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EU-Africa Summit 2014: Of protocol, platitudes and promises…

Current Affairs

EU-Africa Summit 2014: Of protocol, platitudes and promises…

The EU Climate Action Commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, the President of the African Ministerial Conference on Environment (AMCEN), Binilith Mahenge, and the African Union Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture Rhoda Tumusiime, had met the day before the Brussels summit.

They issued a statement that read: “We recognise the urgent need to adapt to the impacts of climate change for the African continent. One example is the Africa Adaptation Gap Report (2013), which estimates that Africa will have to face very significant costs: it cites up to
$7-15 billion per year by 2020.

“The adaptation challenge could be more difficult if the emissions gap is not closed and mitigation beyond 2020 falls short of the objective to limit warming to well below 2°C. We welcome the ongoing work on the elaboration of a comprehensive Africa-wide Adaptation Programme to build the resilience of the continent around common climate risks shared by the majority of countries.

“Both sides declare their determination to strengthen the adaptation funding and mainstreaming as well as cooperate to increase funding from all sources.”

Whether or not the EU was reminded by their African counterparts, there appears to be a blind spot in EU thinking in as much as much of the green-house gases emissions that create climate warming emanate from the heavily industrialised north. Yet the EU continues to insist that Africa joins “hand-in-hand” with it to seek solutions. It could be suggested that the ball is very much in the EU’s court. 

The IPCC report said climate change had already impacted the global food supply, and global crop yields were beginning to decline – especially for wheat – raising doubts as to whether production could keep up with population growth. 

Christine Lagarde, the IMF chief warned in February that, ”some estimates suggest that 40% of the land now used to grow maize in sub-Saharan Africa will no longer be able to support that crop by the 2030s. This will have hugely disruptive implications for African livelihoods and lives.”

Lagarde also stated: “Make no mistake, it is the world’s most vulnerable people who will suffer most from the convulsions of climate,” and also noted, “we are subsidising the very behaviour that is destroying our planet, and on an enormous scale.”

The IMF chief might well have been talking about the EU’s €60bn in subsidies paid to Europe’s agricultural sector under the Common Agricultural Policy – the EU’s first fully integrated policy introduced
in 1962.

Over the years the effects of the CAP policies have been to create a heavily skewed global market for agricultural commodities that effectively taxes Europeans to support the politically powerful European farming lobby. 

African farmers are un-subsidised and find it virtually impossible to compete with their European counterparts. And, to add insult to injury, surplus foods from Europe are frequently dumped on African markets in order to support prices in home markets, severely jeopardising African farmers’ interests. A sobering fact is that industrialised countries waste 222m tons of food a year, just 10m tons short of the net food production of sub-Saharan Africa.

In a closing press briefing, the African Union Commission’s chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, made the point that 60% of global arable land is in Africa. It was an echo of the statement she made in Kuwait at the AU-Arab Summit late last year (see New African, February 2014 issue), and she again reiterated that she would welcome partnerships with international players in boosting Africa’s food production.

In effect, what Dlamini Zuma was suggesting is that Africa has the land and Europe the expertise in agro-processing to create mutually advantageous enterprises that would counter the risks associated with food insecurity – and the introduction of climate-smart agriculture would be hugely progressive.

So too would be a comprehensive reform of both Europe’s Common Agricultural Policy and EPAs to create a more level playing field for both African and European farmers. The time for platitudes and promises is over. There must be action, and the message from the Summit is that the EU can be assured that Africa will move forward “hand-in-hand”, lending their support to the EU in transforming the world’s largest trading bloc into a more equitable and sustainable body.

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