African and European Union leaders Thursday launched a two-day summit aimed at renewing ties through pledges of major investments in the face of competition from Russia and China.
Relations between the neighboring continents were hampered by various problems. Disputes range from the supply of a coronavirus vaccine to stopping illegal migration as well as the coup wave in Africa, and the growing influence of Russian mercenaries in Africa.
“This is the start of a new partnership,” said Senegalese President Macky Sall, who currently heads the African Union when he arrived for the talks.
President Emmanuel Macron of France, whose country holds rotating EU presidencies, hoped the first joint summit since 2017 could boost his ambition of forging a “New economic and financial Deal with Africa”.
“We are not here to conduct business as usual,” said European Council chairman Charles Michel.
The European Union aims to convince 40 African leaders in Brussels that Europe is its “most reliable partner” by detailing an investment initiative that aims to mobilize 150 billion euros ($170 billion) of public and private funds over the next seven years.
The scheme is the first regional part of the European Union’s Global Gateway, a $300 billion euro global investment blueprint that rivals China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
The European Union is eyeing dozens of ambitious projects to improve internet access, transport links and renewable energy while seeking to provide an alternative to Beijing’s cheap loans.
But some details about funding remain unclear, and the projects still have to be agreed with Africa.
African leaders are pushing for far more concrete steps for EU countries to allow the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to allocate tens of billions of dollars in further aid. [mg/jm]