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‘Vaccines, weapons, money’ — what to expect from EU-AU Summit in Brussels?

‘Vaccines, weapons, money’ — what to expect from EU-AU Summit in Brussels?
February 17
06:30 2022

Leaders from 54 African countries are expected to meet up with their counterparts from 27 European countries in Brussels on Thursday and Friday. But what exactly is the agenda? How shall it benefit their followers back home? What are the items up for discussion? Many more questions are left unanswered. 

TheCable is live at the EU-AU Summit in Brussels to bring you all the answers — one story at a time. On Tuesday, President Muhammadu Buhari left Abuja for Brussels to join other world leaders at the summit. On his first day in Brussels, he met Umaro Sissoco Embalo, the President of Guinea-Bissau.

Here is what to expect from the rest of his stay in Brussels and the summit at large:

Vaccines: Less than six percent of Nigerians have been vaccinated against the COVID-19 pandemic. For Africa, less than 10% of the continent is vaccinated. This is against the over 70 percent vaccination rate in Europe.

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African leaders in Brussels are looking to get more vaccines for their people back home, and Europe is willing to commit more vaccines to the continent. There is, however, a clamour for waivers of vaccine intellectual properties (IP) rights, so African nations can produce locally.

On this, the EU believes the waiver will stifle innovation in the future. Africa largely disagrees. Both continents are not on the same page. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the DG of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and Tedros Ghebreyesus, the DG of the World Health Organisation (WHO) are expected to take this conversation forward.

Partnership of equals: Throughout this summit, you may hear the phrase “partnership of equals” a little to much. The EU is trying to push a narrative of equality with Africa, and African leaders seem to be loving the narrative.

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Will AU ever become an equal partner with the EU? Some answers may show up during the conference. Emmanuel Macron, the French president, says the summit is “a chance to establish an economic new deal and finance Africa.” When one continent is funding the other, can an equal partnership be attained?

The summit will tell.

Lethal Weapons: The military Junta in charge of Mali today has been hostile to the French government, expelling the French ambassador to Mali. At the summit, Macron is expected to withdraw French troops from the west African country.

On the other hand, EU is taking its $5.9 billion EU Peace Facility (EPF) forward, establishing a stronger military presence in Africa — in terms of weapon. According to the EPF, the EU can now give lethal weapons directly to African nations in bilateral and multilateral deals to fight terror on the continent.

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European Center for Development Policy Management (ECDPM), a think tank with expertise on Europe-Africa relations, told TheCable in Brussels that this could undermine the African Union and lead to a proliferation of weapons in Africa.

Those in favour of the deal say western forces — UK, US, EU — have trained soldiers in Africa for too long without giving them the right weapons to fight terror. This facility is expected to address the problem.

Climate Change: There’s a lot of pre-summit discussion ongoing about a green deal between EU and AU on mitigation and adaptation to climate change. The EU is expected to fund green projects across Africa, while imposing carbon taxes on imports from the continent.

Akinwumi Adesina of the Africa Development Bank (AfDB) is expected to be part of some of the conversations around climate change on both continents.

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Migration: The EU is largely divided on migration; some countries are open to receiving more Africans, even if they came through the Mediterranean or not. Others do not want Africans fleeing their own continent for the EU.

Hence, it has been difficult to crystallise a single migration policy for the continent. A number of countries in the EU want to create a refuge for Africans in Africa using the instrumentality of development assistance. More on migration will be discussed at the summit.

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Peace, security, and governance: The EU and AU believe they have shared peace and security goals, as a result of proximity between both continents.

The member countries are expected to reach an agreement on how to deal with military Juntas in Africa, among other security and governance issues.

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Magic Numbers: There are a lot of magic numbers from the conference. The first is €508 million; the EU says it will provide €508 million to fund projects that reinforce its bilateral cooperation with Nigeria for the period 2021 to 2024.

Another is €29.18 billion; it represents the total amount of money set aside for Sub-Saharan Africa from the total allocation for Global Europe for 2021-2027.

There may be a few conversations around Russia-Ukraine, the crisis in Ethiopia, and other challenges from around the world. Whatever the case is, TheCable will bring you updates as the event unfolds.

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