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EU plan to deepen ties with Africa

By Andrew Walker


European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s proposed new alliance with Africa to deepen economic relations and boost investment and jobs involves a “continent-to-continent” free trade agreement.

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The proposal could help create up to 10 million jobs in Africa in the next five years alone, Mr Juncker said (see earlier post).

It builds on a patchwork of deals that are already in place which give almost all countries in Africa extensive tariff free access to the EU’s market.

However, Mr Juncker’s proposal is more comprehensive.

Africa has a programme for building a continent-wide free trade arrangement of its own, which most countries have signed – the most notable omission is Nigeria, whose president has been reluctant.

One issue is how effectively Africa could come together to negotiate collectively – something the EU has been doing for many years.

The proposals also envisage more opportunities for Africans to boost skills by, for example, studying at European universities.

They also call for support for African countries with reforms to improve the climate for business and increased financial assistance.

The EU is proposing a total of 40bn euros ($46bn; £35bn) in grants over the seven years from 2021.

What does the EU have to gain from this?

The EU wants to expand its engagement with Africa as an increasingly important region of the world.

In another part of his speech, Mr Juncker called for reform in how the EU deals with immigration, which has been politically difficult in several EU countries.

Promoting economic development could reduce the incentives for Africans to seek a more prosperous life in Europe.

EU proposals:

  • Facilitate African students to study at European universities
  • Help Africa to improve the climate for business and increased financial assistance
  • Provide a total of $46bn in grants over the seven years from 2021
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