It is a pleasure to introduce a timely set of discussions with the experts we have brought together to kick off the European Development Days.
Both panels focus on Africa, Europe’s southern neighbour and - it is increasingly important to note - Europe’s natural and vibrant partner in building a sustainable future.
Among its more than one billion people, Africa counts the youngest, fastest-growing middle class in the world. With an average age of 14 years, younger than any other continent, Africa is embarking upon a period in which its political, economic and social dynamics will be transformative.
Every year in sub-Saharan Africa, 20 million jobseekers enter the labour market. It is projected that in ten years, the growth in its workforce will exceed that of the rest of the world combined. The benefit of incorporating this labour force could be unparalleled, for a decisive acceleration of Africa’s development, and for increasing global growth prospects.
Financial institutions and development banks must invest in this transformation as Africa’s partners, seeking impact and job creation, by supporting the private sector.
To do so, we too must change the way we operate. In every area of economic development - but in particular with regard to climate action and combatting COVID-19. This is obviously win-win situation, because so many of the challenges Africa faces are truly global problems that we all need to confront together. Europe will not escape the effects of climate change, after all, unless we engage with countries everywhere to help make their societies sustainable, too.
The paper sets out details of our record EUR 5 billion of lending in Africa last year. You’ll also find a series of expert articles on aspects of the EIB’s work outside the European Union, from the way we assess climate risks for developing countries to how we are supporting the forests of Côte d’Ivoire, which are being cut down at an alarming rate to make way for cocoa production. You can also read about our commitment to the COVAX scheme for fair and equitable distribution of vaccines, a key theme at this year’s European Development Days as well as in one of today’s panels.
The European Investment Bank is a global bank, and this report provides an overview of the tailored support the EU Bank is providing to different regions, from the pre-accession countries of the Balkans to Europe’s Eastern and Southern Neighbourhoods, Latin America and Asia.
Like the Development Report, this will give you an important insight into the way we are working across Africa. But it also goes deeper into the strategic and policy ideas at play. In particular, it illustrates our enthusiastic participation in the European Commission’s Team Europe initiative. As the EU’s financial arm outside the Union, we are committed to making sure it is a success.
EIB’s development work is instrumental for a strategic cooperation between EU and Africa. It is our role to implement EU policy on the ground for the mutual benefit of our two continents.
It’s important for the European Investment Bank to listen to African leaders and partner with players that are ambitious and committed innovators.. The result is that we are acting in response to local needs and priorities, as well as in line with EU policy. That is what makes us so effective.
There is renewed momentum from all sides. Over the last couple of months, I have discussed this renewed ambition with the President of Senegal, Macky Sall, with President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana, and with the President of Tunisia Kais Saied, as well as the African Union Commissioner Josefa Sacko.
I have also seen first-hand at the Africa summit in Paris last month organised by President Macron and at our own EU-Africa Green Investment Forum in April just how much support there is for stronger partnership.
It is impressive to see the determination of our African partners facing this pandemic. I am sure that by acting together, Africa and Europe can face down the health, economic and social challenges of COVID-19 and map out shared investment priorities to ensure a sustainable and inclusive recovery.
Africa is a continent of great natural wealth. Yet poverty and inequality still afflicts and hinders it gravely. The continent’s prospects are changing, however. The oil and mining sectors now make up a minority of long-term capital inflows, as investors have come to focus on telecommunications, retail and services. This expands access to global markets, builds resilience, boosts transparency and creates jobs.
Climate change is intensifying Africa’s challenges, causing forced displacement and contributing to fragility. Africa suffers from the impact of climate change, though it contributes less than 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Due to the relatively low level of industrialisation represented by its small contribution to global warming, Africa could in fact leapfrog directly into a greener future.
This green growth must also be innovative, based on the best available technologies. And it must be inclusive, expanding access to basic goods such as clean energy, water and mobility, as well as education and healthcare, to ensure equal opportunities.
Climate, Innovation, Development. These are inseparable parts of one debate.
Ladies and gentlemen, the European Investment Bank has operated in Africa since 1965, investing 59 billion euros in 52 African countries. Last year we signed a record 5 billion euros in loans to the continent, with 71% of our sub-Saharan African financing going to fragile states or least-developed countries. We are harmonising our work with the positive changes occurring in Africa - its high growth, improved political stability and integration, increased foreign investment, investment needs and opportunities.
We have developed and refined our operations on the continent significantly in recent years. Those changes took on a new impetus from discussions among EU policy makers on how to enhance European finance architecture for development.
Consequently, we have been reflecting on how to refocus our contribution to support the goals of the European Union and our partners in Africa with even greater impact and efficiency. We shall reorganise our activities outside the European Union to improve the way we deliver our development financing in close cooperation with the European Commission and the European External Action Service.
We shall strengthen our local presence in EU delegations, placing more bankers and engineers at the disposal of Team Europe on the ground. This will mean more development impact. It will respond to the growing need for ever stronger bonds between Europe and Africa, enhancing economic and trade ties between the two continents.
We are not daunted by the challenges. In fact, we are inspired by our mission to put the European Union’s climate action and development goals into operation on the ground – and by our role in the fulfilment of the ambitious aspirations expressed in the strategies of our African partners.
Thank you for your attention. I wish you a great time during the European Development Days.