In the midst of the Cotonou Agreement renegotiation, one thing is clear: relations between Africa and Europe must be maintained, strengthened and directed towards our common interests, as advocated in Institut Montaigne’s latest report: Europe-Afrique: partenaires particuliers (French version only). What are these common interests? What are the emerging political and employment issues? Dominique Lafont, former Africa Director of the Bolloré Group, and Frannie Léautier, former Vice-President of the World Bank, both members of Institut Montaigne’s taskforce, share their analysis.
What are Europe's and Africa's interests in building a stronger partnership?
This cooperation is valuable for several reasons. First, there is common interest in reacting to climate change, which will impact the two continents that are very close geographically. Secondly, the geographical proximity offers opportunities for commercial and cultural exchanges, ideas and innovations, particularly in the digital realm. Some African innovations in digital technology are worth sharing with Europe: mobile money, telemedicine, and in the agricultural sector. Finally, there is a financial interest in this cooperation: Europe is the largest investor in Africa. 40% of the financial resources flowing into Africa come from Europe. Thus, this cooperation could have a significant impact on both continents.
The partnership is important for political, economic and cultural reasons.
On the political level, who knows Africa better than Europe? It is perhaps Europe that has the greatest interest in seeing Africa evolve in a peaceful way, which requires better governance, more attention to civil society’s needs and, naturally, more democracy, which is the best guarantee that politics is accountable to the citizen.
On the economic level, Africa is a market with very high growth potential, which presents a natural vector for development not only for large European companies, but also for SMEs and mid-cap companies. In turn, Africa needs sustainable employment and development, and the partnership can be helpful in this regard. This can be done in the context of its industrialization, in the development of infrastructure, digital tools and in the support for the agricultural sector given Europe's expertise in this field.
On the cultural and societal level, the historical links provide fertile ground and can perhaps help Europe spread or develop the very strong cultural vector in Africa. This can shed another light on Africa worldwide, in a globalization context.
The African continent will have to absorb 30 million young people into the labor market every year. What role can Europe play in creating jobs in Africa?
Regarding employment, Europe can play important roles in three areas.
First, by training leaders, because there is a huge lack of middle management in Africa for all kinds of companies.
Secondly, Europe can have a role with regards to investments that create a large number of jobs. This is especially the case for the agricultural sector and its modernization, the digital sector, because innovation attracts young people, and industrialization, because large industries require a variety of skills and levels of training.
Finally, there is a role to play in sharing skills between continents, in hiring young Africans who have the right skills for innovative industry in Europe. This can create jobs in Africa with investments between SMEs, but also between African SMEs and large European companies.
Here again, several areas are involved.
Europe can contribute through development aid to improve education and training in Africa. This can be done by involving European schools and companies through public-private partnerships involving educational, economic and public authorities, which will make African authorities more accountable.