The Brussels summit crowns a week of discussion of Africa’s relationship with Europe, touching on everything from economic ties, trade and development to climate change and public health.
On Wednesday’s conference entitled “Investing together for a new alliance between Africa and Europe” in Paris, Koen Doens, Director-General for International Partnerships at the European Commission evoked a “paradigm shift” where development will be fundamentally redefined. “Team Europe is advancing with Team Africa as partners,” he said.
Rethinking the development model
African development experts have long urged a wholesale rethink and a move away from development models that are top-down and donor imposed. “There is a growing resolve in Africa to regain control of our livelihoods, to shape our own destiny,” said Achille Mbembe, philosopher and Professor of History and Political Science at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa.
“The terms ‘official development assistance’ or ‘development’ are no longer acceptable. And swapping them for ‘partnerships’ will not be enough: the only battle worth fighting today is that of a more liveable world that is achievable through an alliance of sustainable futures,” he added, speaking remotely from South Africa.
Thes drive to rethink the nature of development extends to the very identity of Agence Française de Développement, which has conducted a wide-ranging consultation process to find a new name that is more in keeping with the partnerships of today. The change, as French President Emmanuel Macron said during the New Africa-France Summit in Montpellier on 8 October 2021, “addresses the whole semantics of development, which makes it possible to undertake this financing journey together with the right instruments and vocabulary”.
It’s the start of a major shift in the way we define North-South relations. “What we are doing together is entirely new and goes far beyond what we still call “official development assistance, said CEO of AFD Group, Rémy Rioux. “Something is being born that transcends the mere semantics around our name.” This transformation will begin with the Group’s upcoming Strategic Orientation Plan, for which a public consultation will be launched in the coming days.
Quoting Albert Camus, the French MP, Hervé Berville, noted that misnaming things adds to the “misfortunes of this world.” The MP, who serves as rapporteur for the law on solidarity-based development and the fight against global inequalities added: “We need to discard this notion of ‘development’. This calls for a rethink of how we cooperate with Africa. We need to have a holistic conception of how we interact with the continent.”
Investing in sustainable infrastructure
There remain however, real development needs. “Africa is facing an infrastructure development challenge,” said Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank. “The development of new infrastructure in all areas, will play a pivotal role in shaping the continent’s future,” added Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, Head of the Investments and Infrastructure Office in South Africa. Which is the point of AFD’s joint action in supporting South Africa’s agenda for a sound energy transition.
Financing SMEs: driving Africa’s growth and creating tomorrow’s jobs
Growth and jobs also rely on the financing of Africa’s entrepreneurial fabric. “our young entrepreneurs don’t need ‘help’: they need investments, long-term financing and trust in their talents,” says Papa Amadou Sarr, Senegal’s Minister for Rapid Entrepreneurship of Women and Youth.
Several speakers shared this view, including the former CEO of AFD, who made a robust proposal: “Let’s commit 1% of development assistance to Africa each year to promoting African entrepreneurship. Let’s shift gears!”
Choose Africa, EUR €3 billion for African entrepreneurship
The Choose Africa initiative responds to this call. Four years following President Macron’s speech in Ouagadougou in which he declared France’s commitment to support entrepreneurship in Africa, AFD Group exceeded Choose Africa’s initial target by disbursing €3 billion at end of December 2021 to 26,000 start-ups, VSEs and SMEs, and tens of thousands of micro-entrepreneurs across the continent. Roughly 250 local partners contribute towards the success of this initiative across Africa.
AFD and its private sector arm Proparco are thus investing their expertise, financing and assistance to create jobs and expand access to basic goods and services on the continent. More than 1.5 jobs have been sustained via this initiative, with approximately 2,500 enterprises due to receive technical assistance. “AFD’s experience, budget resources allocated by the French government combined with the expertise of our numerous partners across Africa have contributed to making Choose Africa a success,” says Grégory Clemente, Director-General of Proparco.
“Team Europe” is geared up
Beyond the action of the AFD Group, the European public banks (Enhanced Partnership), together with the EIB, the EBRD, the Association of European Development Finance Institutions (EDFI) and the cooperation agencies (Practitioners' Network), have issued a new joint statement to reinforce their commitment to an improved European offer, under the leadership of the European institutions.
Find out more about European Development Finance Institutions
In line with the new European Global Gateway strategy and the need to consolidate a clear and effective European offer, European development banks and financial institutions are rolling out the new “Team Europe” approach. They are committed to strengthening their cooperation, streamlining their procedures and increasing their impact, in close cooperation with their African partners.
From the definition of sustainable normative frameworks to the development of private sector investment, financing of quality projects and strong local public entities, enhanced cooperation between all European actors represents a paradigm shift for a new kind of partnership between Africa and Europe.
This commitment is made in close collaboration with all African development banks, members of the Finance in Common Initiative (FiCS), with a view to leveraging the impact of a robust combined action towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
At the end of a crucial day in the process of rethinking the partnership between Africa and Europe, French President Emmanuel Macron encapsulated the proceedings in one sentence: “We must change the underlying software of our relationship.” Macky Sall, President of the Republic of Senegal and current Chairman of the African Union, went one step further: “If we fail to make things happen together, then we will never be able to make it!”
Replay the whole proceedings:
President Emmanuel Macron’s remarks on 16 February at Station F, Paris: