A renewed partnership between Africa and the EU has been high on the agenda with, for example, the S&D group of the European Parliament (EP), which had already organised a second Africa week end of September, underlining the need to consider cooperation and sustainable development as an investment based on partnership. While the EP had its own Africa week, the European Commission submitted an investment programme. There were high expectations surrounding the EU-Africa summit that took place this week in Abidjan (Ivory Coast). However, the ban on Civil Society Organisations from taking the floor during the summit, as was previously agreed, is a truly worrisome sign. As highlighted by our friends at CONCORD, there cannot be a true partnership without the voices of CSOs. This regrettable development should not put at risk the process of building strong EU-Africa relations, which should be viewed more as a neighbourhood partnership than anything else. But in times of migration flows and security threats it is sometimes seen more as a backyard of and for radicalisation.
This partnership is paramount, taking into account the demographic developments in both continents (while Africa has a predominantly young population, Europe is aging), the threats due to bad governance, shrinking civic and democratic rights, and the numerous conflicts that ravage the African continent. Nice words and images aside, what are the interests and what are the results? Few for the time being, as it seems that European countries are still mainly interested in hindering migrants from reaching the EU and sending them back when they do manage to arrive in Europe. “More for more” is a nice slogan, but it should be more for less: more money for fewer migrants. While the EU and its Member States are increasingly spending large amounts of scarce ODA resources on migration management and even larger sums on refugees within the EU, funds should be used to address the root causes of forced migration and displacement.
Only those who cannot see where our societies are drifting will contest the "logic". Civil Society Organisations and NGOs need to continue campaigning for a truly renewed partnership offering the African continent the chance to achieve sustainable development. This is more than a deal like the one with Libya, with the horrible images of people being sold as slaves, or the lies about safe third countries. We also have to answer the question of economic development including fair economic relations and trade agreements. The colonial debt of Europe and its common interests shall inspire a relaunch and a common approach. Deeds not words are needed, and investment to ensure a real development perspective.