The European Union has called for solidarity and unity among African Union (AU) member countries to achieve success and sustainability of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
EU Head of Delegation to the AU, Ranieri Sabatucci, made the call on Friday at the closing session of the 2019 World Export Development Forum and Africa Industrialisation Week, held in Addis Ababa.
Sabatucci made the remark at the events jointly organised by the International Trade Centre (ITC), the AU, the EU and Ethiopia.
The EU envoy said that solidarity was the main ingredient of a successful integration process, adding: “every time we do things together, some people benefit more than others.
”Sabatucci said that those who benefited more at any given period had to show solidarity to those who benefited less.
“The cake is big, but it does happen that someone could get a bigger slice at a point in time, and somebody will have a smaller slice.
“So, those who have the bigger slice have to cut the part of that big part and give it to those who have smaller ones.
“Diversity is crucial, but without solidarity, there is no integration.
“The challenge we have had was lack of solidarity. Without this, we cannot solve the problem.The EU envoy said that there was need for a strong sense of solidarity and understanding in Africa.
“Africa’s problem is in Africa; not Europe or anywhere else. The solution remains here.
“Yes, if I get more benefit than somebody else, I have to be prepared to pay my fair share, and to support those who are left behind.
“Some people will benefit more and some less. Those who get less need to be looked after.
“And this is why in Europe we have the cohesion funds.
“It is exactly for that purpose to cater for those member states that probably have benefited less,” Sabatucci said.
He explained that EU’s involvement with projects in Africa was based on realisation of the importance of the continent.
The EU envoy said Africa, being the world’s second fastest growing economy, could not be ignored, adding that it made sense to be where the market is growing.
Sabatucci stressed that Europe had to also consider the effect of illegal migrations from Africa to Europe.
According to him, it is important to help Africa to continue growing and stay on its feet as a successful Africa is in everyone’s interest.
“The truth is that people take us serious in the EU, because we are a single market.“The future is about those countries who are able to work together as a unit,” he said.
Sabatucci said the response of the EU to challenges has always been unity.“We believe in more united than a single actor”.
He said that Africa must break down vestiges of protectionism, adding that the way to go is integration;“AfCFTA was a good example,” he said.
While Africa’s exports to Europe attract zero per cent in tariff, intra Africa trade is often hindered by high tariff.
While membership of the European common market started with five members, 54 African countries have signed up to AfCFTA, with 27, including Nigeria ratifying the agreements.
Sabatucci said despite starting with few members due to prevailing circumstances at the time, integration had given Europe peace.
He expressed confidence that integration would also give Africa peace, adding there’s no reason why Africa should start the way Europe started.
The EU Envoy, however, said that unity is the keyword word if Africa was to make success of the AfCFTA Agreements.
“I think everybody has to take responsibility for this project – AfCFTA.
“Not too long ago in Europe, there was a situation when politicians blame Brussels for things that were not working.
“Perhaps, sometimes these were genuine excuses. But if you do this over time, year after year, month after month, day after day, at the end you will say ‘this European Union is not that good.’ In the end, no one benefits,” he said.
He said communication is very important, adding that member states of the AU have to take responsibility for AfCFTA.