Europe is Africa’s reliable partner for building our joint bright future

President Uhuru Kenyatta

President Uhuru Kenyatta (seated far right) listens as WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus (right) announces Kenya’s selection to the global mRNA technology transfer programme at the 6th AU-EU Summit in Brussels in February.

Photo credit: PSCU

I am travelling this week to Africa, a vibrant continent that is preparing its future: Pushing ahead the digital transformation, making farming more efficient and sustainable, building infrastructure to reinforce connections between people, shaping its collective security and investing in the continent’s greatest resource—its youth.

On all of this, we propose Europe to be Africa’s partner of choice. European investment in Africa is over five times more than China’s. A quarter of African trade is with the European Union (EU); against only 15 per cent with China and two per cent with Russia. And 90 per cent of its exports enter the EU duty-free. The EU works with Africa on building the continent’s first manufacturing sites for vaccines and we approved at the AU-EU summit a Global Gateway €150 billion (Sh17.8 trillion) investment package. With the European Peace Facility and our training missions, we help to strengthen peace and security.

Russia’s war against Ukraine

However, the world’s future is clouded by the devastating consequences of Russia’s war against Ukraine on food security, energy prices, debt and insecurity. This war affects everyone but Africa is one of its main collateral victims. While some African countries look at this war from a different perspective than we do, let’s agree on four fundamental points.

First: Europe, Africa—and the entire world—cannot accept a world of ‘might makes right’, where big powers can claim ‘spheres of influence’ and attack neighbours to annex their territory. The Russian aggression against Ukraine is a perfect example of 19th Century type of cruel imperialism that Africa suffered. Precisely because Europeans are aware of their responsibilities in that era, the EU will stand against renewed imperialism.

We must uphold and reinvigorate the multilateral order, to defend the rule of law as the recent EU-Africa Summit agreed. That is one reason why we support the call by Senegal’s President Macky Sall for a G20 seat for the African Union (AU).

Second: We must ease the food crisis. With over 70 partners, many in Africa, the EU is delivering four strands of action: Solidarity with those who cannot afford food; support food production; facilitate agricultural trade, including getting Ukrainian grain to Africa; and align our food security response in the multilateral system with the UN at its core.

Blaming sanctions

Others try to distract from their responsibility by blaming EU sanctions. But these do not prohibit African countries from importing and transporting Russian agricultural goods or paying for them. The war is the problem.

Third: We need to step up our joint work to preserve Africa’s security and safety. In that area, the EU is Africa’s most reliable partner, supporting peace efforts in 11 missions. Last April, we supported the AU with a further €600 million to improve conflict prevention, crisis management and counter-terrorism. This week, I will be in Mozambique and Somalia. In Mozambique, the EU supports the armed forces to restore security in the Cabo Delgado province, and our assistance measures via the European Peace Facility amounts to €89 million. We are also finalising programmes to support the SADC and Rwandan contingents. Similarly, Somalia can count on our missions to counter piracy and train the Somali armed forces. With €2.3 billion, the EU has supported the AU Mission to Somalia (Amisom) for more than 10 years.

UN peacekeeping operations

Russia contributes 78 security personnel to UN peacekeeping operations in Africa, compared to the EU’s 6,000. But Russia also contributes to the deterioration of the security situation in Africa with several hundred mercenaries from private military companies, as we see in Mali and Central African Republic.

Fourth: Africa and Europe should continue to prepare the future, not fall back into the past. While colonialism is an indelible stain on the conscience of Europe, dealing with our responsibility for the past has made us better partners for the future. Europe is looking at Africa with fresh eyes: With optimism and confidence.

That is why we want to deepen our partnership, always giving top priority to “African solutions for African problems”.

Mr Borrell is the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of European Commission. @JosepBorrellF @EUinKenya @EU_EEAS