Ladies and Gentlemen,
In Lisbon in 2007, 53 African and 27 European Leaders expressed their will to bring Africa-EU relations to a new level by establishing a Strategic Partnership. No other regional organisation or individual government has managed to establish such a broad, ambitious and multilayered relationship with Africa.
The Joint Africa-EU Strategy redefined the relationship between two continents, once marked by traditional patterns of "donor-recipient" relations.
It established a true partnership of equals, which meant to go:
-beyond development - by opening up the EU-Africa dialogue and cooperation to issues of joint political concern and interest;
-beyond Africa - by moving away from an exclusive focus on African matters and openly addressing global issues and European priorities;
-beyond fragmentation - in supporting Africa’s aspirations to find regional and continental responses to some of the most important challenges;
-beyond institutions - in ensuring a better participation of key stakeholders from Africa and Europe, including the private sector, parliaments, civil society, diasporas, etc.
Three years have passed since Lisbon. Now is the time to consolidate our partnership, based on what we have already achieved together.
Africa is on the move for peace and prosperity. For sure, many serious problems persist: conflicts, poverty and human rights violations are festering in far too many areas. But Africa's economic growth has been impressive: per-Capita GDP increased by 10% between 2007-2008.
Europe is moving ahead, too. Economic recovery is gaining pace, and our outlook for jobs and growth is better than a year ago. The overarching priority for the EU, as set our in the Europe-2020 reform agenda, is smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. This EU's 2020 vision provides an inspiration for our relations with Africa, giving a framework to translate our political objectives into concrete actions to guide the EU-Africa partnership in the next decade.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As part of its "autumn package", the European Commission will further elaborate on its vision for with a Communication on the future of EU-Africa relations.
We will look at efficient ways to translate the EU's 2020 agenda to the concrete case of Africa: what can be done to stimulate sustainable growth and effectively reduce poverty, so that the real benefits reach both African and European citizens?
Achieving the MDGs by 2015 will remain our absolute priority.
I have no doubt that Europe will stand by its principles and its objective of committing of 0.7% of European GNI to aid.
Having said that, it is clear that aid alone, even with 0.7% of worldwide GNI, will not be enough. We will endlessly run after the MDG objectives if we do not act more at the roots: that is creating more and inclusive growth in developing countries. Development assistance will have higher impact if it leverages growth rather than tries to offset poverty. A 1% increase in a developing country's GDP will be far more effective than a 10% or 20% increase in aid to this country.
Europe's development policy must focus on policies and actions where they bring strong value added and real value for money. Let me be very clear: we are not in the business of making profit with development aid, but in the business of making developing countries profit more from our aid. And focusing our action more on growth does not mean doing less for MDGs. You cannot achieve more growth without a skilled and healthy population or without access to energy. Look at the underlying drivers we’ve set ourselves in EU 2020’s strategy!
Let me now highlight a few specific issues which I believe should be at the heart of putting our objective of higher impact aid into practice over the next years.
1.Increased leverage of aid
We need to consider very seriously how we can move from a grant-focused approach towards increasingly a blended grant and loan based aid instruments, focused on using development funds to leverage investment in infrastructure in developing countries, and particularly in Africa.
2.Governance and budget support
Development will come from within developing countries, not from outside. And so it is on this "within" that we must focus our policies and means.
Governance has to be a central tenet of our aid policy. We are willing to play our part but we need to emphasise the importance of our partners taking ownership of their own country and using domestic revenue in often resource rich countries to put forward their own plan. Without the rule of law, security or sound public finances, aid will never succeed in giving people a long term future.
3.Proactive Policy Coherence for Development
The impact which our various policies can have on developing countries' economies is huge. Development policies aren't implemented in a vacuum. It makes no sense to give with our development hand only to take away again with our agriculture or trade or fisheries hand.
Therefore, enhanced and proactive Policy Coherence for Development needs to better influence decision-making processes, at European but also at international level. In concrete terms, it needs to be considered in what form a new EU-ACP Partnership for Growth could for example be developed, in global or regional form, where both parties committing to make measured progress on issues where they can act.
4.Consolidation of domestic private sector
Promotion of private sector and of investments should be a common priority. The private sector should be involved in the policy making process by making their needs and requirements explicit. On this basis we can hold discussions on the way forward and refocus on objectives which can help generate a buoyant private sector. This should be put at the heart of our partnership with Africa. The administrative ease and cost in establishing a new company, particularly an SME, plays a very important role. EU assistance, both financial and technical, can play an important role here.
5.Sustainable development: a new drive for developing countries
Many areas in the developing world represent ideal places to develop renewable energy, whether hydro, or solar PV. This is not only due to the highly advantageous natural resources available, but equally the absence of an existing transmission/distribution system. In many respects, by investing in local, competitive renewable energy in Africa, it is possible to skip a generation in technology terms, and avoid the need to construct an expensive grid.
By combining highly leveraged EU development funds to promote investments in renewable electricity in Africa and equally using the funds committed as a consequence of the Copenhagen agreement, a real difference can be made, also providing an additional, very important development advantage; insulating Africa from the ruinous economic effects of oil price volatility.
The EU and Africa could seize this opportunity, developing an EU-Africa Partnership for sustainable development to progressively provide sustainable electricity to every African citizen. Such a partnership, involving highly leveraged EU development and climate change funding, EU and African energy industry and EU financial institutions, should aim at identifying a timetable for joint efforts, and include reforms in LDC countries, both in terms of investment protection, taxation and regional power collaboration. The partnership should be open to other non-EU donors and international institutions.
6.Better European coordination
We will get more leverage and better value for money if we work together upstream rather than taking corrective measures downstream. Putting this into practice will save between 3 and 6 billion Euros per year in efficiencies. This means we will have to put in place more effective mechanisms to enable Member States and the Commission to be informed and take account of one-another's intentions regarding aid programming when reaching our own decisions. This means progressively bringing together the timing of national and EU programming cycles at partner country level by 2013 and using the joint programming framework to avoid duplication and overlap. The European External Action Service will be instrumental in this respect.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am optimistic about the real difference we can make it development policy. There is no poverty fatality. Look at Africa growing like never before!
The main theme of the next EU-Africa Summit - "Economic growth, job creation and investment" - is of crucial importance for both Africa and the EU, all the more as our economies give signs of recovery.
The time is now to consolidate this continent-to-continent partnership, create synergies in our unified framework Africa-EU, and within that, develop new promising areas of cooperation that will bring added value to the economic and social development of Africa and the EU.
I am pleased to open the floor of this conference and whish you all a very fruitful debate.
Thank you for your attention.