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Europe and Africa must forge a new partnership of equals that gives priority to investing in Africa’s young people, according to the High-Level Group of Personalities established by Friends of Europe in partnership with the Mo Ibrahim Foundation and the ONE Campaign. The group of about 20 senior personalities, set up in 2018, gathered for the first time in Brussels on 10 October 2018. They were hosted by the European Commission.
In a frank and open debate on ‘EU-Africa: jobs, growth and youth employment’, participants highlighted a new dynamism and self-confidence emerging in Africa, fuelled by an eagerness and energy to shape its own future. Recent important decisions underline this new outlook, notably plans to establish an African Continental Free Trade Area, and a steady structural transformation is paving the way for more investments and growth.
Europe is Africa’s biggest partner, trader, investor and donor. According to one speaker, “The connection between the two continents, divided by just 14 kilometres, couldn’t be more exciting.” However, Europe must seize this historical opportunity to forge a stronger partnership, with the end-goal of a continent-to-continent free trade agreement. There was a call for Africa’s future to be widely debated, not just by ministers of cooperation and development. Hence the tremendous potential of this High-Level Group of Personalities, an independent work group that aims to complement official EU and Africa channels by delivering recommendations on how to step up dialogue and cooperation.
Africa’s youth must remain front-of-mind for everyone, given this population could double to 830 million by 2050, bringing unemployment and migration challenges with it. Since young people make up 60% of Africa’s jobless, it is now urgent to forge a long-term strategy for creating quality jobs there – up to 18 million annually. One speaker called this ‘youth bulge’ one of the biggest challenges of the 21st century’s, recalling how numerous conflicts resulted from a situation where young people lacked hope or prospects.
Yet this ‘youth bulge’ could also benefit both continents, provided Africa and Europe step up their cooperation and start implementing youth-focused projects. If harnessed well, it could also lead to growth and jobs that partly compensate for Europe’s ageing population. One speaker remarked that Europeans should feel real excitement at the possibility of a third of the world’s youth living on their doorstep by mid-century.