Exclusive interview with Alain Le Roy who prepared and followed this summit.
Alain Boinet : You prepared the 6th African Union-European Union Summit that was just held in Brussels on February 17 and 18 under the chairmanship of Mr. Macky Sall and Charles Michel. How is this a “renewed partnership rich in promise” when the previous Summit in Abidjan in 2017 left mixed memories ?
Alain Le Roy : Indeed, at the end of the Abidjan summit in 2017, there was supposed to be an action plan that was not adopted, which led to some frustration. This is why it was essential to hold a new summit with concrete, precise and measurable commitments. Normally, this Africa-Europe summit is held every three years, but because of COVID, it had to wait until 2022 to be held. France insisted that it be held during its presidency of the Council of the European Union.
This time, particular attention was paid to the results of the summit and also to the form. The objective was to achieve a short and readable political declaration and to avoid the long litany of 80 heads of state and government speaking one after the other. Discussions were thus organized around seven round tables for in-depth debate between heads of state and experts on the following themes: financing growth / infrastructure, energy, transport, digital / peace, security and governance / vaccines and health systems / agriculture and sustainable development / education, vocational training, migration / support for the private sector and economic integration.
150 billion to finance investments in Africa by 2027, and a list of concrete and well identified projects in the different areas.
The feedback was very positive from most of the African and European Heads of State present, who declared themselves very satisfied with the concrete results of the summit and the strengthening of the partnership between Africa and Europe. The final press conference, in addition to welcoming the efforts and commitments of this summit, was also an opportunity to recall that Europe is by far the first partner of Africa, whether in terms of investment, trade or official development assistance. And that it intends to remain so.
Alain Boinet : How do the partnership and development policies of the 27 member states of the European Union, such as France, relate to the decisions taken at this Summit ?
Alain Le Roy : Each EU member state has of course its own development aid policy. The only completely communitarized policy of the European Union is the trade policy. On the other hand, all other areas, and in particular development aid policy and foreign policy, are not communitized, they are, as they say in Brussels, intergovernmental. Each country keeps its own policy.
The European Commission proposes the distribution of funds approved in the framework of the European budget and for support to Africa this is mainly done through a new instrument, the NDICI. This distribution is examined by different working groups in which the Member States are represented.
This year it was decided to make Europe’s effort more visible by aggregating as much as possible per project the EU commitments (NDICI funds for example) with the commitments of the Member States and their development agencies, as well as with the commitments of the EIB (European Investment Bank). This is called the Team Europe approach.
Alain Boinet : What concrete measures have been taken to address the health, economic and social consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa ?
Alain Le Roy : In this pandemic context, two aspects must be taken into account, first the direct health consequences of the pandemic but also the economic consequences. To best respond to the health needs in Africa, providing vaccines to the continent was obviously the priority. Despite a certain delay at the beginning of the pandemic, Europe remains the only continent that has never limited its vaccine exports and the one that has already supplied Africa with more than 150 million vaccines. The goal is to reach 450 million vaccines delivered to Africa by the end of June 2022 in addition to those provided by the COVAX mechanism, which the EU has financed to the tune of 3 billion dollars. Much has been said about Chinese vaccines, but so far China has only provided Africa with 35 million vaccines, far less than Europe.
The summit also focused on helping to increase the rate of vaccination in Africa. Indeed, despite these donations of vaccines, the average vaccination rate in Africa remains below 13% compared to 70% in Europe. This low figure can be explained by insufficient vaccination campaigns, personal anti-vaccination reluctance, blockages due to lack of equipment (not enough syringes for example) or lack of primary care services. Team Europe has therefore planned a package of measures to strengthen African health systems, including 425 million euros to accelerate the pace of vaccination.
Finally, during the summit, commitments were made to help Africa rapidly produce its own vaccines, particularly in South Africa, Rwanda and Senegal. A specific sequence focused on the production of messenger RNA vaccines. Six countries will be supported in the production of these vaccines: Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia.
