Lessons from the EU to the AU, and vise versa

Africa has a lot to learn from Europe; but Europe too  

Emnet Assefa




Last week the African Union (AU) and its European equivalent, the European Union (EU), have held the sixth commission to commission meeting lead by the commissioner of The African Union Commission, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and the President of the European Union Commission, José Manuel Barroso.

The tow unions have discussed issues ranging from peace and security in African countries that have current conflicts to human right protection and good governance to trade and investment, according to the officials who met the media at the end of the meeting. Eye catching was what Barroso said:  the discussion was not just a “diplomatic traditional discussions but also more business like relation.”

Economic and social ties

Women empowerment and creating decent work for young people are areas that Africa needs to work more on, according to Barroso who also said that the EU has spent more than 24 Billion euros in aid from 2007 to 2013 for Africa.

Africa’s economic growth was a potential area for economic cooperation between the two continents. But the current trade balance between Africa and all its trading partners in Europe is unjustly skewed against Africa although EU’s one third trade and investment relation is with Africa, according to Barroso.

Peace and Security 

Answering to a question by this magazine on the relationship between the two continents in  peace and security areas, an area where the AU’s peace and security department doesn’t have a perfect match within the EU, Barroso said the EU has three strategic approaches to assist peace and security efforts by the AU: Africa’s political ownership and the determination to find solutions to its problems, AUs leadership and efficient working arrangement between the continental, regional and national levels and strong political backing and financial support by the EU and others.

The situation in Mali and Somalia are two of the initiatives the AU has taken the lead in finding African born solutions. From sending troops to raising funds to support peace operations, the commission was praised for its leadership and ownership. And few days ago, the UN has approved the creation of 12,600 strong peacekeeping forces in Mali starting from July 1st, which will be supported by French troops if needed to combat Islamist extremists in the West African country. The chairperson of the AUC however has expressed her disappointment saying although the AU has welcomed the resolution “that takes away some of the initiatives that are from the AU and put them only in the UN whereas Mali had been joint effort, we were closely working with the UN.”

Mali, as one of the discussion point between the two Unions, Barroso talked about his plans to organize a fund raising event in Brussels this May aimed at supporting Mali’s transition into a peaceful nation.

A relations between equals

Three months ago, Dilamin-Suma was quited by South African media as having expressed her displeasure over the traditional donor-recipient relations between the AU and AU – 97% of the operational fund for the later comes from donors. “It’s unsustainable situation,” she says answering to a question by this magazine, Africa must look for alternate resources to finance its development agenda especially infrastructure, “we welcome the money we get from our funders but we must also look for internal sources to sustain our development.” said Zuma.

And according to the Barroso,, it is time for the relations between the two to move from “donor approach to win-win business situation”, which is why they are planning to broadly involve the private sector as well as the business communities to see business opportunities in the upcoming EU/AU summit which will be held in Brussels next year in April. “We need to go beyond developmental assistance” Barroso said. “Africa is rising and there are great successes in Africa. As a matter of dignity, it’s also much better to have a relation of equals.”

Can Africa learn from Europe…

Africa has a lot to learn from Europe’s economic success according to Dr. Zuma, but solidarity is the most important thing Africa can learn from Europe. “because individually the countries wouldn’t have gone out of the problems and this is how we have seen the solidarity.”

Institutional instruments put in place for individual nations to implement decisions passed by the EU can be one of the lessons that the AU can learn from the EU. “The only instrument we have is on the unconstitutional power transition,” DR. Dilamin admitted.

…and vise versa?

According to Borroso the EU rather than being a role model can be a source of inspiration for others because of its good experiences. He called the relationship between the two unions as a “Sister Organizations” because of the similarities they both hold.

According to him, Europe can learn a lot from the “great capacity of African men and women, their generosity and capacity to sacrifices, the human relation and the creativity” of the African people. “This continent has a great potential and we Europeans should be humbled to learn some of the good things they have such as their energy, art and human quality,” he said.

Photo – Tesfalem Waldyes

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