Africa, Europe ties should be mutually beneficial – Kagame

Africa, Europe ties should be mutually beneficial – Kagame

The African continent ought to be viewed as a partner to the European Union as opposed to a beneficiary of generosity, President Kagame has said.

President Kagame was speaking in Vienna, Austria at the High-Level Africa-Europe Forum which he is co-chairing alongside Austria’s Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.

The head of state said that Europeans should view Africans as partners and not beneficiaries of their generosity as the continent has resources that can be brought into partnerships that create a win-win situation for everyone.

“In my view, we should have a conversation about what Africa brings to the partnership and how what Europe has been offering can be offered differently, so that we get the results we want,” he said.

Kagame said that part of the common aim of the partnership is to address critical global concerns such as migration, security and climate change among others.

He envisioned a broad and durable long-term partnership characterised by mutual benefits for both parties involved as well as growth for Africa and Europe.

“Our common aim is to define a new relationship between Europe and Africa as it should have been, and build the institutions required to sustain it over the long term,” Kagame said.

Giving Africa’s perspective on the partnership, the African Union Chairperson said that the continent seeks to boost innovation and private-sector exchange that will among other things create jobs for young citizens.

“We are not going to measure success solely in terms of migration statistics. A much better yardstick is how creating high-quality, digital jobs in Africa will also boost job growth in Europe. After all youth employment is an urgent priority for both our continents,” the president said.

That way, Africa will be much more of a source of opportunity than risk and any emerging challenges will be effectively managed in the wider context of the relationship, he added.

Kagame said that Africa was already setting up necessary preconditions to grow the economy through initiatives such as the Continental Free Trade Area agreement which will liberalize trade on the continent.

“Through the African Union Commission and the Smart Africa initiative, we are also working to harmonise the regulatory environment for information and communication technologies (ICTs) and link our digital infrastructure,” he added.

Though it could take a while to change perceptions and mindsets among involved stakeholders, he said it was not an impossible feat.

The choice of the summit’s theme as innovation is based on its potential impact to drive higher rates of productivity in every sector of the economy.

Speaking earlier at the Political Leaders meeting ahead of the opening ceremony, the President called on nations to look past any differences that may exist among them and to build on positive elements.

“We want to address and transcend the past by looking forward, and also transcend any differences that exist within or across nations for various reasons, while building on the positive elements of our shared historical inheritance,” he said.

He emphasised the importance of keeping the partnership on solid footing to deal with critical global issues such as security, migration, climate change and economic progress without being derailed by short-term political calculations or rivalries.

Speaking later at a press briefing, Kagame said that the migration crisis remains a big concern that can be handled through cooperation by both parties in multiple aspects including within the continent.

He expressed optimism for the future of the partnership saying that there was deep consensus on both continents.

“The presence of a number of Heads of State and Government as well as CEOs, reflects the deep consensus on both continents. We are going to be focusing on the serious, long-term issues that bring us closer and make us stronger together,” he added.

The forum builds on the ongoing implementation of the joint declaration of the 2017 Abidjan Summit which was themed around investing in youth for accelerated growth and sustainable development.

The joint declaration of the 2017 Abidjan Summit between the African Union and the European Union seeks to unlock the potential of the digital economy for the two continents.

Other speakers at the opening session include Austria’s Federal Chancellor Kurz, AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat and President of the European Council Jean- Claude Juncker.