“Unlike previous strategies, the new EU-Africa Strategy has been created not for Africa but with Africa, which is a true manifestation of close cooperation. For the European Union, the partnership with Africa should create an economic relationship that is based on equality, trust, shared values, and the genuine desire to build lasting relations. If Africa is doing well, Europe is doing well”, stated Janina Ochojska MEP ahead of today’s vote on the EU-Africa Strategy in Parliament's Development Committee, that she spearheaded on behalf of the EPP Group.
The Report being voted on is Parliament's response to the plans for a new, comprehensive EU-Africa Strategy, and to the upcoming EU-Africa Summit, planned later in 2021. The EPP Group wants an ambitious partnership, based on values and shared responsibilities, benefiting both Africa and the EU. "We need to engage in a true partnership with those countries who strive for good governance, respect the rule of law, democracy, human rights, peace and security", explained Ochojska.
Ochojska highlighted that every month, about one million Africans enter the local job markets while lacking education or skills to match demands. “Within the next 15 years, some 375 million young people are expected to reach working age. If we want to lift this continent out of poverty we need to empower young people by providing them with education, training and skills and prepare them for the new opportunities and challenges of tomorrow’s labour market. Human development and youth must be at the heart of this strategy”, she said.
Environmental crises and health are two other areas Parliament wants to prioritise in EU-Africa relations. "Migration and forced displacement triggered by climate change and environmental degradation will continue to pose both challenges and opportunities for the two continents. Well-managed migration and mobility can have a positive impact on countries of origin and destination”, concluded Ochojska.
The EPP Group is the largest political group in the European Parliament with 187 Members from all EU Member States
Humanitarian Crisis in Central African Republic continues
The humanitarian crisis in Central African Republic (CAR) doesn´t seem to end. The CAR has been under attack by armed groups for two months, ever since the armed CPC (Coalition of the Patriots of the Central African Republic) launched numerous attacks on key cities including the capital, Bangui, aimed at aborting the elections at December 27 2020. Even though the government of the Central African Republic hoped for peaceful elections, the National Army was prepared to defend the security of the country.
According to UN-expert Yao Agbetsi, the CPC routinely violate human rights and committing crimes against the civilian population of the CAR as residents have subjected to extortion, robbery, rape, and abduction. CPC fighters also regularly kidnap press-gang children into their ranks and use them as human shields.
CAR-President Faustin-Archange Touadéra issued a call for aid to neighboring countries, and to international partners. The recent bilateral partnership in the security sector with the Russian Federation was one of the achievements of the Central African government, which helped to give a boost to the national defense forces (the FACA).
The presence of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) seems at the same time not at all satisfying for the people of CAR. Even the recent news of the possible increase in the MINUSCA numbers provoked wide discussion among the local population and security experts.
Yao Agbetsi reports: “UN personnel in the CAR (MINUSCA) showed their low efficiency in resolving the crisis in the country. More than 14,000 people of the MINUSCA contingent cost the international community about $1 billion a year and they do not contribute to the restoration of peace in the CAR”.
Agbetsi also notes that the CAR’s allies, Russia and Rwanda, have provided effective military support in the fight against the rebels. It can be beneficial for the CAR to engage Russia more actively in solving its regional security problems.
Also Marie-Therese Keita-Bocoum, independent expert on the situation of human rights in the CAR, shares the stance with Agbetsi. In an opinion piece for African Associated Press (AAP) Keita-Bocoum wrote:
“The government headed by President Touadera made it clear that it would be in the interests of its people to bring the war to a victorious end. All groups will be destroyed, and their leaders will be brought to justice. This resonates with the country’s population, which is confirmed by regular pro-Touadera demonstrations of thousands of residents. African countries should support the actions of the legally elected government due to the fact that the president has proved that the people’s interests are at the forefront of his mind.”
She criticizes as well the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) which in her opinion “seeks to interfere in the internal affairs of the CAR.”
Keita-Bocoum: “The ECCAS chaired by Angolan Gilberto Da Piedade Verissimo is a tool for pursuing Angola’s political interests. In order to divert its population’s attention from internal problems, the government of Angola intervenes in the situation in the CAR, acting on the side of criminals and terrorists.”
