Cape Town on Africa for Ursula von der Leyen

For its first official release outside the EU, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has chosen Ethiopia. The former German Defense Minister, who has been in office since 1st December, landed Saturday morning in Addis Ababa. She immediately went to the headquarters of the African Union to meet AU Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat. On the menu of exchanges: the issues of migration and support for African security operations. "It has been less than a week now since the European Commission took office and I am here at the heart of the African continent," she said, smiling in her ivory white suit overall to emphasize the fact that she had personally chose Africa for his first trip. He added: "I hope that my presence at the African Union will send a strong political message. Because the African continent and the African Union count for the European Union and the European Commission. That's what is said. But beyond rhetoric, how can the EU concretely move forward with Africa?

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Demonstrate the added value of the EU

While the EU is Africa's largest trading partner (36% of merchandise trade), and its largest source of investment (€ 283 billion) and development aid, the two blocks are at a crucial turning point in their relationships. The interest of the president of the commission for Africa is part of a context of renewal initiated by his predecessor, Jean-Claude Juncker. Indeed, it was not until the end of his presidency that the latter launched a "new partnership" with Africa, notably through the Africa-Europe Alliance. A European investment plan that aims to create 10 million jobs in African countries. For now, the results are long overdue, but Africa is indeed a vital issue for the EU, and this is true for both development and security: in 2100, there will be 4.5 billion Africans for 466 million Europeans.

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But for the new president of the European Commission, the time is not the big ads. Ursula von der Leyen seeks instead to understand "trends that shape Africa and the African Union, development across the continent, political and economic priorities," she said. And one of the "big" issues for the continent today is climate change. On this subject, Ursula von der Leyen has already announced its ambition to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050 and to present on December 11 a "Green Pact". In Addis Ababa, she said Africa and Europe could work together to fight global warming. Africa is particularly vulnerable to global warming, while it produces only 3.8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. "You, here, on the African continent, understand better than anyone the climate change," she said while holding the COP25 in Madrid since December 2.

Another burning issue: the migration issue. This week, at least 62 African migrants have drowned off Mauritania trying to reach Europe, in the worst shipwreck in 2019 on the migration route along the Atlantic coast. European and African leaders are determined to find solutions to the root causes of immigration, such as poverty. In this sense, Africa is also calling for European countries to open their doors to more African migrants. Along with Moussa Faki Mahamat, Ursula von der Leyen, Chair of the African Union Commission, has been very cautious about solutions from Brussels. "Honestly, I do not have all the answers to these challenges, but I am convinced that together we can find the answers," she added, while Moussa Faki called for increased international mobilization to counter the threats security, including terrorism.

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The race towards Africa

The President of the European Commission then spoke with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who is scheduled to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo on Tuesday. She congratulated her host for this award and for making peace with Eritrea. "Ethiopia has given hope to the whole continent. I want you to know that we are at your side, "she said.

At the meeting, EU financial aid agreements with Ethiopia for 170 million euros were signed. Of this total, 100 million will be devoted to transport and infrastructure, 50 million to the health sector, 10 million to elections and another 10 million to job creation. The Prime Minister thanked Europe for this support, but stressed that his country would need much more in the future to reform its economy. "We are asking for even more financial support because we are ambitious," he said while China continues to expand its influence in many African countries, including Ethiopia.

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