At the end of June, the European Parliament will vote on an initiative report on future trade relations between the EU and Africa. The objective is to send a message to the European Commission: future trade relations between the two continents must be based on sustainable and inclusive economic development, quality investments and the means to overcome the various current crises. “It is time to realize that sustainable and inclusive economic development in Africa is also in the interest of the EU”, explained MEP Kathleen Van Brempt (Vooruit). “For too long, Africa has been reduced to a supplier of raw materials, with the result that the continent’s immense economic potential has remained untapped.”
Although the European Commission began its mandate by promising to revive relations between the EU and Africa, the European Parliament has found that this has not really been the case. “The Commission’s reluctance to discuss the temporary suspension of intellectual property rights on vaccines in the midst of the pandemic has aroused cynicism from many on the African continent. The same is true in the European Parliament. It is clear that the Commission urgently needs to change course”, said Ms Van Brempt. “That is why, with this own-initiative report, we want to make clear to the Commission what it needs to focus on urgently.”
The initiative report focuses on five key themes: infrastructure, food security, civil society, fair trade agreements and sustainable economic development. ‘Targeted actions on all these themes are urgently needed if the commission is to establish a fruitful partnership,’ said Ms Van Brempt. “If the commission simply continues its momentum, the influence of other players on the African continent – such as China and Russia – will only increase.”
More specifically, the initiative report calls for support for pan-African projects, such as the African Continental Free Trade Area. It also calls for increased consultation with civil society in the various African partner countries to ensure that the continent’s economic development benefits all African citizens. Attention is also drawn to the struggle of African economies to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic, global inflation and the war started by Putin. “We are currently facing historically high prices for food, energy and transport. Immense poverty and human suffering awaits us if we do not do something immediately. That is why we must stand with our African partners and support them in the fight against all these problems.”
Finally, the initiative report also draws attention to the need to invest in health, education and the fight against climate change, which are essential for the future well-being of the world. “Only by working together can we overcome the challenges facing the world today. In this regard, an economically strong African continent is the partner that Europe desperately needs,” said Ms. Van Brempt.