80 European and African Heads of State and Government have convened in Tripoli for a two day meeting under the overarching theme “Investment, Economic Growth and Job Creation” with the aim to bring the cooperation between the two continents to a new, more ambitious level. The Summit essentially delivered a political declaration and a 2nd plan of action for the years 2011-2013. It discussed extensively questions of economic growth and job creation.
Between the Summit in Cairo 2000 and Lisbon 2007, 7 years were spent without any agreement to meet at this level. With the Joint Africa-EU Strategy agreed in Lisbon in 2007, Leaders also agreed to meet every 3 years. Under circumstances sometimes complicated, the holding of the Summit in Tripoli was a challenge in view of the number of obstacles of political nature.
Questions of more sensitive nature like the Economic Partnership Agreements were also discussed in an honest and frank manner with a clear view of a better common understanding between the two sides beyond Tripoli.3 years after Lisbon, this 3rd Summit took place as planned without any major problems. This is a success. Firstly, African and European Leaders adopted the Tripoli Declaration, which delivered important political messages for the future of Africa-EU relations and secondly, Leaders endorsed a 2nd Action Plan for 2011-2013 covering 8 areas of cooperation. This also reflects the maturity of relations between the two continents and the ability to address sensitive issues whenever it is needed.
Finally, the Summit showed very clearly the dynamic trend in the participation of key stakeholders through active and well organised series of side events (more numerous and substantive than in Lisbon), including an important pre-summit event between the two parliaments – the European Parliament and the Pan-African Parliament, the Europe-Africa Business Forum and the CEO Roundtable, the Youth Forum, and the Civil Society forum - all of these produced joint declarations, which are key outcomes for their future engagement in the Strategy and its 2nd Action Plan.
The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dr Jean Ping, stressed that "the way Africa is seen has evolved and changed. It is now considered as a real Partner ", and called for equal footing.
"Europe and Africa primarily recall that their partnership, which also involves Member States, the private sector, parliaments, etc., goes beyond institutions and is directed towards people, their essential needs and real concerns, which are more acute in Africa", he said. "Ensuring strong, balanced and lasting economic growth is likewise a vital necessity for Africa, if the continent truly seeks at least to reduce poverty by half by 2015, as stated in Objective 1 of the MDGs". (Jean Ping)
Even if Africa is expanding its economic relations with other continents, the EU remains Africa's top trading partner; while Africa accounts for 9% of EU27 trade, with France, Italy and Germany accounting for more than half of all EU27 trade with Africa.
European Commission president José Manuel Barroso underlined however that the EU remains the globe's top provider of "aid for trade," having delivered more than 10 billion Euros in 2008.
Even though the joint climate change declaration was not adopted on time due to a difficult process, the EC president Barroso stressed the importance of EU and Africa "cooperation in the areas of energy and climate change.
Africa accounts for just 5.6% of the world’s energy consumption and 3% of the CO2 emissions. However, it is the continent which suffers the most from the effects of climate change and where energy poverty is highest.
Nevertheless Africa has enormous potential to spark a "renewable energy revolution" and lift almost 600 million Africans out of energy poverty.
The EU is already closely cooperating with Africa in renewable energy technology, including transfer and training through its Energy Facility which is currently implementing 62 projects in 34 African states worth €400 million, with a contribution from the Commission of €180 million.
That is the goal of the new Africa-EU Renewable Energy Cooperation Programme launched in Vienna this September, which will be supported by fast-start climate financing in its start-up phase." (José Manuel Barroso)
Antonio Tajani, the European Commission's Vice-President in charge of Industry and Entrepreneurship, and Andris Piebalgs, EC Commissioner for Development, also attended the 4th EU-Africa Business Forum, side events which preceded the Summit. At the CEOs Round table, both Commissioners stressed the need to mobilise private sector, as donors' aid alone can not solve all the problems. Therefore for the African continent's development, the role and impact of private sector needs to be enhanced and business friendly environment created. In his blog, Andris Piebalgs wrote "it is advisable to work in partnership between the public and the private one to convert the resources and assets of Africa into layers of prosperity and improvement of the standards of living. The European Union in particular will continue to environment of law, good taxation and social justice which makes it possible to attract the investments and to blossom economic activity of which everybody will be able to profit".
President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy said at the opening session of the 3rd Africa-EU Summit that the EU will continue to assume its responsibilities to aid Africa's full economic growth. The EU remains committed to increasing its aid spending to reach the collective target of 0.7 percent of gross national income by 2015.
"We assume that over the next three years more than 50 billion euros of aid will be made available to support the overall objective of our partnership (with Africa)," he said, while pointing out that the ultimate responsibility for Africa's success rests with the governments and peoples of Africa. He also added that "in Europe's experience, the perspectives for economic growth are closely linked to elements of good governance."
"Africa is not an exception," he told the summit. "Business-friendly policies attract private investment, where corruption is not tolerated, where the rule of law is respected, and transparency valued."
The 2nd action plan presentation will be available soon on the EC and AUC jointly managed website: www.africa-eu-partnership.org