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Climate change top of EU-Africa co-operation agenda

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Picture: Tumisu/Pixabay African leaders should ensure that the efforts to combat climate change are done in a just and equitable manner that will not hurt the most vulnerable in their societies, says the writer.

By David Monyae

The European Union (EU) and Africa enjoy a healthy and comprehensive strategic partnership across the cultural, geopolitical, economic, as well as peace and security dimensions.

Trade between the two regions reached $313 billion in 2021 which saw the EU continue to be Africa’s biggest trading partner. The two sides have co-operated on critical issues such as trade, health, peace and security, technology, regional integration, and climate change.

The EU has been a steady partner in the implementation of the African Agenda 2063, both technically and financially. In 2018, countries on the Continent reached a consensus to establish the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), as part of their contribution to realising the African Agenda 2063.

The EU has ushered support for the realisation of the AfCFTA by committing significant financial and technical support. “On December 2018, former Commission President Juncker presented the Communication on a new Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs, (the Africa-Europe Alliance) confirms ‘full’ support to the AfCFTA, announcing €50 million in funding and technical assistance over a large number of areas (such as data collection and analysis, Technical Barriers to Trade, Intellectual Property Rights, investment and e-commerce, among others)”.

EU-AU partnership has also transcended into the health sector. In 2020, during the peak of Covid-19, the EU launched Team Europe as a strategy to provide the necessary support to tackle the pandemic around the world and in Africa.

According to the European Commission (2022), the EU has committed, “€100 million EU humanitarian support to Covid-19 vaccination rollout in Africa; €425 million Team Europe contribution to the COVAX facility to help speed up the pace of vaccination in Africa; €145 million doses, Team Europe shared with Africa”.

Furthermore, the Covid-19 pandemic exposed Africa’s over-reliance on externally produced medication and the need for the Continent to have a medical regulator to improve and boost drug production. In November 2021, the AU and its member states entered into force a treaty that created the African Medicine Agency (AMA).

The AMA is to become the first and only continental medicine regulator in Africa and will be established in collaboration with the African Union Development Agency-NEPAD (AUDA-NEPAD). In addition, “the European Union, EU member states Belgium, France, and Germany, along with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, announced ahead of the 6th EU-African Union (EU-AU) Summit a commitment of more than €100 million (US$113 million) for regulatory strengthening for health products in Africa, in partnership with AUDA-NEPAD”.

In December 2021, the EU launched an ambitious Global Gateway as a strategy to mitigate infrastructure shortfalls that have been seen in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Global Gateway aims to mobilise up to €300 billion in investments between 2021 and 2027 to underpin a lasting global recovery, taking into account our partners’ needs and EU’s own interests” (European Commission, 2021). The EU has set aside funds worth about €150 billion as an investment package aimed to support and boost Africa’s sustainable and inclusive development.

The funds were announced by the EU at the 2022 EU-AU Summit and they are to be invested in different economic sectors with the goal of transforming Africa’s economic environment.

“Investments will focus on objectives based on the green transition, including renewable energy generation and protecting biodiversity by stabilising three million square kilometres (1.16 million square miles) for land. There will also be support for sustainable agri-food systems. Efforts will also focus on sustainable growth and job creation”.

The Global Gateway will be delivered through the Team Europe strategy, which will source funds from the different EU channels including the EU Commission and the European Investment Bank. The Global Gateway is also seen as a framework to counter the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative which was launched in 2013 by China and has set a visible footprint in Africa and has been welcomed by African governments.

The EU has prioritised collaboration on peace and security, to a certain extent over trade, in its partnership with the AU. This decision was in part influenced by the rise of conflicts and terrorist cells in Africa which threatens EU security to a larger extent.

Due to a lack of financial resources and capacity-building mechanisms, the AU approached the EU in 2003 and petitioned the establishment of the African Peace Facility (APF) through the CPA (Comprehensive Peace Agreement) as an attempt to find secure funding for its peace and security operations under the APSA (African Peace and Security Architecture).

The APF was created by an EU Council Decision in December 2003 after a request from the AU for funds to support peace and security in Africa. As well as operations, the instrument supports the structures of the APSA, including the AU’s Peace and Security Council, the Panel of the Wise, the African Standby Force and the Continental Early Warning System and response mechanisms (ERMs).

The finances for the APF were disbursed by the European Development Fund (EDF), which is funded by EU member states parallel to their EU yearly budget obligations. The APF was central in peace and security on the African continent since its inception.

EU and Africa have established channels of co-operation on salient issues of the day such as digital technology and climate change. On digital technology, the EU-AU Digital Economy Taskforce (DETF) was established in 2018 to develop a framework for digital co-operation between the two parties. In a subsequent report in 2019, the DETF identified digital skills, digital infrastructure, and digital innovation as some of the key areas of co-operation to help close the digital divide in Africa.

The AU-EU Digital for Development Hub (D4D) project was set up at the end of 2020 and tasked with providing much-needed technical assistance to expedite digital transformation.

Climate change has become one of the most important issues on the EU-Africa co-operation agenda as demonstrated by the holding of the EU-Africa High-Level Dialogue on Climate and Energy in January 2022. Climate and energy are some of the focus areas of the EU’s Global Gateway programme, which will see Europe investing in climate-resilient infrastructure in developing regions like Africa.

The Africa-EU Green Energy Initiative launched in February will channel private capital towards the development of green infrastructure projects in Africa, especially in the transport and energy sectors. The two sides will use the upcoming COP27 in Egypt to further collaborate on climate change.

However, African leaders should ensure that the efforts to combat climate change are done in a just and equitable manner that will not hurt the most vulnerable in their societies.

Monyae is the Co-Director of the University of Johannesburg Centre for Africa-China Studies.

This article is original to the The African. To republish, see terms and conditions.