By Jean-Claude Juncker
Last week in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, the African Union and the European Union held their 5th Summit. It was a landmark occasion; coming ten years after the joint Africa-EU Strategy which has seen us cooperate on issues of importance on both sides of the Mediterranean and for the wider world.
Working together simply makes sense for both sides. What happens in Africa affects Europe, and what happens in Europe affects Africa. Together, we represent 83 countries that are home to 1.7 billion people. We are bound by geography, history and humanity. We share the same values, principles and a belief in a rules-based global order.
Over the last decade, we have stepped up our cooperation on security, the fight against terrorism, migration partnerships, economic growth, trade, climate change and many other fields. From Somalia to Mali via the Central African Republic, European troops are working side by side with their African counterparts to keep peace, uphold the rule of law and fight piracy and human trafficking. Our cooperation makes us stronger, safer and more prosperous.
This is more important than ever at a time when our two unions are undergoing major transformations. For instance, while Europe is on course to be the “oldest” region in the world by 2030, Africa is by far the “youngest” with a median age already under 20. Africa’s population will also likely double to 2.4 billion people in 2050 and quadruple to more than 4 billion by 2100.
This makes Africa the continent of the future which is why we chose youth as a theme for this year’s Summit. In Abidjan, the EU and Africa had a unique opportunity to start shaping a shared future together.
This new young generation will need sustainable and quality jobs – 18 million of them a year. They will need a secure environment, affordable energy, access to health and education services. Africa has a burgeoning entrepreneurial sector which will help it grow but Europe and its wealth of expertise can also support this transition.
We have plenty of work to build on. The Commission will provide €31 billion in development support by 2020 to help give youth a chance to prosper at home. The EU-Africa Trust Fund is supporting young people and women in the Sahel, Lake Chad, Horn of Africa and North Africa focusing on vocational training and the creation of micro and small enterprises. And the European Investment Bank is providing €2 billion worth of financing every year.
This is making a real difference on the ground, helping for instance to roll out mobile phone coverage in remote rural areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon and provide access to clean energy for over 18 million Africans.
But we can do so much more together. We must still do more to tackle the root causes of irregular migration that is still costing too many lives and lining the pockets of too many traffickers. And we must do more to improve the business environment and provide a platform for African innovators to grow.
This requires the full involvement of the private sector. The EU accounts for a third of foreign direct investment into Africa – this is now helping create jobs and growth in both of our unions. The new European External Investment Plan will take this one step further. Using public money as a guarantee, it is expected to leverage €44 billion in investment in Africa by 2020, helping to build critical infrastructure and supporting small businesses to get the credit they need to expand and employ more people.
This is an investment in our shared future. Ten years on from the joint Africa-EU Strategy, our cooperation goes from strength to strength. It is a partnership of equals in which we support each other, help each other to prosper and make the world a safer, more stable and more sustainable place to live. We look forward to building on this together for the years to come, starting in Abidjan.
Jean-Claude Juncker is the President of the European Commission, and Moussa Faki, Chairperson of the African Union Commission