Africa’s ‘most reliable partner’ is Europe, says EU chief
As China and Russia woo impoverished and fragile African states with offers of security or loans, EU chief Ursula von der Leyen said Europe offers the continent “the most reliable partnership “.
In an interview with AFP ahead of a visit to Senegal, Von der Leyen said she would use the trip to unveil the first African program of a new investment program dubbed Global Gateway.
Considered the European Union’s answer to China’s Belt and Road Strategy, Global Gateway aims to mobilize investment of up to 300 billion euros ($340 billion) for public and private infrastructure worldwide .
The chairman of the powerful EU executive, Von der Leyen, arrives in Dakar on Wednesday to prepare for a summit between the EU and the African Union on February 17-18.
On Thursday, she will meet Senegalese President Macky Sall, who recently assumed the chairmanship of the AU.
Von der Leyen responded to written questions from AFP. His answers have been edited for length and clarity.
What can we expect from the EU-AU summit?
This summit is of crucial importance. I see it as an opportunity to strengthen a partnership that Africa and Europe need.
First, because we need to work more together to tackle today’s challenges, such as the already very real impact of climate change or health.
But above all, we must set our own positive agenda, one of shared prosperity and sustainable growth that directly benefits our people. That’s what Global Gateway is.
In Dakar, I will announce the very first regional plan under Global Gateway: the Africa-Europe plan. And the summit is expected to identify a first set of strategic interventions in infrastructure, value chain and private sector development, vocational training and health.
Is the summit aimed at thwarting the influence of Russia or China?
The European Union is Africa’s most reliable and loyal partner. Every year, the EU invests 20 billion (euros) in grants on the continent, as well as loans and guarantees.
(Investment Options in Africa) too often have hidden costs. The financial, political, environmental and social costs are sometimes very heavy. These options often create more dependencies than real links.
Global Gateway is a different proposition. It is an investment anchored in the values to which Europe is attached – transparency, good governance, concern for the environment and the well-being of the population.
Will the summit address the growing number of coups in Africa?
The stability of the region and the need to avoid the upheaval of political systems caused by force are priority issues on the agenda of the summit.
I believe these questions are not distractions from our goals for the summit, but clear indicators of the need to work together to make a difference on the ground: improving people’s lives, strengthening governance, providing better opportunities.
High-profile African figures have demanded that the EU lift patents on coronavirus vaccines. Will he?
The lifting of patents is not a magic bullet that will rapidly develop local production capacity. It could also have significant negative consequences on the financing of innovation.
Voluntary licensing is the best way to ensure the necessary transfer of technology and know-how as well as intellectual property rights.
But I have listened carefully to countries complaining about the difficulty of using existing flexibilities in the area of compulsory licensing.
That is why we have made proposals that will facilitate the use of compulsory licenses [which allows for use of a patent without the permission of the patent owner].
In parallel, the EU is investing heavily to increase production capacity in Africa, with over €1 billion committed to this effort.