The African expert empathized the role of the international allies of CAR: “Thanks to FACA, trained by Russian instructors and Rwandan allies, the advance of CPC mercenaries has been stopped and they are suffering losses.”
Timothy Longman, professor of political science and international relations at Boston University and internationally recognized expert on the Rwandan genocide, calls as well for a stop of violence in CAR.
Longman: “President Touadera made it clear that it would be in the interests of its people to bring the war to a victorious end. All groups will be destroyed, and their leaders will be brought to justice. This resonates with the country’s population, which is confirmed by regular pro-Touadera demonstrations of thousands of residents. African countries should support the actions of the legally elected government due to the fact that the president has proved that the people’s interests are at the forefront of his mind.”
Team Europe partners with Equity Bank to support Kenyan business and agriculture amid COVID-19
The European Union and the European Investment Bank, working together as Team Europe, are providing €120 million (KES 15.8 billion) of new support for Equity Bank to enhance financing to Kenyan companies most impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.
The financing package will support access to finance at appropriate conditions for Kenyan SMEs, including in the agriculture sector, through €100m loans from the European Investment Bank to Equity Bank and €20m of European Union (EU) grant support.
New technical assistance, backed by the European Union, will further strengthen Equity Bank's capacity to assess, execute and monitor longer-term agricultural value chains investment projects and further develop provision of long-term financing for agriculture.
“As an inclusive regional financial institution these facilities strengthen Equity's position to further enhance the strength of MSMEs which are key actors in value chains and ecosystems in the economy. By ensuring their survival and growth the MSMEs will continue to protect jobs, create more jobs and support lives and livelihoods in society, serving to create resilience as the pandemic subsides, vaccines become available in Kenya, and market growth returns. We value our long-term partnership with the EIB and the European Union who have walked with us and our customers on our path for sustained human development for many years including their investment to scale Kilimo Biashara. We thank them for supporting our efforts to strengthen the role of MSMEs to stimulate the economy back to prosperity, and hence support lives and livelihoods through market growth,” said Equity Group Holdings Plc Group Managing Director and Group Chief Executive Officer Dr. James Mwangi.
“New EIB and EU support for leading Kenyan partner Equity Bank will help entrepreneurs, business and agricultural small holders across Kenya to access finance and better withstand the economic challenges and business uncertainties caused by COVID-19. Today's new agreements demonstrate Team Europe and Kenya joining forces to beat COVID-19 and help business flourish,” said Thomas Östros, vice president of the European Investment Bank.
“The EU is working to revamp our co-operation with our African partners to tackle the common challenges that affect people's lives, in particular the youth. We want to build back better together from the COVID-19 pandemic to guarantee a sustainable, green and just recovery. The SME sector is a lifeline for employment, including for the most vulnerable populations and in particular in critical sectors such as agriculture. Agreements like the one signed today to support Kenyan SMEs to mitigate the negative impact of COVID-19 and will help us to achieve this,” said International Partnerships Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen.
Kenya's National Treasury observed a downturn growth rate from 6.1 % to 2.5 % in 2020, making it the worst year for the country in more than a decade. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which sustain the highest proportion of employment in the region, are the most vulnerable with limited access to external financing.
The Kenya–Team Europe COVID-19 Response Access to Finance and Kenya Agriculture Value Chain Facility initiatives were formally signed in Equity Bank HQ Nairobi at a COVID-19 compliant event attended by the European Union Ambassador to Kenya, EIB Regional Representative in East Africa and Kenyan stakeholders. EIB Vice President Thomas Östros participated remotely.
Improving access to finance by agriculture
Agriculture contributes about 51% to Kenya's GDP (26% directly and another 25% indirectly), 60% of employment and 65% of the exports. Growth of agriculture based economic activity is constrained by limited long-term financing, which delays its development and modernization.
Increasing private sector access to long-term financing is crucial to unlock development potential across all sectors impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, including agriculture and agricultural value chains.
Enhancing economic resilience of Kenyan business of COVID-19
The new private sector financing initiative unveiled today will strengthen access to finance by Kenyan SMEs and boost business resilience at a time of global economic slowdown and investment uncertainty.
In addition, the new cooperation with Equity Bank will stimulate investment, creating decent jobs and contributing to the country's recovery efforts and sustainable development.
The programme announced today is part of the larger €300m EU response to the COVID-19 crisis in Kenya and targeted EIB support for economic resilience across Africa.
