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EU Presents New Africa Strategy

A 'Turning Point' for the Continent?

A new EU aid plan aims to ensure that Africa achieves the Millennium Development Goals. An 'EU Strategy for Africa: Towards a Euro-African pact to accelerate Africa's Development' announced on 12 October 2005 says peace and security, good governance, better trade links and improved education are key to ensure that the goals are achieved.
Stefania Bianchi reports.

The strategy launched by José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission (the European Union executive) and Louis Michel, commissioner for development and humanitarian aid, will seek to build a strategic partnership for security and development. Half of EU aid increase will go towards Africa, meaning 20 billion euros (24 billion dollars) extra a year by 2010 and an additional 46 billion euros (55 billion dollars) a year by 2015, the Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament and the European Economic and Social Committee says.

"The purpose of this strategy for Africa is to give the EU a comprehensive, integrated and long-term framework for its relations with the African continent," the paper says. The plan spells out concerns about the effectiveness of the present development aid policy and the challenge of meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These include universal primary education, cutting hunger and poverty in half, and sharply reducing maternal and infant mortality.

* Better coordination between the member states and the Commission
The EU, which provides 60 percent of aid for Africa, needs to better coordinate national development programmes and policies of its 25 member states and those of the European Commission, the paper says. "For too long, the EU's relations with Africa have been too fragmented, both in policy formulation and implementation. Neither Europe nor Africa can afford to sustain this situation," it says.

"In recent years, a forward-looking Africa has re-emerged on the international scene with more confidence, dynamism and optimism than ever before. There is now a unique window of opportunity to give Africa a decisive push towards sustainable development." The strategy says the EU should support Africa's "gradual integration into world markets and assist in stimulating sufficiently rapid, broad-based and sustainable economic growth" in order to contribute to an effective reduction of poverty. "The EU should continue to help African countries to implement macroeconomic and structural policies that encourage private investment and stimulate pro-poor growth," it says. Other areas to be targeted include better environmental protection, education and improving basic social services.

* Call for a new EU budget
Michel said after presenting the paper to chairman of the African Union (AU) Alpha Oumar Konare that it marked a "turning point" for Africa. "If adopted by the Council, the EU Strategy for Africa will mark a true turning point to help Africa help itself. One of the EU's most central challenges in development cooperation remains to ensure a coherent and effective approach between 26 different actors -- the 25 member states and the European Commission," he told media representatives.

The strategy follows the agreement by EU leaders in June that the 15 "oldest" EU member states should allocate 0.7 percent of their gross national income (GNI) for development assistance by 2015, and recommendations in July on avoiding duplication in Europe's aid efforts. Barosso called on EU leaders to reach a deal on a new EU budget. "An agreement is urgent for our relations with Africa. We need to do more, clearly. It's not just a question of values, of generosity and solidarity, it is in our interest. We need to tackle the structural deep roots of underdevelopment in Africa. Our commitment is to fulfil the millennium goals," he told media representatives. Konare said the 53-nation AU was ready to play its part in tackling poverty. "There are all sorts of long-term problems that need to be tackled," he said.

* Targeted towards governments
Denise Auclair, EU development policy officer at the Coopération Internationale pour le Développement et la Solidarité (CIDSE; see >>> here), a Brussels-based development group, said the strategy is mainly targeted towards governments and towards regional intergovernmental organisations. "But if the EU wants to see more democratic and legitimate governments and policies in Africa, it should recognise that civil society has a key role to play and needs more support," she told IPS.

She also urged the EU to address other development issues essential for achievement of the MDGs. "Some 80 percent of Africa's population depends on the agricultural sector, and what is needed in order to preserve food security is not only infrastructure but importantly, the ability of governments to protect their agricultural markets and small farmers," she said.

Auclair added that the strategy cannot afford to ignore the "heavy burden of debt holding back many African countries," nor the issue of security. "More attention is needed to the factors that cause conflict, such as inequalities in access to resources, or the global arms trade. Long-term security for Africa will only come if structural causes of injustice and poverty are addressed, so development has to remain the priority," she said.

The European Commission hopes the strategy will be endorsed by EU leaders at a European Council meeting in December and at a subsequent EU-AU summit in Lisbon.

© IPS

(Posted: 15 October 2005)

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