Ending poverty in Africa is within our reach

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.COM Ltd.

On  Africa Day (25 May), it is important to note that the continent is making significant progress to end extreme poverty. With all the potential Africa holds, it is important for the EU to support it, therefore, the next seven-year budget should secure more funds for aid, writes Dorine Nininahazwe.

Dorine Nininahazwe is ONE’s representative to the African Union.

The world set the bar very high when it came to ending extreme poverty by 2030. Extreme poverty is defined as living on less than $1.90 per day, but the reality is much more complex than that.

Poverty is a state of disempowerment, where people are denied the opportunity to reach their full potential, often because they are unable to meet their basic needs, having little or no access to education and health facilities.

The fight against extreme poverty in Africa may not yet be over, with 767 million people still living below the poverty line. However, as we celebrate Africa Day, we cannot help but notice the important progress that the continent is making to eliminate it.

History was made at the biggest gathering of African leaders during the last African Union (AU) Summit, when 44 out of 55 African countries signed the text of a new African Continental Free Trade Area after years of negotiations.

This move will make African economies more competitive, boost intra-African trade and reduce the billions used to buy goods outside of the continent. Furthermore, Heads of State endorsed Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s vision on how a reformed AU can best contribute to prosperity across the continent, and agreed that Africa should be in charge of its destiny.

With all the potential that Africa holds, the time for action has come. The continent is on the cusp of a demographic transformation, which will make it home to the world’s youngest population by 2050.

Africa’s youth are its greatest asset, and investing in this growing population could maximize the chance of harnessing a demographic dividend. In order to do so, the continent will need to create 22.5 million jobs each year.

African countries have clearly spelt out the necessary areas for increased investments such as education, health, employment and empowerment for youth, as well as ensuring meaningful participation and representation in government.

Similarly, boosting strategic investments in agriculture could create millions of new jobs and guarantee increased profitability and good nutrition.

At this critical juncture, what Africa needs is more support from its closest partners, especially Europe. Negotiations on the EU’s next long-term budget, the Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF), must secure an additional 40 billion euros in EU aid compared to the last MFF.

With a new 7-year aid budget targeted to the places that need development assistance the most, and with increased investment in catalytic sectors, the EU has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to help Africa harness the potential of its burgeoning youth population.

In doing so, both continents can help drive a surge in global economic growth. It is a win-win investment.

Investments in the coming years, both African and European, will determine the development trajectory of Africa for the next 50 years and can position the continent towards realizing the “Africa We Want”, a strong, united and influential global player and partner as envisioned in Agenda 2063, the African Union’s agenda to transform the continent over the next 50 years.

With fast-growing economies, booming urban populations, thriving cultural and creative industries, innovative use of new technologies, Africa inspires with its energy and enthusiasm. Investing in Africa now is not only the right thing to do, it is the smart thing for Europe to do.

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