To promote sustainable and inclusive growth in both Africa and the EU, European Commission Vice-President, Antonio Tajani, and Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs, will today take part in the 5th EU-Africa Business Forum in Brussels. The event brings together more than 500 high-level representatives from European and African business, politics and public institutions for two days (31 March/1 April) of discussions.
Debates will focus on common challenges such as the stake of young people in today’s economies, the role of banks for inclusive growth and financing issues for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and on specific issues such as raw material, risk capital, sustainable energy or space cooperation. Prior to the forum, Commissioner Piebalgs also announced two new EU programmes to support the private sector in West Africa and Madagascar.
Vice-President Tajani, Commissioner responsible for Industry and Entrepreneurship, said ahead of the event: “Africa is on the move. The accelerating industrial development of Africa is a reality. The developing regions and countries that are sharing the benefits of globalisation are the rapidly industrialising ones. The European Union and Africa have genuine interest in increasing bilateral trade, investment and market integration in mutually beneficial relations to boost strong sustainable and inclusive growth and create jobs”.
Commissioner Piebalgs commented: “Africa has become one of the fastest growing regions in the world over the last decade, but we must accelerate the creation of decent and productive jobs to ensure that the benefits of this growth are being shared more evenly. The private sector has a key role to play in this and the Commission will soon present a policy paper on how to modernise EU support for developing the private sector in developing countries and how to strengthen its role in achieving inclusive and sustainable growth there where it’s most needed.”
A new EU-funded project recently launched in Madagascar will enable the private sector to better support inclusive growth and be more competitive on the national, regional and international markets. With €8 million of EU funding, activities will include support and training for business associations (e.g. chambers of commerce) so they have the knowledge to increase competitiveness among their members and to help them represent economic interests in public-private dialogues and negotiations. Specific support will be given to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises in the form of training in marketing/management techniques, help with accessing finance and preparing business plans. They will also receive help in improving product quality and finding market opportunities.
A second EU programme aims to make businesses in West Africa more competitive and help to improve the business and investment climate in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Among other things, it will help the region and its countries to adopt policies that can attract investments (EU funding: 20 million).
In the centre of discussions Vice-President Tajani will have during the summit will be sustainable access to raw materials as well as access to high quality and affordable medicines. He will discuss with his counterparts cooperation projects in the fields of space technologies which can play a positive role in the developing world to favour sustainable development, such as food security, health and education. Furthermore, Vice-President Tajani will encourage enterprises in African countries to seize new business opportunities under the COPERNICUS programme allowing the access to its satellite data.
Tajani will highlight the benefits of use of satellite navigation in Africa under the Commission’s EGNOS programme which will help to optimise transport with the use of satellite guidance as well as bring an enormous increase in the safety of the African skies, guiding planes safely to airports along regional and international routes. Benefits associated to this safety increase in Africa are estimated at more than €1,100 million!
The 5th EU-Africa Business Forum takes place on the eve of the EU-Africa Summit. It will be jointly opened by European Commission President, José Manuel Barroso, and African Union Commission Chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. On 1 April, Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht will participate and the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, will give concluding remarks.
The 4th EU-Africa Summit will take place in Brussels on 2-3 April 2014. It will bring together African and EU leaders, as well as the leaders of EU and African Union institutions. Under the theme “Investing in People, Prosperity and Peace”, participants will discuss topics including peace, security, investment, climate change and migration. Previous summits took place in Cairo (2000), Lisbon (2007) and Tripoli (2010).
EU-Africa relations are largely based on the Joint Africa-EU Strategy, adopted in 2007. Alongside this strategy, a 2011-2013 action plan, agreed at the last EU-Africa summit in 2010, sets out concrete targets within specific areas of cooperation, such as peace and security, democratic governance and human rights.
The 2014 summit will be an opportunity to take a fresh look at the EU-Africa partnership, to highlight some of the results that have been achieved, and to explore areas for future cooperation.