Editorial: Africa and Europe

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Africa in three key factors: Youth, new technologies and reserves of raw materials covering one third of the world’s needs … and on top of that a coastline teeming with fish like nowhere else and some of the richest farmland on the planet.

Given all of this, everybody ought to turn to this continent with hope; bankers, the corporate world, organisations and states are lining up to co-write the script of the incredible growth lying so dormant. In this magazine, we turn the spotlight on two of the African countries that seem so promising. Tanzania achieved 6.8% growth in 2017, placing it in the top 10 of best performing countries in the world. And Rwanda has been one the most dynamic economies of the continent for a decade.

And yet, despite this almost idyllic description, the ties between Europe and Africa remain unsure, forming one the greatest paradoxes of this era. It is clear that the alchemy between the two is still off at times.

There are various reasons for this, based on past painful experience, the lack of trust or the lack of mutual understanding. But another phenomenon comes into play as well: different – often conflicting – views …

This mutual incomprehension can be seen on different levels. By way of example, let’s showcase the European Development Days 2018 due to be held in Brussels on 5 and 6 June, which will have as its main theme: ‘Women and Girls at the Forefront of Sustainable Development: Protest, Empower, Invest’.

Is that really the best response to accommodating the needs of Africa in terms of private and public investment, to the creation of competitive industries, to the implementation of major infrastructure projects, to the reinforcement of its legal framework, to the consolidation of governmental safeguards etc. … all leading to the creation of high-quality employment?

Another equally absurd example is the European persistence in wanting to strengthen the capacity of micro, small and medium-sized African enterprises by means of western “experts”. This wilfulness makes no sense considering that even the most fragile of African countries today already have a qualified middle class, perfectly capable and ready to handle development themselves, autonomously and without western ‘guidance’.

In short, it is time the West stopped stigmatising Africa by teaching it ‘how to suck eggs’, as today Africa, and rightly so, wants to take matters into its own hands by assuming its own responsibilities and freeing itself of western paternalism.

In contrast, the same West had better listen to the appeal from Kofi Annan who stated: “There is not a single country in the world that has reached a high stage of economic and social development without having developed an advanced industrial sector”.

In the last decades, Asia, for one, has really understood this and has shifted the economic balance in the world. So why should Africa not do the same today?