Europe craves trade deals with Africa treated as economic partnership between equals

With a population projected to account for more than half of the people in the world by 2050, everyone has woken up to the reality of a future where Africa has the largest workforce. Economies on the continent are growing, and by 2030, 43 percent of Africans will be in the middle class, with household consumption reaching $2.5 trillion and consumer spending amounting to $6.7 trillion. The future is African and the rest of the world has made their peace with it.

China has become an important friend of Africa. The United Kingdom has also committed to improving relations with the continent, stressing the need for partnership rather than aid. As European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, enters the last year of his tenure, he too wants an Euro-African partnership.

In his State of the Union 2018 keynote speech, Juncker said: “Africa does not need charity, it needs true and fair partnership. And we, Europeans need this partnership just as much.

“Today, we are proposing a new Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs between Europe and Africa. This Alliance, as we envision it, would help create up to 10 million jobs in Africa in the next 5 years alone. I believe we should develop the numerous EU-African trade agreements into a continent-to-continent free trade agreement, as an economic partnership between equals.”

The European Commission is proposing a new ‘Africa – Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs’ to substantially boost investment in Africa, strengthen trade, create jobs, and invest in education and skills.

According to the Commission, Juncker’s call builds on the commitments taken during the African Union – European Union Summit which took place in Ivory Coast last November. At the Summit, the two continents agreed to strengthen their partnership.

The new proposal include key actions such as boosting strategic investment and strengthening the role of the private sector, investing in people, strengthening business environment and investment climate and tapping the full potential of economic integration and trade.

The Commission intends to build on the African Continental Free Trade Area implementation, to in the long-term, create a comprehensive continent-to-continent free trade agreement between the EU and Africa, as it continues to also prioritize Africa in external funding plans of the European Union.

In his comments, High Representative/Vice-President of the Commission Federica Mogherini said “Europe and Africa share many of the same interests: we both want a stronger Africa – with quality jobs for its youth, a better business climate, and peace and security for all.

“In these years we have started to build a real partnership of equals with Africa. We are already strong political partners, the next step is to be true economic partners and deepen our trade and investment relationship. We want to give young people opportunities to achieve their aspirations. Boosting responsible investment in Africa is a win-win for both sides,” Mogherini said.

The Alliance is expected to, among other things, lead to the creation of up to 10 million jobs in the next 5 years.

The Commission noted that it will begin consultation and dialogue with African partners in the coming months to jointly define priorities and take further action.

The new proposal is expected to override the contentious Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) — trade deals between Europe and regions in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, designed to end preferential treatment of former European colonies — which critics say could open the floodgates to “cheap EU exports” and make industrialisation more difficult.