Last Tuesday, May 26, FIDE celebrated the online session: Africa: its crossroads and its challenges. Participated as speaker Nicolás Berlanga Martínez, Ambassador of the European Union in Somalia, who is also President of the Board of Trustees of the Huerta de San Antonio Foundation. This session was moderated by Juan Manuel de Faramiñán Gilbert, Professor of Public International Law and International Relations at the University of Jaén, holder of the Jean Monnet Chair Institutions and European Union Law, and member of the Academic Council of Fide.
The session was developed as a dialogue with participants in such a way that they were able to ask their questions throughout the session.
The speaker opened it with the topic: Africa, a continent unknown to the western world. Ambassador Berlanga responded by explaining that the African continent is a place of great diversity, "Africa is a continent, not a country," said the Ambassador, made up of 54 countries, Africa offers not only wealth in natural resources, but also in chuman apital, great literature and a growing population motivated by innovation, a population without complexes, which not only looks to Europe as its only partner but also to other regions. Contrary to the content shown by the media and entertainment on a catastrophic African scenario, this geographical region has great potential to be a continent of the future.
From the growing Chinese influence in Africa, the role of the European Union (EU) on the African continent is in doubt. The Chinese model, unlike the European one, is taxation because it generates debts and financial systems through subsidized credits with little transparency, but in this way they have managed to approach the aging political class and separated from the middle class and young generations of some African countries. In contrast, the European attitude in Africa is one of cooperation and not competition, with a more futuristic and effective vision for the various countries, however, the decisions are in the hands of African leaders and societies themselves.
The speaker then commented how terrorism in the African region is fueling the development of failed states. As the Ambassador explains, European society has discovered Africa through (1) irregular migration and (2) jihadism, examples such as Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Somalia show states with weak institutions and poor quality political class (kleptocracy), cause a lot of national instability. Mauritania, on the contrary, is a case where internal changes produced more social stability in the country. Precisely, Europe intends to focus not only on development cooperation in Africa but also in political and security terms and to ensure that changes come from within the countries hand in hand with the new generations.
Berlanga explained that in Africa there is the doubt about the effectiveness of the law in the consolidation of a state of law and justice. The reality is that much of the international investment, particularly from Europe, is extensively filtered when it is administered by institutions, it is subject to various inspections, but the big problem is the intermediaries. For example, in some countries international money is wasted, through premiums and additional expenses, before reaching communities in need.
Few African countries have a system of institutional checks and balances, because there is usually a lot of autocracy in executive powers, usually presidential, where the legislative power is also an ally of the executive. In these cases, the legal system is inefficient, which slows down the initiatives of international companies and governments to invest within the African region due to the lack of legal guarantees. For this reason, the EU wishes precisely to strengthen judicial powers, anti-corruption measures, work with central banks and with finance ministries. The solution that Ambassador Berlanga proposes for companies wishing to invest in Africa is to identify trusted legal partners and not experiment independently.
Another point that was addressed is that of the youth societies in urban communities in Africa, individuals with great political awareness and entrepreneurship skills. The speaker believes that these new generations are the hope of the continent since they are the ones who really want to be participants in the development process of their countries.
Likewise, he explained what measures the EU could require for institutional strengthening since other investor countries, for example, China, conduct their business in such a way that they enrich the investor more than the African recipient. The Ambassador suggested extending international relations between the EU and Africa. He related the agreement that exists between Somalia and some European countries through the Erasmus Program between host universities in Europe and Somali students or from other African countries.
Another way is the spread of the Globalization with Values, where a balance is sought between the exponential growth of the wealth of the wealthy classes at the same time as the number of individuals in underdeveloped countries who move from poverty to the middle class increases. Another way to extend this ethical globalization is through interconnection around Africa and the rest of the world, promoting the good distribution of public finances, commercial transparency and institutional strengthening.
The speaker concluded that the solution for European multinationals to enliven these values lies in a change of business mindset, where humility prevails and these companies abandon the perspective of superiority towards their African partners, it is also important to implement the same parameters applied to business in the West and Europe (environmental protection measures, labor law, etc.).
Once this topic was analyzed, it was addressed press freedom health and the vitality of the digital press in Africa, to which the speaker made a distinction between the advantages and disadvantages of the digital press. Although it is true that the digital press allows a wide dissemination of a wide variety of information and news, it has also caused a challenge to identify the quality of this information, for example, in Somalia where nomadic societies still persist, news communication is mainly oral However, through the Internet this oral communication can also be disseminated worldwide. Regarding the health of press freedom, reporters also need to regulate themselves to avoid illegitimate news with little clarity.
Near the end of the meeting, they delved into the topic of the support or disagreement that exists among African leaders towards the various NGOs. Over the years, humanitarian aid organizations present after natural disasters for example, or political NGOs have lost the support of many African countries. On the other hand, development NGOs have preserved and even increased their popularity in underdeveloped regions, due to the fact that they replace the role of the State that is not capable of providing basic services in the region. However, the Ambassador emphasizes that these organizations should also help structure the basic sectors so that the states themselves take responsibility and continue with these advances.
The session closed with the possible business opportunities in Africa. Berlanga explained that the continent offers convenience for entrepreneurs with an entrepreneurial vision in the medium and long term, especially with the construction of alliances together with local companies. The work sectors that the speaker recommends for companies are: infrastructure, water management, food sectors and technological advances, but in this field we must consider the extensive competition that already exists.