ABIDJAN — Just as with many international meetings, last week’s AU-EU Summit saw organizations host a plethora of side events to leverage the high profile presence of conference attendees on the sidelines of the heads of state meetings.
African and European leaders are preparing to meet in Abidjan for the 5th African Union-European Union Summit. While youth are the official focus, migration and security are likely to dominate conversations. Here are Devex's top six things to watch for the week.
The week began with the EU-Africa Business Forum, which focuses on fostering entrepreneurship by ensuring students graduate with the in-demand skills needed in a 21st century workforce. Parliamentarians also gathered to reinforce their cooperation and commitment to a set of common goals for intercontinental partnership.
With more than 5,000 guests representing more than 100 countries across Europe and Africa, high-level officials and interested stakeholders came together for joint brainstorming sessions, introduction of new initiatives, and to sign EU-financed African development projects.
Here is a list of four key announcements you may have missed at the AU-EU Summit:
1. Creation of the AfDB Youth Advisory Board
A common thread within each pillar of the African Development Bank’s “High 5 agenda,” or roadmap for accelerating Africa’s economic transformation is job creation for Africa’s youth — a major theme weaved through many conversations last week. To tackle issues surrounding quality youth employment, president of the African Development Bank, Akinwumi Adesina announced the Presidential Youth Advisory Group — a focus group aimed at providing insight and innovative solutions for Africa’s more than 420 million young people.
Africa’s youngest billionaire, Ashish Thakkar will serve as the group’s chairperson. Other members include AfDB Director of Gender, Women and Civil Society Vanessa Moungar; Francine Muyumba, president of the the Pan-African Youth Union; and Jeremy Johnson, co-founder of the United States-based software developer training company, Andela.
“The bank must ensure that it is well advised by cutting edge youth representatives on its policies, actions and programs, for the benefit of Africa’s youth,” Adesina remarked. Group members are expected to “actively engage private sector partners, government leaders, civil society, donor partners and other stakeholders” through the Jobs for Youth in Africa strategy — currently the continent’s largest effort on youth employment. Through this initiative the bank plans to add 25 million new jobs, impacting 50 million youth.
2. EIB signs financial agreements of 230 million euros ($272.5 million)
The European Investment Bank signed a 100 million euro ($118 million) agreement with the African Export Import Bank, or Afrexim, to support trade-related investments on the continent. The seven-year loan is expected to increase intra-African trade and trade to the EU. Financing will support short- to long-term projects across the 40 countries where Afrexim operates, emphasizing the need to strengthen trade to diversify local economies and make African nations more competitive.
The lending institution of the EU also signed 55 million euros ($65 million) in long-term loans and equity financing to microenterprises and small and medium enterprises in countries from Ethiopia to Senegal and Ghana. The financing will support businesses in a range of sectors including: agribusiness, fintech, manufacturing, health and education.
“These lendings are interesting because they are related to private equity, venture capital, things that we see developing in Africa and we want to be ahead of the curve in terms of supporting that,” EIB Vice President Ambroise Fayolle told Devex. “This also changes the way entrepreneurs see EIB and it changes the way we support growth and jobs and also shows that Africa is a very concretely dynamic place to invest,” he said.
Other major agreements were made with the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal for water and electricity projects, respectively. A 35 million euro ($41 million) deal was signed with the Ivorian government to modernize the country’s water supply networks and is expected to supply drinking water to at least 700,000 people. In Senegal, an additional 50,000 will benefit from clean electricity with the modernization of the transmission and distribution networks in the country’s poorest regions.
3. L4Ag forum outlines path ahead
The Leadership4Agriculture forum met ahead of the AU-EU Summit in the auditorium of the AfDB to convene policymakers around the topic of accelerating Africa's agricultural transformation. Here, African agriculture ministers, finance ministers, development finance institutions, and private sector representatives gathered for the first time under AfDB supervision and support of the Rockefeller Foundation, Initiative for Global Development and Grow Africa.
As part of long-term national economic development plans, most countries, include agricultural transformation, but this meeting aims to serve as an annual gathering for knowledge sharing and progress updates. Experts estimate that the agriculture sector in Africa could be a $1 trillion industry by 2030. However, despite tremendous potential, total investment in the sector falls short of what is required and sometimes doesn’t meet the 10 percent of national budgets as agreed by African nations signatory to the Maputo Declaration.
Expanding youth interest in agribusiness, use of technology and automation, along with shared success stories and lessons learned guided discussions. Improving yields, land rights policies, infrastructure and market linkages, increasing skills capacity, inclusion of youth and women, and access to technologies and finance are just a few of the barriers to the sector’s success.
“Policymakers acknowledged the need for this,” Rockefeller Foundation’s Africa Director Mamadou Biteye told Devex. “Countries share successes or failures and can save time and avoid others from making the same mistakes.”
4. Creation of AU-EU-UN joint task force on migration
The issue of migration and slowing a crisis that has seen hundreds of thousands mostly West Africans leave in search of better living in Europe led discussions among the more than 80 heads of states who attended the AU-EU summit in Abidjan this week. Along with a declaration, the AU-EU and United Nations came together to create a joint task force dedicated to the issue.
Migration and mobility stood out last week as the leading hot topic of the meetings. The African Union, European Union and United Nations agreed to create a joint task force to respond to the migration crisis. While concrete follow up actions were outlined, some attendees questioned if there are enough legal pathways to migration to Europe to truly reverse the phenomenon.
In the coming weeks, migrants in Libya will begin voluntary repatriation to their home countries. However, without sufficient employment opportunities awaiting them upon their return, this could just spark another wave of Africans looking for a better life in Europe.