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European Commissioner for Development
Building on Africa's potential to further its development
"Ascending Africa" Development Policy Forum Annual Policy Summit / Brussels
13 November 2012
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
In choosing "Ascending Africa" as the theme for this year's annual policy summit, the Development Policy Forum has once again shown that it understands which challenges and discussions lie ahead for the development community, especially in Africa. With so many major development players represented here today – including the European Parliament, the African Union and the ACP states – we can expect a constructive discussion on how to build on Africa's strengths to further its development.
Take a look at Africa today and I'm sure you'll agree that, in economic terms at least, it's completely different from the Africa we knew when the Millennium Development Goals were established.
Africa has bucked the global trend and posted average annual growth of around 5% over the past decade. This impressive trend is set to continue in 2012 and 2013.
Against this promising backdrop, it is making its own efforts to pull itself out of poverty. Its growth has been boosted by a growing middle class, inflows of remittances and foreign direct investments. We should celebrate these successes, together with the EU's commitment to Africa's development. Annual aid from EU institutions to Africa has doubled over the past 20 years, from 2 to 4.2 billion euro.
So, can development policy now take a backseat?
No. Because in Africa in particular, we have much more to achieve. Growth is only one part of the development equation; good governance is another.
The prospects for better governance in Africa are bright. As the African Economic Outlook 2012 points out, Africa's citizens are expressing their concerns more vocally and peacefully, while Africa's leaders appear increasingly willing to listen.
Yet transition societies like Tunisia are finding out that this path is not always smooth. The EU will therefore do more to help these and all our partner countries offer their people real opportunity.
Similarly, the growth part of the equation has not yet been fully solved. Despite great progress with the MDGs in many parts of the world, sub-Saharan Africa is still lagging behind on many indicators.
Nearly half of the population of sub-Saharan Africa still lives in extreme poverty. The number of people living in slums is actually growing; access to safe drinking water and sanitation remains an issue. MDG maternal mortality and child mortality targets won't be met by 2015. Environmental sustainability poses a challenge.
Clearly, then, "business as usual" will not do. Indeed, even if the growth rates I cited earlier can be maintained, and sub-Saharan Africa sees its income per capita triple by 2030, there is no guarantee that everyone will benefit in equal measure.
The kind of economic growth that serves development goals has to be initiated and sustained domestically; it has to be sustainable in the sense that it does not come at the cost of losing the natural resource base; and it has to be growth by all people for all people.
So Africa still has development challenges ahead.
It will have to put development-friendly policies in place, tackle governance issues head-on, mobilise domestic resources and tap into the huge intellectual and entrepreneurial potential of its population, including women. The EU, for its part, will help with its Agenda for Change.
Agenda for Change
Three shifts brought in by the Agenda for Change are of special relevance to us here today.
Firstly, we recognise that aid alone will never be enough to help a country pull itself out of poverty. It can only be a catalyst.
But give a population good governance and quality services – schooling and health care, nutrition, energy and decent infrastructure, together with support mechanisms for greater access to these services for all people, especially the poorest – and it will pull itself out of poverty.
So EU development policy will be centred more and more on helping a country provide its own citizens with these basics.
That is not to say that development aid levels do not matter. They do. That's why the European Commission has proposed an increase in external aid funding in the next financial framework; it's why it encourages EU Member States to honour their pledge to set aside 0.7% of gross national income for official development assistance; and it's why we hope to see those Member States concerned allocate a portion of future FTT revenue to development aid.
Secondly, we recognise that more and more Upper Middle Income Countries and large emerging economies have the resources and capacity to reduce domestic poverty by, for instance, combating inequality. So we will engage in alternative forms of partnership with them to open up development opportunities based on mutual interests such as trade, investment and market access, technology and technical expertise.
Meanwhile, our aid will have more impact if focused on countries most in need, so that they can fully embrace peace, development, democracy and growth.
Thirdly, we have set about focusing above all on aid delivery mechanisms that ensure that aid acts as a catalyst, leveraging multiples of investment and change to improve infrastructure and support the creation of competitive private sectors for inclusive and sustainable growth.
In particular, much greater use of innovative financial instruments such as blending will enable us to combine EU grant resources with private or national government capital.
In the energy sector a partnership along these lines between donors, partner country governments, citizens and the private sector is taking shape, under the Sustainable Energy for All initiative.
This bold initiative aims for targeted investment using innovative financial instruments, alongside project ownership and a commitment to reforms by partner countries, to bring about huge and lasting change.
The EU will commit at least 400 million euro to energy-related actions in Africa. The initiative has already made real early progress. In Burkina Faso, for instance, we have come together with the European Investment Bank and the Agence française de Développement to support the construction of the biggest solar power plant in Africa. With 96 thousand solar panels, this plant will help bring an adequate electricity supply to more than 400 thousand people. And Ghana has introduced ambitious renewable energy legislation that we stand ready to support.
We look forward to an even deeper and more wide-ranging partnership with the African Union on development issues. The EU is determined to use our next summit in 2014 to further step up political and policy dialogue and to expand our cooperation in all areas.
Post-MDGs; three pillars of a Decent Life for All
By the time we meet for that summit, we will be gearing up to enter the post-MDG world and put a post-2015 development framework into action.
Before then we must make every effort to meet the existing MDGs, but they will still leave us with unfinished business. As such, they should act as a springboard towards greater progress beyond 2015.
The EU has a golden opportunity to help shape the post-MDG future.
It is a future in which we have rid the world of desperate poverty – something which I firmly believe we can do within a generation. Poverty eradication must therefore be our overriding priority and focus.
However, we can – and should – go even further.
We should not limit our ambitions to tackling issues of material and human poverty in their narrowest sense. While hugely important, they will not alone provide a decent life for all.
Which brings me to what I believe should be the core vision underpinning our work: a Decent Life for All by 2030. This vision should focus on three key pillars.
First, we must strive for stable foundations and minimum "floors" to guarantee the well-being of all people. This would provide the basic rights that every citizen on the planet should expect and demand from their governments at the very latest by 2030, with, where necessary, for the poorest countries, the support of the international community through continued ODA.
Yet the MDGs alone will not guarantee a decent life. Without dignity, poverty remains. So our second pillar would focus on guaranteeing justice, democracy, equity and human rights, on the drivers for prosperity, and on creating jobs.
And third, our policies must seek to protect our natural wealth. Our unsustainable living practices threaten to undo past progress.
Thus, the third pillar might focus on "good stewardship" of natural resources, including the sound use of income from natural resources and action against their depletion.
Here I would like to propose an international covenant on local reporting and transparency, to ensure companies remain on the straight and narrow and not undermine the aims of this third pillar.
Taken together, and defined through clear goals and targets to which every citizen can personally relate, irrespective of where they live, and which they can use to hold their governments to account, these three pillars could provide a genuinely inclusive framework that could provide everyone with a Decent Life for All.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We stand on the brink of a truly historic opportunity to make a decent life for all a reality and to bring lasting growth and prosperity to the whole of Africa. As I said earlier, growth is great as a key driver for development, but it is not a cure-all. If it is combined with good governance, transparency, international finance and international expertise, our partner countries will have all the tools they need to deliver inclusive and sustainable development to their people.
And we will be well on our way to eradicating desperate poverty in our lifetime. I know that such an aspiration can be realised. And we can realise it together.