via The Fourth Europe-Africa Summit | BusinessDay April 7, 2014 by Obadiah Mailafia
The much-awaited Fourth Europe-Africa Summit took place in Brussels on the 3rd and 4th of April last week. Bringing together 60 Heads of State and Government (40 from Africa and 20 from Europe) was no mean feat in itself. Controversy had dogged the Summit at every step. I was involved in the preparatory work leading up to the meeting and I know that doubt was a shadowy incubus that would not go away. As late as a fortnight ago a European colleague had expressed worries that the thing might not happen after all.
Some African leaders were peeved by what they regarded as a condescending attitude on the part of the Europeans. Morocco, which is not a member of the African Union, had been invited. This would obviously be at the expense of Western Sahara, which is recognised by the AU and vehemently opposed by the Government in Rabat. There had been initial controversies of whether Egypt could participate, as it has been suspended from the AU following the coup d’état by Field Marshal Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi that overthrew the Islamist-led administration of Mohammed Morsi. In the end, Egypt did make a low-key showing at the conference.
President Isaias Afowerki of Eritrea was banned due to gross human rights violations. The EU had also initially opposed the participation of Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, only to capitulate within the last couple of weeks. Mugabe cancelled his planned visit after his wife’s visa application was turned down. President Uhuru Kenyatta must have agonised over the ICC in The Hague which is just an hour and a half from Brussels. Although he did attend, he made it a point to go straight to their airport immediately after the meeting ended. President Jacob Zuma of South Africa did not attend due to “other commitments”. Public scrutiny over alleged corruption relating to the building of his $30 mansion at Nkandla may have been the deciding factor.
The recently concluded Summit had as its theme, “Investing in People, Prosperity and Peace”. Given all the odds arrayed against it, the meeting was a success. Issues that would have been otherwise divisive were handled with civility. The EU had preferred not to discuss the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), but had come to realise the absurdity of not doing so. The issue of gay rights, championed by European leaders such as the openly gay Belgian premier Elio Di Rupo, was also handled with decorum.
The final communiqué reaffirmed the objectives set out in the Joint Africa-EU Strategy adopted at the Lisbon Summit of 2007 and the 2010 Tripoli Declaration following the Third Summit in Libya. It noted the progress that has been made in good governance, democracy and human rights in Africa and the strides in macroeconomic growth. However, they regretted the fact that such growth has not been inclusive and has not trickled down to the poorest groups in society.
The Summit placed a strong accent on the idiom of interdependence and solidarity between the nations of Africa and Europe, with ties rooted in history, trade and geographical contiguity: “our economies remain closely linked, and we will work to ensure that growth of the one will help the other. We are also convinced that trade and investment and closer economic integration each of our continents will accelerate growth.”
Under the broad theme of “Security”, Summit leaders agreed to work together to build a zone of mutual security. Preventing violent conflicts and tackling the conditions that generate instability are considered essential to building the foundations for a just and lasting peace in Africa. The leaders recognised terrorism as a menace that must be tackled head-on. President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria spoke strongly on the problem of terrorism in Africa. He called on African and European leaders to expose the sponsors of terrorism and to bring to them to justice. The fragile situation in Mali, Central African Republic, Somalia, the Great Lakes and DRC came for special mention. The EU pledged to do their part to strengthen the African security architecture and to provide financial and logistical support to peacekeeping forces in Africa.
Under the broad theme of “Prosperity”, Summit leaders committed themselves to working together to boost trade and growth as the foundations for sustainable prosperity. Tackling youth unemployment was considered an urgent imperative. Summit leaders welcomed progress being made with regard to EPA negotiations and committed themselves to exploring ways and means to ensure that a just and equitable settlement is reached between Europe and Africa. The Summit urged African nations to fast track the Continental Free Trade Area (CTFA) that would offer an opportunity to create a single market in Africa. They also expressed their determination to advance the Climate Change Agenda by cooperating in adopting a joint framework at the Paris 2015 conference to ensure a legally binding agreement on greenhouse gas emissions while pushing forward the internationally agreed commitment to mobilising an annual US$100 billion for climate change financing.
Under the theme of “People”, the Summit underlined the importance of a people-centred approach to development. It committed the leaders of the EU and Africa to work together for an international development architecture that advances the cause of anti-poverty and accelerated human development within the framework of a post-2015 development agenda. People should be put at the heart of all governance efforts and human rights should be considered sacred, including commitment to fighting all forms of discrimination, racism and xenophobia on both sides of the continent.
A roadmap was drawn up for the implementation of partnership over the years 2014-2017, centred on (i) peace and security; (ii) democracy, good governance and human rights; (iii) human development; (iv) sustainable and include development and growth and continental integration; and (iv) global and emerging issues.
The EU announced a financial package of more than €28 billion of financing to Africa over the years 2014-2020, in addition to resources from bilateral cooperation by member states. The Fifth Summit is scheduled to take place in Africa in 2017.