As for the economic consequences of the health crisis, this aspect was already addressed during the Summit on the financing of African economies on May 18, 2021 in Paris, with in particular the allocation by the IMF of 650 billion dollars of SDR* for the whole world, including 33 billion dollars directly for Africa. In addition, the G20 countries have set a target of reallocating up to $100 billion of their own SDRs, mainly to Africa. The summit noted that progress toward this goal is well underway, with over $55 billion in firm commitments, including $13 billion from the leading European countries.
*Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), also in the singular, are an international monetary instrument created by the IMF in 1969 to supplement the existing official reserves of member countries.
Alain Boinet : It seems that there are technical problems that hinder this reallocation.
Alain Le Roy : There are no serious technical problems with reallocation through IMF trusts.
The first way that works is for developed countries to lend their SDRs through the Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust (PRGT), which is an existing IMF trust. Countries lend to the IMF, which then lends directly to African states. This first trust is expected to approach $30 billion.
The second way is to use the Resilience and Sustainability Trust (RST), a trust that is being created and whose idea was born at the May 18 summit. It will be operational in September/October. The RST could reach 50 or 60 billion dollars, mainly for Africa, but not exclusively. Indeed, this trust is intended for vulnerable LDCs and MICs (middle-income countries), the majority of which are African countries.
The difficulty is to put in place a third way that would allow the reallocation of these SDRs directly to the benefit of African development banks, which would create a real leverage effect. For the moment, the European Central Bank considers it impossible to lend the SDRs of the euro zone countries outside the IMF trusts. It is therefore a subject on which our experts at the Treasury Department are working to find a solution.
Alain Boinet : This summit mentions a vast development plan with an investment package of 150 billion dollars. What is it about and what are the priorities of this plan ?
Alain Le Roy : Indeed, this summit was the occasion to launch an EU investment plan in Africa of at least 150 billion euros over 5 years. As part of the EU’s Global Gateway project, this plan will have a leverage effect on private investment, which should multiply its real impact by about 3.
This plan covers many areas already identified by the African Union’s Agenda 2063, including
. health, with particular support for health systems and vaccine production in Africa,
. education, with support for teacher training and the strengthening or creation of vocational training centers adapted to local labor markets
. infrastructure, by strengthening procedures across the board to increase transparency and sustainability of projects
. energy, with numerous electricity interconnection projects and “fair” energy partnerships to support countries in their energy transition, taking into account their immense needs to increase access to electricity,
. transport, with a list of road, rail and port infrastructure projects, often of regional interest and with a rapid start-up,
. digital access, including the start of the feasibility study for the Europe-Africa submarine cable, the development of training hubs and the strengthening of satellite access
. support for the private sector, particularly the African start-up sector and young entrepreneurs, through specific funds. As well as support for the establishment of the African Free Trade Area to contribute to the economic integration of the continent.
In each area, specific and concrete projects have been selected, in agreement between the EU and the AU.
Alain Boinet : The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs 2015-2030) are not mentioned anywhere in the final declaration of this Summit.
Alain Le Roy : The SDGs may not have been explicitly cited in the final declaration, but it is clear that the entire project is in line with the SDGs. The 150 billion package explicitly serves the common ambition for the 2030 agenda, which is precisely a reference to the UN’s SDG agenda. This is one of the points on which Europe is working very seriously to ensure that investments are sustainable and that their impact on the environment is measured each time.
Alain Boinet : Among the topics officially addressed during the Summit on Peace, Security and Governance, there is practically nothing in the final declaration, notably on the Sahel and the Barkhane and Takuba operations. The same is true for humanitarian aid, which is a priority in many African countries. Is this an oversight ?
Alain Le Roy : A round table specifically devoted to peace and security issues was organized during the Summit, which gave rise to very dense and rich discussions.
The principles of our strengthened cooperation on peace and security were specified in point 5 of the final declaration of the summit. This concerns, among other things, support for the training of African security forces and support for African operations (in Somalia, for the G5 Sahel, etc.). We also hope that the EU will be able, as soon as the new European Peace Facility is operational, to support African operations contributing to the stability of the continent or to the fight against terrorism, such as the current operation in Rwanda to fight terrorism in Mozambique, at the request of that country.
