African entrepreneurs will help drive economic and social development by building on new and existing ties between the European Union (EU) and African States.
According to the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), a consultative body of the EU, a network of EU-Africa economic and social actors already sees young Africans as key actors in the economic and social development of the continent.
The Committee believes that young Africans are already making waves in the field of inter-regional development.
On July 17th, 2018, the annual meeting of the EU-Africa Network of Economic and Social Actors, organized by the EESC, was held in Brussels. As the only network eager to steer away from specific local interests, the event contributes to bilateral relations between the EU and Africa by focusing on the challenges facing both continents.
This meeting, which is in its fifth edition, focused on African youth as the driver of economic development and age group most concerned by migration. Participants emphasized that the role of civil society in EU-Africa relations is to develop strategies and give recommendations to political authorities for the purposes of good governance and citizen participation.
At the annual meeting, the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Development and Cooperation (DG DEVCO) also held fruitful discussions with stakeholders on a strategy known as the External Investment Plan, which seeks to encourage investment in partner countries in Africa and the EU region.
It has already been proven that building ties between the two regions via young entrepreneurs is working.
At the event, young African entrepreneurs from Burkina Faso, Kenya, Swaziland and Madagascar, representing the geographical diversity of Africa, presented their positive achievements. They demonstrated the dynamism and entrepreneurial spirit of young Africans and encouraged and inspired citizens in Africa and Europe.
In a final declaration, the civil society network called for improved access to finance for microenterprises, cooperatives, small traders and family businesses.
The network emphasized on the importance of women or youth-owned enterprises, which represent potential for growth and job creation in African countries.
Education has also played a major role in driving development in Africa. If it is nurtured, recognized and elevated, education can help African entrepreneurs reach even greater heights.
Following this rationale, the group urged the governments of African and EU countries to recognize and grant equivalence to diplomas, certificates, credits and the expertise obtained on both continents.
“Economic development is here,” said Fahiz Diallo, a young entrepreneur from Burkina Faso, who runs a prefabricated construction company with the support of a project managed by the Company’s House of Burkina Faso, which enjoys financial support from the World Bank.
“These are the tools we need, not European funds. We need to do better in Africa or we will all come to Europe,” Diallo added.
At the gathering, Mr Gama Ray, Director of Swaziland Water and Agricultural Development Enterprise Ltd., presented a project of high-value crops and horticultural crops financed by the European Union, contributing to the development of entrepreneurial skills of farmers and youth in rural communities.
Meanwhile, Kate Kibarah, a Kenyan entrepreneur active in trade of organic products and health, highlighted the wide range of opportunities that exist for young entrepreneurs in Africa. She shared her personal experience and said her goal was to enter the European market.
On the issue of migration, economic and social partners from both continents stressed that migrants are net contributors to the economic, social and cultural development, both for the country of destination and the country of origin.
Eugenio Ambrosi, Regional Director for the European Economic Area (EEA), the European Union and NATO within the International Organization for Migration, highlighted some factual data on migration flows from Africa.
African migration flows are mostly intra-regional. In 2017, reverse flow were observed, with more Africans returning to their countries of origin.
On the same subject, Theodoor Sparreboom, Chief Labor Economist in the Statistics Department of the International Labor Organization (ILO) presented the findings of a report of the ILO and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD’s) contribution migrants to the economies of developing countries. One of the interesting results was that not migrants in destination countries also derive economic benefits of immigration.
Fambaye Ndoye, Network Member of the African Union for migration showed how unions support migrant workers in the whole of Africa, and Paulina Diouf, a member of the Catalan Association Senegalese Residents, (CAHR), presented the activities of his organization established in Spain and ensures that migrants are properly informed of their economic and social rights.
After the adoption of the final declaration, Jarosław Mulewicz, EESC Member and President of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States-European Union (ACP-EU) Monitoring Committee, concluded this important event highlighting the network of economic and social actors from Africa and the EU had, once again, proved its value.
He noted that intra-African migration is the “submerged part of the iceberg”, adding that migrants bring, in general, a positive contribution to savings.
Mulewicz also stressed on the importance of helping young entrepreneurs, start-ups and women to deploy their full potential.