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A new consensus for the post-Covid19 world: Africa and Europe – partners to tackle growing inequalities

At the Paris Peace Forum on November 12 last year, French President Emmanuel Macron and other world leaders launched a global discussion on forging a new consensus for the post-Covid-19 world. This discussion is continuing through an ongoing debate, with contributions from leaders and experts from around the world. Below, explore the contribution of  Jutta Urpilainen, European Commissioner for International Partnerships.

Africa and Europe: partners to tackle growing inequalities

At the heart of the global consensus for sustainable recovery from the pandemic must be the fight against inequalities. They make us weaker in crises. Crises, which will not stop to this one. We must take this fight together and succeeding in Africa will be key.

European Union’s partnership with Africa has a common aspiration to a peaceful, just, prosperous and healthy future, built on a foundation of sustainable and inclusive growth, in line with the main priorities of our comprehensive Africa Strategy.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a public health emergency that has hit economies hard. The impact on African economies has been particularly heavy – in its worst performance on record, the continent’s Gross Domestic Product contracted by 1.9% in 2020.

The European Union continues to stand by Africa in addressing the immediate financing gap, by supporting debt relief efforts, by frontloading budget support payments, and by delivering scale through a “Team Europe” approach. We strongly supported the push for a Common Framework for Debt Relief beyond DSSI and to enhance the efforts related to IMF Special Drawing Rights.

The EU Institutions, Member States and financial institutions are together channelling at least €8 billion to support African countries through the pandemic. We are also mobilising a Team Europe Initiative to help our partners tackle for the long-term all barriers to local production of vaccines and other health products in Africa, through a comprehensive approach creating an enabling environment and addressing the supply-side challenges and demand-side challenges.

The start of the Commission’s new seven-year financing period offers an opportunity to chart jointly a path towards a sustainable recovery. The private sector will have a key role to play. Every fifth working-age African has their own business. However, they face obstacles: unequal access to education and financial support, administrative red tape.

Africa’s dynamic young entrepreneurs can count on support from Team Europe to level the playing field and help attract investments, particularly in the green and digital sectors. We are tackling this with another Team Europe initiative, just announced at the Summit on financing the African economies, focusing on boosting young entrepreneurship and supporting small businesses, which are the backbone of the African economy.

The core engine of the recovery will be domestic public finance, with fiscal policies stimulating sustainable development and inclusive growth. Yet our partners’ own resources are now limited in comparison to the size of their economies – the average African tax-to-GDP ratio in 2018 was 16.5%. The EU fully supports efforts to raise more revenue through fair and broad-based taxation, and action against tax evasion and illicit financial flows.

When everyone pays their fair share, there are more opportunities for stronger social protection, well-functioning public health systems, and education.

There can be no inclusive growth without education. Young people across the world need the right skills and competences to build their successful future careers and businesses. Education brings prosperity but also better health and longer lifespans, more inclusive, more resilient societies, and stronger, more peaceful democracies.

By shutting out of school an additional 244 million learners across Africa, the pandemic underlined the urgency of ensuring access to quality education for all, at all levels. I am personally committed to increasing EU external funding for education, and it will be a key priority of our partnership with Africa.

Ultimately inclusive growth stems from democracy: strong democratic institutions, social inclusion and participatory societies. We will build back better by empowering youth and women, and by ensuring their participation in the decision-making process.

The time to act is now, and Team Europe is ready to do so alongside partners in Africa. We are stronger together!

by Jutta Urpilainen, European Commissioner for International Partnerships