Time for Europe to rethink its Africa policy?

The heads of state and government of the African Union and the European Union are meeting in Abidjan, the economic capital of Ivory Coast, to discuss the future of EU-Africa relations and youth investment programmes. Some commentators take a carefully optimistic view of the summit - and Macron's African tour.

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Corriere della Sera (IT) /

A major opportunity

Writing in Corriere della Sera Andrea Riccardi, a historian and founder of the Catholic human rights organisation Sant'Egidio, hopes there will be a major change of course:

“Europe is in the dock in Africa. The roots of the problem rather than the consequences must be combatted, even if this is a long and difficult process. The summit in Abidjan could mark a turning point. ... Because the wave of migration from Africa has convinced many European governments that they need to negotiate and work together with the continent. Simply monitoring borders or closing them isn't enough. This realisation and cooperation with African states could give young Africans the chance of a future on their own continent.”

Finanz und Wirtschaft (CH) /

Anyone willing to invest in Africa?

Western businesses have a lot to make up for when it comes to investing in Africa, Finanz und Wirtschaft points out:

“The main topic at the EU-Africa summit was improving the prospects for young Africans. Private investors from the West is what is most needed. But they in particular have long taken a sceptical view of the continent given the widespread despotism and economic stagnation. German direct investments, for example, even went down slightly between 2012 and 2015. German companies invest significantly more in small EU countries like Hungary than in all of Africa put together - if you exclude South Africa, the only industrialised nation on the continent.”

La Tribune (FR) /

Macron's new foreign policy of proximity

Political scientist Jean-Christophe Gallien takes stock of the visit Macron made to Africa before the summit in La Tribune:

“Emmanuel Macron is using a proximity-based diplomacy geared towards initiating a direct dialogue with the populations of the countries he visits, and, beyond that, with their families, their friends, their communities on the continent and all the diasporas across the world. Far from destroying the old system, he is renewing and complementing it both in form and content. ... Agile and realistic, and blessed with a seemingly endless lucky streak, Emmanuel Macron has thrown himself into the task of shaking up our country's diplomacy, skilfully pre-empting the European dimension with a new type of diplomacy that answers the challenges posed by the smart power in today's multi-polar, globalised and digitalised world.”

Il Sole 24 Ore (IT) /

The young are the key

At least making the young generation the focus of the talks was the right decision, economist Andrea Goldstein writes in Il Sole 24 Ore:

“In Abidjan it will be repeated that funding for training and education play a fundamental role in the implementation of the reforms aimed at boosting growth in Africa. But this also applies for Europe, and in particular for Italy. The country could combat its demographic weaknesses by promoting legal immigration and investing more in educating young people in developing countries who could then find work here. This would be a coherent development policy free of xenophobic hysteria - but also free of the angelical hypocrisy of purported altruism.”

Frankfurter Rundschau (DE) /

Self-interest wins out against humanitarianism

The only thing the Europeans really want to achieve in Africa is to prevent migration across the Mediterranean, the Frankfurter Rundschau posits:

“As the most important transit country for refugees, Libya will once again play a central role. But precisely the Libyan example shows how far Europe is willing to go and how little obliged it feels to live up to its humanitarian values. Hundreds of thousands of people are stranded there, where they are being maltreated, abused and tortured. Europe not only looks on passively, it even wants to step up cooperation with the de facto failed state to stop the migrants. At the end of the day all it cares about is ensuring that fewer people make it to Europe.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Sense of guilt doesn't add up to a business plan

The only point the EU member states could agree on was that the causes of migration should be tackled in Africa, but there's still no sign of a real strategy, development expert Gunther Neumann comments in Der Standard:

“In view of the brutal colonial past and the huge gap between rich and poor, development cooperation was a moral imperative for Europe. But a sense of guilt doesn't add up to a good business plan. ... International support is crucial to prevent conflicts and people fleeing from South Sudan to Uganda and from Somalia to Kenya. The EU making payments to dubious partners to keep Africans away from us is hardly a viable strategy. The modernisation must be defined not just by global trade flows, but also universal values. Europe's consumers and civil society are called upon to act. Ethics and the corresponding policies are not obsolete.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Entering the next phase

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and African Union Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat call in a joint commentary in Le Monde for deeper cooperation between Africa and Europe:

“We must redouble our efforts to fight the root causes of irregular migration, which still claims too many victims and enriches too many human traffickers. We must also do more to improve the business climate and establish a permanent platform to allow African innovators to develop on their own. To do that we need the active participation of the private sector. A third of foreign direct investment in Africa comes from the EU. This support actively helps to create jobs and enhance growth in our two unions. Thanks to the EU's new foreign investment plan, we will now enter the next phase.”