Wednesday, 26 August 2009

The ties that bind Europe and Africa have never mattered more

Tuesday, 25 August 2009
Bonds of history are stronger between Europe and Africa than between Africa and any other part of the world. And this century was – until recently – a fairly good one for the continent. In spite of the tragedies of eastern Congo, Somalia and Darfur, we did see a distinct reduction in violent conflicts and the number of people affected by them. Globalisation started to lift an important part of Africa on to a new path of growth and development. Economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa averaged 6 per cent during the first part of this decade.
We should also note that co-operation between the countries of Africa advanced during this period. We are seeing the African Union emerge as an increasingly important factor and partner in a wide variety of areas. And there was progress also in the critically important field of governance. Today more than half of the countries of the continent are on a democratic path of development. But much remains to be done – and must be done in the years to come. Africa's possible evolution will depend on its ability to play on two major levels: democratic-style government, and economic transformation. By 2025, there will be a further 350 million people living in sub-Saharan Africa with a total population of approximately a billion people.
At the same time there is a severe risk that climate change will start to negatively affect the already problematic prospects for food production in large parts of the continent.
In fact, sub-Saharan Africa is the part of the world most in danger if there is not a halt to the increase in the temperatures that we now witness. The IPCC estimates that climate change could leave more than 200 million additional Africans short of water, and farmers in Africa that rely on rain-fed agriculture could see declines in their yields by 50 per cent in 2030. The Copenhagen meeting in December should thus be of particular importance from the African point of view, and I can assure everyone that the intensifying green diplomacy of the European Union will do its utmost to achieve a result that will start to lessen the strain that, otherwise, climate change will impose on Africa. And we naturally look forward to constructive contributions from Africa itself in this work.
Taken from a speech given by the Swedish Foreign Minister in Rimini, Italy, last week