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Africa and Europe are neighbours and natural partners. Today, the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis demonstrate just how interdependent our two continents are and why it is so important to work together.

The European Investment Bank has been actively supporting development in Africa since 1963. Last year we dedicated almost half of all our investment outside the European Union, some €5 billion, to Africa. As the EU’s development bank and member of Team Europe, Africa is a priority for us and we are deepening our commitment to it, for example by building a partnership with the African Development Bank, with which we signed a joint action plan in January.

The European Union is committed to slashing its net emissions to zero by 2050 and calls on other economies to raise their climate ambition at COP26 this November. Despite its relatively small contribution to global emissions, Africa is among the regions suffering most from climate change. The European Investment Bank believes in a green recovery package for Africa, one that will support the decarbonisation of the continent’s economies, through the deployment of new technologies, and the reinforcement of its adaptation and resilience capacities. Enabling Africa’s ability to reap the benefits of a greener and more resilient development path is a key part of the European Union’s climate change strategy. From large-scale renewable energy plants in The Gambia, to improvements in transition networks like the Guinea-Mali interconnector, to small off-grid solutions in Malawi and last-mile connectivity and access to clean drinking water across Africa: over two-thirds of our activity in Africa supports climate action and environment.

Reaching our climate targets will only be possible with innovation and new digital technologies. The European Investment Bank’s new Connectivity Toolkit has been designed to help African countries overcome the obstacles blocking an estimated 900 million Africans from accessing the internet and new technologies.

The COVID-19 pandemic has added urgency to another area of common concern: health care. Our life sciences experts support health services in Africa with expertise and financing. Our unwavering support — together with the European Commission — for the COVAX vaccine supply initiative and our participation in a continent-wide strategy to develop Africa’s local vaccine production capabilities are good illustrations of our commitment.

Our response to these great challenges must take into consideration inequalities and situations of fragility. It is essential that economic and social development is inclusive. In this sense, gender-focused investment is a priority for the European Investment Bank. In May we committed to doubling the investment we mobilise for women across Africa to €2 billion by expanding our She-Invest Initiative and our African Women Rising technical assistance programme, in cooperation with African partners.

The climate crisis is an opportunity for stronger links between Europe and Africa — and for strong economic growth that is people-centred, too. We should not miss this opportunity. To bolster the impact of its activities, the EIB has decided to create a branch dedicated to development and projects beyond the European Union.

This article was originally published by Jeune Afrique.