By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK THE European Union Council (EU) is this week set to approve the EU Strategy for Africa, the very first time the grouping will have consensus on action for the way forward. The EU says that Africa has reached a stage that warrants a “decisive push towards sustainable development”. The next 10 years, it says, will be a watershed in relations between the EU and Africa. The strategy, which aims to focus on the provision of more and better development aid, increase the speed of implementation and focus aid particularly for Africa, is a response by the EU to the challenge of getting Africa back on the track of sustainable development. The key requirements of the new strategy include peace and security, good and effective governance, trade, interconnectivity, social cohesion and environmental sustainability. The grouping’s member states adopted the strategy on October 12 this year as a framework for action to support Africa’s efforts to attain the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Recently, a spokesperson of the EU Directorate General of Development, Amadeu Altafaj told journalists from Africa and the new EU member states attending a seminar on EU Policy on Extreme Poverty and HIV/AIDS that the focus is on Africa because not only is it lagging behind on the MGDs, but its share in international trade has decreased from 6 to 2 percent. In addition, Africa is worst affected by the HIV and AIDS pandemic as well as poverty. The European Commission in a communication to the European Council, Parliament and Social Committee says Africa has emerged as forward looking and has re-emerged on the international scene with “more confidence, dynamism, and optimism than ever before. Governance has improved considerably in recent years, sustained economic growth is being recorded for the first time in decades and the AU/NEPAD and regional organisations have provided Africa with political and economic roadmaps and a vision for the future.” The strategy is deemed to be a true turning point in helping the continent help itself. It comes at a time when the EU is changing because of its 10 new members especially from Eastern Europe and also at a time when Africa is changing through integration, which is symbolised by the African Union. Although the relationship between Africa and Europe is not new, for a long time the relations have been fragmented not only in policy formulation and implementation but also in terms of different policies and actions of EU member states. A document from the commission to the council and EU Parliament as well as the European Economic and Social Committee on the strategy, says the relationship between the two continents is rooted in history and has gradually evolved from colonial arrangements to strong and equal partnership based on common interests. Apart from being connected through trade links, Africa is the biggest recipient of aid from the EU. “Approximately 85 percent of Africa’s exports of cotton, fruit and vegetables are imported by the EU,” the document says. It adds that of its aid flows, 60 percent goes to Africa. For instance, in 1985 and 2003, Africa received 5 billion euros (approximately N$40 billion) and 15 billion Euros (approximately N$120 billion) respectively. In June this year, the EU made a commitment to double the aid it gives by the year 2010. Half of this aid would be destined for African countries. From 2006 to 2010, the official development assistance will increase from 0.4 percent to 0.56 percent of GNI, which will result in an increase in the Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) of 20 billion Euros (N$160 billion). By the year 2015, when the United Nations expects countries to allocate 0.7 percent of their Gross National Income (GNI) to development aid, the EU would have increased its annual budget to 46 billion Euros (approximately N$368 billion) by 2015, says the document.
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