AU-EU summit opens with calls for investment in youth

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The fifth African Union-European Union Summit started on Wednesday in Abidjan with calls for investment in youth for a sustainable future, however, challenges facing migrants took centre stage.

Dozens of European and African leaders, including President Jacob Zuma, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, attended the summit, which takes place as Africa tries to tame high youth unemployment, and Europe seeks relief from its migrant crisis and frequent terror attacks.

The meeting being held in Abidjan, the economic capital of Cote d'Ivoire, will discuss how to create jobs and enhance economic opportunities for Africa's young population, as Europe hopes to see African youths securing jobs in their home countries, thus shunning illegal immigration and terrorist recruitment.

Other partnership priorities to be discussed at the two-day forum include peace and security, governance, investment and trade, and job creation.

Topics of migration and security, however, dominated the speeches at the opening ceremony, with leaders calling for more jobs and training for African youths and increased funds and support for Africa's fight against terrorism.

"Migration will inevitably be an important part of our relationships in the years to come," said European Council President Donald Tusk.

Calling migration a joint responsibility, Tusk said “the worst we can do is to start the blame game”.

Africa has 60% of its population under the age of 25, a demographic asset that has created a huge labour pool yet to be fully utilised due to hurdles such as a lack of industrialisation. The ensuing high youth unemployment has fuelled protests in some African countries and supplied illegal migration to Europe.

Migrant crisis

Over 100 000 migrants, mostly from Africa and the Middle East, making dangerous trips across the Mediterranean to Europe every year has evolved into a humanitarian crisis in recent years.

According to the UN Refugee Agency, about 148 200 migrants and refugees have taken the Mediterranean routes to enter Europe in the first nine months of 2017, and 2 700 people reportedly died in the process. Many others were exposed to abuse, human trafficking and enslavement.

Recent footage showing African migrants being auctioned off like slaves in Libya, a transit hub for Europe-bound migrants, has sent shock waves across Africa.  As such, several African leaders have pressed for the slavery issue to enter the summit's agenda.

Europe, struggling to cope with the migrant influx and a rising anti-immigration sentiment, has called for tackling poverty and unemployment in Africa as the root cause of the uncontrolled immigration.

Also speaking at the summit was United Nations Secretary General António Guterres, who used his address to highlight the importance of the two regional organisations.

“A strong and effective EU and a strong and effective AU are essential pillars of global cooperation for peace and security, development and human rights. We must continue to make progress on all simultaneously.”

Guterres said the two sides must tackle the challenges facing migrants.

“When migration is done in an orderly and regulated way, migrants contribute positively to host countries and countries of origin. We will not put an end to the tragedies in the Mediterranean if we do not create significant opportunities for legal migration,” he said.

These two conditions are essential to effectively combat traffickers and smugglers of migrants.

The UN news agency is reporting that before the opening of the summit, Guterres attended a trilateral meeting with the chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker and Federica Mogherini, the EU High Representative and Vice President of the European Council.

They agreed to put in place a joint EU-AU-UN Task Force to save and protect the lives of migrants and refugees along the Mediterranean routes and in particular inside Libya, accelerating the assisted voluntary returns to countries of origin, and the resettlement of those in need of international protection. – Xinhua 

Most Read

SA News on Facebook