Government-wide and comprehensive strategy
The MFA opened both sessions with a bit of background to the Strategy. This Strategy will contain a government-wide and comprehensive approach to the African continent for the coming 10-15 years. The recommendations formulated during the Partos input sessions in June have been used as the basis for a context analysis of current developments and challenges on the African continent. During the summer, the MFA asked multiple knowledge institutes to share their vision on the future of the African continent. Currently, the MFA is consulting various stakeholders: civil society organisations, citizens, governments, the private sector and others, both in the Netherlands and on the African continent. The Strategy will be structured along three dimensions or “lenses”: Africa as an equal partner, Africa as the continent of the future and Africa as a stable neighbour. The MFA hopes to finalise the document at the beginning of 2023, so it can be published in February.
Africa as an equal partner
On Tuesday, November 15 the session was open to Dutch civil society organisations and took place in The Hague. After the opening by the MFA, participants were divided into breakout groups and reflected on each of the three lenses introduced by the MFA. As for the lens “Africa as an equal partner,” participants discussed, among others, further steps towards localisation and Southern ownership and the relationship with African countries that do not share our values. Participants questioned whether the MFA’s rather strict reporting and monitoring requirements are workable for African partners and emphasised a need-driven approach to development cooperation. They also argued that civil society can be a suitable partner for the Dutch government in countries that do not share our values.
Africa as the continent of the future
Concerning “Africa as the continent of the future,” the groups reflected on a wide variety of topics. This includes the (limited) contribution of the private sector to economic development, the needs of young people on the African continent and inclusivity and economic equality. The participants urged the MFA to mainstream inclusivity in all programs and projects. Therefore, they stressed the need to prevent a negative impact of Dutch trade policy on local development in African countries. Furthermore, they cautioned that the Dutch government alone would not be able to provide sufficient socioeconomic opportunities to all young Africans.
Africa as a stable neighbour
Finally, on the topic of “Africa as a stable neighbour,” discussion revolved around, among others, the migration of African people to Europe, the concept of “hard security”, and the transition to inclusive governance. Questions were raised concerning the definition of stability; participants advised the MFA to take a comprehensive approach to security (also focusing on issues such as women’s participation in conflict resolution). It was also argued that civil society has a vital role in holding the government accountable.
Perspectives from the African continent
The second session, on Wednesday, November 16, took place online and was open to CSOs, experts and citizens from the African continent. After a general presentation by Onno Koopmans of the MFA, the participants formulated recommendations for each ‘lens’ in breakout groups. The recommendations and observations are as follows:
Africa as an equal partner
- ‘Africa as an unequal partner’ – would be more honest. We should recognise that Africa is not an equal partner at the moment.
- Perspective is still very much from a Dutch lens.
- Big differences between African countries. Capacity building is still necessary before we can speak about real equality.
- Governance: from state-controlled to a deregulated environment, with room for corruption. Serving western interests. Fix the governance issues. Cracking down on our own policies: i.a., extractive industries tied into state interests. Funding at the European Commission: support governance.
- Addressing child labour and investing in education is essential. Otherwise, you can never talk about an equal relationship. This should go hand in hand with youth employment. The strategy should not only focus on the supply chain approach but incorporate the Area Based approach that focuses on changing the norms.
- Invest in equal opportunities for women. They often have to get married and get children. Make sure they get equal opportunities.
- How can it be sufficiently complex? What would a strategy look like for a continent as a whole? Equality is recognising diversity.
- It is better to acknowledge differences that are still there, and what are the facts about the relations today. ‘We are striving for’ is better.
- Manage the expectations better by specifying what you will do in what country.
- Shifting the power to local organisations in Africa.
- Empowerment (of women, of households, etc.) that is sustainable. Plus, capacity building for duty bearers and social protection.
- Harness their resources for the benefit of all, particularly African societies. African countries need to know their potential, and that should be acknowledged. They should be able to use technology and apply it to their resources.
- Invest in cross-cultural exchanges of students and individuals from both continents through education, culture, sports (football), health systems, learning each other’s language and so forth. This will foster equal partnerships and understanding of each other’s positions.
- Western private sector investments must focus on stimulating equality within African societies, strengthening the position of minorities instead of fostering abuse through low wages, leaving minorities out.
- When we talk about equal partnership, we also talk about equal responsibility. If the Dutch government will engage with African governments, the African governments also need to take their due share. Accountability and responsibility need to be stressed in the strategy.
Africa as the continent of the future
- Concerned that the strategy takes the private sector as a driver.
- Right of young people to engage. A lot of meaningless youth participation. How they get health, etc. The strategy needs to resource actions on youth engagement.
- SRHR should remain an obvious priority.
- Private sector development is essential, and they are often front runners, but make sure that this has a form of social partnership, so it benefits the society
- Specify whose future this refers to.
- Specify what this future holds (is it farming?).
- If we prioritise strong public education in the Netherlands, then equality with African countries means connecting those values and prioritising them in the strategy.
- Invest in quality education & skills development
- Empowerment of youth & end child labour.
- Green development and technology & innovation.
- Social safety nets legislation is needed for the poor, youth, older persons and private sector parties that fail economically.
- Business visits are needed, including training African SMEs on skills. Microfinancing is required as well.
- Legislation is needed to support SMEs and become sustainable partners of the Dutch private sector. Can Dutch MoFA support this development of legislations and opportunities?
- We should take women into account, especially looking at their innovations in agriculture. Especially when looking at climate change and food production.
- We should look at the demographics. Taking into account young people, but also elderly people.
- Concerning the growing number of youth in Africa, we need to focus on youth employment and employing youth in political processes and decision-making.
Africa as a stable neighbour
- For the moment – Europe is not a stable neighbour itself! Things can also change very quickly.
- Role of NATO in Libya has caused more problems than it solved.
- Work on the digital divide. High costs and little penetration. Add digitalisation into our funding frameworks.
- Digital protection and rights need to enter the school curriculum. The protection of HR in online spaces requires new tooling.
- Governance: countries have moved from state-controlled to a deregulated environment, with room for corruption. Serving western interests. Fix the governance issues. Cracking down on our own policies: i.a., extractive industries tight into state interests. Funding at the European Commission to governance: support governance.
- Impact of (bad) health (e.g. Covid) is enormous, so access to health and health systems is essential for a stable society.
- CSOs have made a big impact, capacity building and networking amongst them important
- Focus should be on more accountable, inclusive and transparent (uncontested values) governance structures with a critical role for civil society.
- Corruption is the cross-cutting issue that should be addressed. Stronger accountability mechanisms at all levels are needed.
- Climate change (and financing) should be taken into consideration when thinking about instability.
- Neighbourly means that you are open, that there is trust and care, and that you bring them into their home. Indeed, become a good neighbour and find ways to be more neighbourly, in the sense that you become a trusting neighbour.
- Walk the talk.
- Yes, where we have stability, let’s profit from it, but recognise that there is instability in other countries.
- Multi-sectoral approach for ownership and sustainability should include grassroots, that includes faith-based organisations.
- Stability needs fair trade. Compliances in the supply chain are required.
- SDGs should be met by 2030.
- Invest in access to health, including mental health, education, and WASH.
- Support journalists in local African communities to do their job and bring objective news to African societies.
- We need to look at human rights violations and focus on good governance.
- We must focus on creating livelihoods, protecting civic space and developing civil society.