Europe is the most important player on the African continent in terms of foreign policy. The EU is Africa’s biggest regional trading partner, and the EU with its member states is also the largest foreign investor in the region. With the world’s youngest population, what the countries of Africa need most are jobs. Further investment and sufficient education are therefore key. Six months ago, President of the European Commission Jean Claude Juncker proposed an Africa Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs. As part of this Alliance, the EU is supporting access to investment and is thereby helping to strengthen entrepreneurship in the region. The objective is to create ten million urgently needed jobs on our neighbouring continent over the next five years. The Erasmus+ exchange programme is to enable more than 100,000 students to acquire experience in other countries in the coming years, and the EU will also promote the training of young people and teachers in Africa.
Peace and security
As the trip by Foreign Minister Maas to West Africa showed, security is a prerequisite for successful development. Conflict prevention and management are therefore playing a key role in many countries. Alongside the peace missions led by the UN, the EU is currently heading nine missions that are training more than 30,000 African soldiers, police officers and judges. Thanks to the EU NAVFOR mission, the EU has been able to significantly reduce the activities of pirates in the Horn of Africa. With the African Peace Facility, the EU is also supporting many peace missions that are led by the African Union or African countries.
The EU and its member states are the biggest donors in the area of climate financing in developing countries, to the tune of 20.2 billion euros in 2016 alone, a large part of which was received by Africa. The EU is also supporting biodiversity and rainforest protection measures in Africa, for example by combating animal smuggling and acting as a mediator in land disputes. Moreover, the EU is Africa’s biggest partner with respect to renewable energies, committing 2.7 billion euros to this field from 2014 to 2020. In recent years, for example, 18.2 million Africans have gained access to electricity with support from the EU.
EU speaking with one voice in Africa
The EU’s ability to act in the realm of foreign policy becomes particularly apparent when it pursues a common policy with respect to other regions. In Africa, the EU member states coordinate their measures in important areas and usually speak with one voice in negotiations with the African governments. This helps Europe to improve the deployment of its resources, and its partnership with Africa is geared to a clear and uniform strategy. The heads of state and government of the EU and the African Union meet every three years, most recently in Abidjan in 2017. The Commissions of the AU and the EU meet on an annual basis, as do the foreign ministers of the countries involved.