Other partnerships with banks to provide access to finance may be forthcoming.
Strengthening cooperation with leading Kenyan financial institutions
Equity Bank is the largest partner for EIB backed private sector support in Kenya.
Over the last 10 years, the EIB has worked with 17 Kenyan banks and financial institutions to increased access to finance by entrepreneurs, small holders and business expansion through targeted credit lines and financing initiatives.
Since 1976 the European Investment Bank has provided more than €1.5bn of financing to support private and public investment across Kenya.
The EU and Kenya have a long-standing partnership. The EU's co-operation with Kenya amounts to €435 million for the period 2014-2020, covering the sectors of Job Creation and Resilience, Sustainable Infrastructure and Governance. The country is also supported by the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa; with over €58.3m for 2015-2019.
The announcement illustrates the commitment of the EU and its member states present in Kenya in supporting the country's main objectives outlined in the ‘Big 4 Agenda'. In 2018, the second phase of the Joint Programming strategy was signed, seeking to boost manufacturing, food and nutrition, security, affordable housing and universal health coverage.
Team Europe's total global response to COVID-19 stands at almost €38.5bn, combining resources from the EU, its member states, the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Around €8bn of this assistance is designated to African countries. The programme announced today is part of the larger €300m EU response to the COVID-19 crisis in Kenya.
G7: EU to support COVID-19 vaccination strategies and capacity in Africa
European Commission, President Ursula von der Leyen, has announced €100 million in humanitarian assistance to support the rollout of vaccination campaigns in Africa, which are spearheaded by the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC). Subject to the agreement of the budgetary authority, this funding will support the vaccination campaigns in countries with critical humanitarian needs and fragile health systems. The funding will, among others, contribute to ensuring the cold chains, roll-out registration programmes, training of medical and support staff as well as logistics. This sum comes on top of €2.2 billion provided by Team Europe to COVAX.
Ursula von der Leyen said: “We've always been clear that the pandemic won't end until everyone is protected globally. The EU stands ready to support the vaccination strategies in our African partners with experts and deliveries of medical supplies at the request of the African Union. We are also exploring potential support to boost local production capacities of vaccines under licensing arrangements in Africa. This would be the fastest way to ramp up production everywhere to the benefit of those that most need it.”
Crisis Management Commissioner Janez Lenarčič said: “International vaccine solidarity is a must if we are to effectively address the COVID-19 pandemic. We are looking at ways to use our humanitarian aid and civil protection tools to help in the rollout of vaccination campaigns in Africa. Ensuring equitable access to vaccines for vulnerable people, including in hard-to-access areas, is a moral duty. We will build on our valuable experience in delivering humanitarian aid in a challenging environment, for example via the Humanitarian Air Bridge flights.”
International Partnerships Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen added: “Team Europe has stood by the side of our African partners from the onset of the pandemic and will continue to do so. We have already mobilised more than €8 billion to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa. We are strengthening health systems and preparedness capacities, which is absolutely key to ensure effective vaccination campaigns. And we are now exploring support through the new NDICI and how to leverage investments in the local production capacities through the External Action Guarantee.”
The EU also has a range of instruments at its disposal, such as the EU Humanitarian Air bridge, the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, and the EU's humanitarian budget. These tools have been used extensively in the context of COVID-19 to deliver crucial material and logistical assistance to partners in Africa.
The Commission is also currently exploring opportunities to support African countries in the medium term to establish local or regional production capacity of health products, in particular vaccines and protective equipment. This support will come under the new Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI) and the European Fund for Sustainable Development plus (EFSD+).
The EU has been scaling up its humanitarian engagement in Africa since the onset COVID-19 crisis. A key of part of these efforts is the EU Humanitarian Air Bridge, which is an integrated set of services enabling the delivery of humanitarian assistance to countries affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The air bridge carries medical equipment, and humanitarian cargo and staff, providing humanitarian assistance for the most vulnerable populations where the pandemic imposes constraints on transport and logistics. The air bridge flights are fully funded by the EU. So far, almost 70 flights have delivered over 1,150 tons of medical equipment as well as nearly 1,700 medical and humanitarian staff and other passengers. Flights to Africa have aided the African Union, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea Bissau, Nigeria, São Tomé and Príncipe, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan.
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