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Lessons for Africa from Team Europe

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By Bitange NDEMO

We live in an era of disruptions. From the onset of Covid-19 scourge, the war in Ukraine and technology are reshaping industries making every sector to adopt strategic approaches on how they view the future.

These disruptions have given the European Union an opportunity to strengthen the concept of working together. “Team Europe Initiative (TEI),” adopted in April 2020 is a flagship designed to deliver concrete, transformational results for partner countries or regions.

Most analysts see the approach as an ambition by the union to secure the centrality of its geopolitical position and reshape the future of EU development co-operation.

It brings together EU member-States, and the European development finance institutions to focus on specific activities at national, regional, and global levels. The objective initially was to provide an urgent and short-term financial response to partner countries affected by the pandemic globally, but is now adapted for other global challenges.

And with many dynamics facing the world, they have now added new goals and purposes by factoring longer term funding into the union’s seven-year budget cycle ending in 2027.

As a matter of fact, it wasn’t until May 2021 when the longer-term intentions of the initiative became clearer during the G20 meeting in Italy. During Team Europe initiative meeting in Rome, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced that the EU would support manufacturing and access to vaccines, medicines, and health technologies in Africa.

This made the EU to commit at least €1 billion from the budget and its financing institutions to help establish an environment which is conducive to local vaccine manufacturing in Africa thus addressing bottlenecks on both the supply and demand sides. Further EU member States were also encouraged to contribute towards assisting Africa to produce its own vaccines and other medicines.

A review of past literature reveals that TEI was conceptualised as a strategic initiative to strengthen EU’s desires to play a key role in a growing multipolar world. Many have argued that it is a tool to implement von der Leyen’s 2019 campaign manifesto for presidency. In it, objectives of TEI were to ensure that EU development policy “should be strategic and effective, should create value for money and should contribute to our wider political priorities.”

The big question that we must ask ourselves: How will Africa react to Europe’s ambition to become geopolitically stronger? A candid discussion with both European and African friends gives a sense of both optimism and pessimism.
There is an awareness of Africa’s past relationship with Europe. There is a hesitation on how to address pending issues as we move into the future.

A July 2021 commentary on foreign policy on: History matters for the EU’s geopolitical ambitions by Fraser Cameron and Shada Islam at the European Policy Centre noted that EU leaders frequently mention the continent’s recent deadly conflicts, persecution of minorities, and the horror of the Holocaust. Yet they would like to see the EU as a “virgin birth,” with no accountability or colonial past for member States. They are also silent when it comes to recollections of imperialism and colonialism.

The commentary reveals that, EU would do well if it listened to US President Joe Biden’s words while speaking on the centenary of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre. The President urged Americans to be honest about their history, insisting that great nations “come to terms with their dark sides.”

In my view, Africa should not wait for that moment of dealing with the past dark side of Europe. It is for the EU to decide. Also, waiting would mean surrendering initiative in these mutually and equally important bilateral and multilateral relations.

Further, embed pan-Africanism in all school curricula emphasising pan-African goals of a better world. Develop new models of growing trans-Africa infrastructure, rail, road and communication.
If possible negotiate with EU to realise the Global Gateway Initiatives covering eleven corridors in Africa. Last but not least, work with the African diaspora to strengthen capacity to innovate or negotiate partnerships with other nations.

We all must acknowledge Cameron and Islam’s words that in a world where geopolitical rivalry is prevalent, the EU has a significant moderating role to play. It must advance multilateralism and enlarge its network of international allies, it has the proper intuition. Numerous countries around the world continue to be inspired by the EU’s regulatory authority and regional integration model.

The writer is Kenya’s Ambassador to Belgium, Mission to the EU, Organisation of African Caribbean and the Pacific States and World Customs Organisation. The article is written at a personal level.

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