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Africa roundtable unites with European allies

Harrison Mwilima
May 13, 2022

Decision makers from politics, business and civil society have gathered in Berlin to discuss new ways for Europe and Africa to cooperate on issues from the COVID pandemic to the war in Ukraine.

Elhadj As Sy, co-chair of the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board at The Africa Roundtable
The Africa Roundtable discusses the importance of Africa as a long-term, equal partner for EuropeImage: Global Perspectives Initiative/GPI

Politicians from African and European countries gathered in Berlin on Thursday for The Africa Roundtable to discuss strategies to cope with common challenges. 

"We are in times of multiple crises and partnership in these days is more important than anything else," said Ingrid Hamm, cofounder and CEO of event organizer Global Perspectives Initiative (GPI), in her opening remarks.

Food shortages

In his televised opening speech, Germany's food and agriculture minister, Cem Özdemir, mentioned some of the current challenges facing Europe and Africa as a result the war in Ukraine — especially a lack of wheat imports from Ukraine and Russia. 

According to Germany's Federal Office for Economic Affairs and Export Control, Ukraine's wheat production accounts for 11.5% of the world market, while Russia's share is 16.8%. When it comes to corn, Ukraine supplies 17% of the world's export market.

Animal carcass in Kapetadie, Nairobi
An ongoing drought threatens millions of people with severe food insecurity in the Horn of AfricaImage: Thelma Mwadzaya/DW

Shortages of food are happening at a time that "around 280 million people in Africa are already undernourished today especially in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa due to severe draught and conflicts," explained Özdemir. 

Özdemir told the participants in Berlin that the German government is currently coordinating a task force that will develop strategies to support countries mainly in Africa that are expected to be severely affected by food shortages.  

Bringing Africa to the G20 table

Senegal's economy minister, Amadou Hott, said in his keynote address that some African nations are not in a good position to deal with some economic challenges because of international issues. For example, he mentioned some of the bottlenecks faced by Africa in raising money from the capital markets in order to deal with the COVID pandemic and the war in Ukraine. 

Hott called those gathered to ensure that Africa is involved in making decisions that concern the African continent. He reiterated a message from the president of Senegal, Macky Sall, which called on the African Union to join the G20.

"Our economies together in terms of GDP we are the eight largest in the world, thus we deserve the seat at the table specially to give inputs when decisions are made that will impact Africa," said Hott. 

DW talks to Senegal's economy minister, Amadou Hott

The idea of including African countries at the G20 table was echoed by Professor Jaffrey Sachs, president of the UN Sustainable Development Solution Network.

"Africa needs to be at the table and not as an invited guest politely present, but as G21st country," said Professor Sachs.

Areas of investment

It was discussed that ongoing challenges in Africa caused by the COVID pandemic and the war in Ukraine can be solved by investing in various strategic areas.

Professor Sachs proposed six main areas of investment including human capital (education), health sector (comprehensive universal health coverage), electrification, sustainable land use in agriculture, sustainable urban infrastructure, and universal digital access. 

Senegal's economy minister, Amadou Hott, at The Africa Roundtable
Senegal's economy minister, Amadou Hott, has called upon private investors to contribute to six main areas of importanceImage: Global Perspectives Initiative/GPI

Minister Hott agreed to all those areas and called upon private investors to contribute to those sectors. He called on European countries to increase their investments in Africa and foster the transfer of skills.

"Frontloading investments in infrastructure, climate change resilience, health, education, housing and digitization will enable the continent to leapfrog from low income to middle income status," said Hott.

Vera Songwe, the executive secretary for the Economic Commission for Africa said that investments also go hand in hand with financial inclusion for African countries — especially at a time when the war in Ukraine is causing rising inflation in many African countries. 

"Inflation is a trigger for riots, it was also a trigger for Arab spring," Songwe pointed out.

In solving the current crises, she proposed additional financial resources for African countries as well as initiatives of debt restructuring.  

Africa and European ties are at a crossroads

Way forward

In her closing remarks, Obiageli Ezekwesili, founder and CEO of Human Capital Africa, said that responsibility for generating economic growth was still an important task for the governments of Africa.

Sound policies in connection with good governance are regarded important for African nations. 

Ezekwesili reminded European participants that Africa's influence was on the rise. She provided three key factors which she believes are important — including African women, young people, and technology.

"These three game changers are going to transform the continent, thus European businesses can't afford to be on the sidelines waiting for the perfect scenario before engaging with Africa," said Ezekwesili. 

Edited by Keith Walker