are sure to improve the region’s reliance on oil. In fact, the UAE has been working on reducing its own dependence on oil, diversifying its economy to include renewable energy and high tech, such progress is sure to spill over to others in the region. 

The normalization of relations between a handful of Arab nations and Israel will have major benefits on the geopolitical and economic structure of the Middle East and North Africa region. Facilitating cooperation across the Middle East will not only boost economic growth, but it will also foster regional stability. 

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Africa

Tunisia crisis underscores risks of European push for democratization in northern Africa

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While the European Union and the United Nations struggle to keep Libya’s transition to elections on track, the dramatic events unfolding next door in Tunisia have raised the spectre of upheaval and instability in yet another North African member of the European neighbourhood. In a series of moves that leaves the Arab Spring’s only success story at risk of backsliding into authoritarianism, Tunisia’s populist president Kais Saied (pictured) has disbanded the rest of the country’s government and granted himself emergency powers under the terms of the country’s 2014 constitution, writes Louis Auge.

In addition to disbanding Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and suspending the highly fractious national parliament, within which Rachid Ghannouchi’s Islamist Ennahda party represented the largest group, Saied has also shuttered the offices of al-Jazeera and removed multiple top officials, all as Tunisian foreign minister Othman Jerandi seeks to reassure EU counterparts that his country’s democratic transition is still on track.

Fledging Tunisian institutions fall flat on COVID and the economy

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Kais Saied’s power grab has understandably provoked outrage among his Islamist political opponents, but his dismissal of Prime Minister Mechichi and his dissolution of parliament were also the central demands of nationwide protests in Tunisia over the past several days. As Tunisia lurches through Africa’s most lethal COVID epidemic, a growing cross-section of Tunisian society is losing faith in the ability of the country’s deadlocked political institutions to address widespread joblessness, corruption, and endless economic crisis.

Between Tunisia and Libya, the EU finds itself face to face with both the best case and worst-case outcomes of the Arab Spring, each presenting its own challenges for European foreign policy in North Africa and the Sahel. Despite the supposed success of its transition, the number of Tunisians who traversed the Mediterranean to reach European shores increased fivefold as their elected officials brawled on the floor of the Assembly in Tunis last year.

The experience has made European leaders understandably wary of pushing other countries in the region towards overly hasty political transitions, as demonstrated by the French and European handling of the situation in Chad since the battlefield death of President Idriss Déby three months ago. When the tenuous stability of multiple countries could be at play, decision makers in Brussels and the European capitals have proven more patient with transitional African counterparts of late.

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Prioritising stability in Chad

The news of President Déby’s death this past April immediately, if only briefly, threw the future of French and European policy in Africa’s Sahel region into question. Under its former leader, Chad emerged as France’s most active and reliable ally in a region overrun by jihadist groups taking advantage of weak governance in countries like Mali to carve out territory for themselves. Chadian troops have been deployed alongside French forces against jihadists in Mali itself, and have borne the brunt of operations against Boko Haram in the region surrounding Lake Chad.

A breakdown in government authority in N'Djamena along the lines of the collapse seen in Mali would have been catastrophic for European foreign policy and security priorities in the Sahel region. Instead, the country’s immediate stability has been ensured by an acting government headed by the late president’s son Mahamat. In a sign of the country’s importance to European interests, both French president Emmanuel Macron and EU High Representative Josep Borrell attended the late president’s funeral on April 23rd.

Since then, Macron has welcomed Mahamat to Paris in his role as head of Chad’s Transitional Military Council (TMC), both to discuss Chad’s 18-month transitional period to elections and to define the parameters of the two countries’ joint fight against jihadism in the Sahel. While France’s long-running Operation Barkhane is set to wind down between now and the first part of next year, its objectives will shift to the shoulders of the French-led Takuba European task force and to the G5-Sahel – a regional security partnership of which Chad has proven to be the most effective member.

Delicate balancing acts

While the TMC has ensured the continued stability of Chad’s central government in the short term, regional security challenges help explain why neither the EU nor the African Union (AU) are pushing the country’s interim authorities too hard on speedy elections. The transition to civilian rule is already under way, with PM Albert Pahimi Padacké forming a new government this past May. Next steps include the appointment of a national transitional council (NTC), a national dialogue bringing together both opposition and pro-government forces, and a constitutional referendum.

As they navigate the next stages of the transition, actors both within and outside of Chad could look next door to Sudan for lessons on how to move forward. Despite the fact more than two years have already passed since the overthrow of longtime president and alleged war criminal Omar al-Bashir, Sudan will not be holding elections to replace Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok’s transitional government until 2024.

At a major conference held in Paris and hosted by President Macron this past May, Sudan’s European partners and creditors made clear they understood the long time horizon was necessary for Hamdok and other post-revolutionary leaders in Khartoum to focus on the urgent problems facing post-Bashir Sudan. Alongside an economic crisis that makes even basic commodities hard to come by, Sudan is also juggling tens of billions of dollars in external debt and a “deep state” of officials loyal to the deposed president. In an endorsement of the transition’s progress thus far, Hamdok came out of the conference with a pledge from IMF members to clear the arrears Sudan owns them, while Macron also insisted France supported clearing the $5 billion Khartoum owes Paris as well.

If N'Djamena and Khartoum can navigate their perilous transitions to democratic governance in the face of “staggering” challenges, Chad and Sudan could jointly revive hopes for Arab democracy in both European and Middle Eastern capitals – even if the last flame of the original Arab Spring appears to be flickering out in Tunisia.

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