On 11 October 2018, the Brussels International Center held an expert round-table discussion at the European Parliament hosted by Ms. Cécile Kyenge – MEP, to discuss the impact of China and other emerging actors in Africa, and the future of EU-Africa relations.
The interactive dialogue brought together 20 experts from organizations including the EEAS, UNDP, UN FAO, European Centre for Development Policy Management and a variety of civil society organizations and African embassy representatives, to constructively discuss the evolution of China’s engagement in Africa, while assessing the obstacles and opportunity for a EU-Africa partnership. The discussion was moderated by Mr. Brandon Locke, from the BIC-RHR, who presented the organization's latest research publication on Chinese engagement in Africa.
In her opening remarks, Ms. Kyenge highlighted the need to foster a more comprehensive partnership between EU and Africa. One which leaves behind dependence on foreign aid and that welcomes new solutions to the continent’s most pressing issues, such as demographic growth. She suggested that experts should focus more on policies that make engagement and investment work for the people of Africa.
Ambassador Awad Sakine, AU Permanent Representative to the EU, emphasized the need for a paradigm shift that supersedes a donor-recipient mentality, and instead foster an Alliance that supports democracy and transforms Africa’s economies through industrial transformation, modern farming, and new opportunities for youth. But for Africa’s growing economy to move forward, Ms. Markussen, EEAS Deputy-Managing Director for Africa, highlighted that the continent needs multiple partners to help close its infrastructure financing gaps. She noted that fostering respect for international standards will be key to guaranteeing benefits for local populations.
UNDP Director, Ms. Barbara Pesce-Monteiro, then spoke about the need to support endogenous growth, and highlighted the need to support regional integration, CFTA, and investments in the digital economy. She noted the need to support governance, especially to ensure tax revenues and ODA are being invested in human capital. Weighing in on China’s engagement in Africa, Professor Song noted that Chinese engagement in Africa has existed since the 1950’s and underlined that only four African countries account for 50% of China’s whole trade with Africa, most of these rich in oil.
Participants then engaged in a constructive debate over the biggest obstacles and opportunities for sustainable growth and a strong EU-Africa partnership. Participants and speakers discussed the risks of jobless growth, the brain drain, and rising youth unemployment, while considering how mobility, education, inclusion of youth and women, and innovative governance reforms present solutions. Ambassador Sakine noted that it’s key for the EU to support Africa’s agenda, and that common tariffs and value added products are essential for growth.
Ambassador Otte closed the discussion by noting that the EU may have valuable lessons to respectfully share with Africa concerning its own experience with regional integration and cohesion. He concluded the discussion by acknowledging the challenge posed by demographic growth, climate change, and insecurity, and argued that while we should recognize the diversity within Africa, we should also look to what unites us.
BIC-RHR will prepare an outcome report on the event, summarizing each participant’s contributions and listing the events final recommendations.