The declaration also recalls the essential nature of the commitment of all to respect international humanitarian law.
The issue of the Sahel and the future of Barkhane was the subject of a specific Euro-African meeting in Paris the day before the summit.
Alain Boinet : Will there be an effective monitoring mechanism? There has even been talk of civil society having a say in the implementation of the programs. Some are skeptical, are they right to be concerned ?
Alain Le Roy : The Summit was very clear, there will be a precise follow-up of the commitments made. The European Commission will be fully transparent on the commitments made, through a website that will give details of these commitments and the status of implementation of the projects decided. There will also be a monitoring committee that will report to the annual EU-AU ministerial meeting. This website will be accessible to all and in particular to all associations and foundations interested in Africa and will serve as a spur to ensure the effective implementation of the commitments made during the summit.
Alain Boinet : How would you like to conclude on this African Union-European Union summit, of which we have not been able to address all aspects, as they are so numerous.
Alain Le Roy : We had some concerns because the Abidjan summit had generated frustrations and since 2017, there had been no other summit. In addition, the COVID aspect and the situation in Ukraine added a factor of uncertainty to the holding of the summit.
But in the end, the summit was held on the scheduled dates, in person, and with an exceptional participation! 100% of the European Heads of State or Government were present. As well as nearly 90% of the invited African heads of state. In total, nearly 80 Heads of State, and many high-level experts, were thus present at the summit. On the African side, as well as on the European side, all declared themselves satisfied with the results of the summit, even if the agreement on intellectual property concerning the production of vaccines has not yet been reached. Unfortunately, the crisis in Ukraine reduced the visibility of the summit results in the media.
A lot was done in terms of commitments on specific and concrete projects, taking into account the African priorities, the 2030 Agenda of the SDGs and the 2063 Agenda of the African Union.
I think we have succeeded, despite divergent interests, in getting all European countries interested in Africa. The rate of participation and the significant amounts mobilized are proof of this. This mobilization of the whole of Europe in favor of Africa, and not only countries like France, Spain, Italy or Portugal, is a real success that brings many hopes.
The situation in Africa will certainly not change radically overnight, but this general mobilization was essential to progress in the economic recovery of Africa and in strengthening the Africa-Europe link. We are now counting on civil society for its mobilization and its role as a spur in the follow-up of the many commitments made.
For further information, please find below the text of the final declaration and more specific official notes.
To go further :
Interview with Alain Le Roy on the summit on financing African economies : Interview with Alain Le Roy on the summit on financing African economies – Défis Humanitaires (defishumanitaires.com)
Final official statement : final-declaration-fr.pdf (europa.eu)
Details on the SUEUA : https://www.consilium.europa.eu/fr/meetings/international-summit/2022/02/17-18/
Announcement of the first beneficiaries of the technology transfer center for RNA-Messenger vaccines : https://www.elysee.fr/emmanuel-macron/2022/02/18/annonce-des-premiers-beneficiaires-du-centre-de-transfert-de-technologie-pour-les-vaccins-a-arn-messager
Joint statement on combating the terrorist threat : https://www.elysee.fr/emmanuel-macron/2022/02/17/declaration-conjointe-sur-la-lutte-contre-la-menace-terroriste
Partnerships for a just energy transition in Africa : https://www.elysee.fr/emmanuel-macron/2022/02/18/partenariats-pour-une-transition-energetique-juste-en-afrique
EU – AU Summit: widening the scope of plant proteins in Africa : https://www.elysee.fr/emmanuel-macron/2022/02/18/sommet-ue-ua-elargir-le-champ-des-proteines-vegetales-en-afrique
Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), also in the singular, are an international monetary instrument created by the IMF in 1969 to supplement the existing official reserves of member countries.
Who is Alain Le Roy ?
Alain Le Roy is Ambassador of France and Honorary Senior Advisor to the Court of Auditors. He has been Ambassador of France to Madagascar and Italy, as well as Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, in charge of peacekeeping operations, and Secretary General of the European External Action Service.