On 9 March 2020 the Joint Communication ‘Towards a Comprehensive Strategy with Africa’ was released by the European Commission and the European External Action Service. The Communication will be used as a basis for talks between the European Union and their African counterparts when defining the new EU comprehensive strategy with Africa, which will be approved at the next European Union-African Union summit.
However, the outbreak of COVID-19 will have important implications for the future of EU international cooperation and development, including for the narratives and future approaches for the EU’s dialogue with and support to partner countries.
Firstly, the pandemic re-emphasises the urgent need, already stated in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, to promote massive investments in public services, in universal coverage and in access to social protection. This is crucial to providing a safety net to ensure that no one is left behind. A strong and effective partnership between the EU and Africa should recognise the need to prioritise health systems strengthening, ensuring universal access to health services, as well as focusing on global health research and development.
This is why we welcome all mentions of “human development” sectors such as health and education in the Joint Communication. Nevertheless, these mentions should not be seen only as tools to enable a productive workforce. Human development is crucial to reduce inequalities and build resilient societies. The future strategy must strongly acknowledge that.
The outbreak of COVID-19 will have important implications for the future of EU development cooperation, including for dialogue with and support to partner countries.
While the COVID-19 virus can affect everyone, marginalised and excluded people will be disproportionately affected. Women, young people and persons with disabilities will be among the groups directly and indirectly affected by COVID-19 in Africa. The virus has exacerbated already existing inequalities for women and girls – in addition to the fact that they make up the large majority of health workers on the crisis’ frontline.
The crisis is already causing a rise in sexual and gender-based violence, while at the same time limiting the access to sexual and reproductive health and rights services. The future partnership between the EU and Africa should have gender equality at its core by mainstreaming it throughout all policy areas.
Human development is crucial to reduce inequalities and build resilient societies. The future strategy must strongly acknowledge that.
It is important for the EU to support local initiatives, notably led by local authorities and producers’ cooperatives, to connect local consumers and producers, to stabilise food prices on local markets and provide an enabling and stable context for smallholder farmers and other small-scale food producers.
A specific section on climate-resilient agriculture and rural development must be included in the final strategy as it is currently missing from the Joint Communication.
In addition, the future Africa-EU partnership must give greater importance to fighting illicit financial flows, promoting progressive tax systems, lowering remittances costs, and reviewing tax treaties. The new Africa strategy must include concrete measures which will support developing countries’ efforts to increase domestic resource mobilisation, which would enable the delivery of quality and universal public basic services.
It is vital for the EU response mechanism and for the future strategy with Africa to build upon the lessons of the current and prior epidemics to support local efforts to prepare for, detect, and respond to inevitable future outbreaks of disease.
The EU and its future strategy with Africa must build upon the lessons of the current and prior epidemics to support local efforts to prepare for, detect, and respond to inevitable future outbreaks of disease.
Going forward, the Joint Communication should serve to launch a consultation process with all the parties and stakeholders on the upcoming EU-Africa strategy. As this document seems to be the basis for the new Africa strategy, it is paramount that the priorities and concrete actions of the future new strategy can be discussed in a genuinely open manner in the upcoming consultations with all actors.
Click on the button below for a more detailed analysis of what is presented in the Communication: