A month after visiting Niger, I’m back to sub-saharan Africa. I am in Addis Abeba today, for a visit to Ethiopia and to the African Union headquarters. I tried to pass one simple message: Europe should stop asking what it can do for Africa, and start focusing on what we can do with Africa. This is a continent of immense potential. We can be partners to promote its development, its stability, peace in Africa. This is not just in Africa’s interest: this is Europe’s interest too, and the current flows of migrants and refugees only makes this more evident.
Mandela used to describe his continent, your continent, as “a region of vast untapped potential”. And this is exactly what I feel when I meet my African friends. This is what I felt all through my visit in Niger, a month ago. I met so many young men and women willing to engage. Men and women willing to work for the wellbeing of their communities. To take responsibility for their own life and their own country. This is a land of immense energy. Of immense potential.
Such potential is only waiting to bear fruit. Making the most out of this potential – this is the goal of our cooperation, of cooperation between Africa and Europe. A cooperation we both need – a vital one, for Africa as well as for Europe.
In part, I am talking of an economic potential. For more than a decade, Africa has been one of the fastest growing regions on Earth. This continent is an increasingly attractive place to do business. Trade with the EU has increased by half in less than ten years. And more and more, Africa’s exports to Europe are made up of processed products, not just raw materials.
But your greatest natural resource are the people of Africa. …