Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, has carried out a series of official visits to Morocco and Senegal this week, with the aim of promoting international relations with both countries, as well as with the rest of the African states.
The meetings with the Prime Minister of the Alawi kingdom, Aziz Akhannouch, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nasser Bourita, were very satisfactory for both parties. At all times, Von der Leyen stressed the importance of Morocco as the European Union's main economic and trade partner. Because of this, the supranational organisation confirmed the investment of 1.6 billion euros for the green and digital transition, issued in the form of a grant. "This is the first project we are tackling with a partner country and this will allow us to tackle together the development of our green energy," Von der Leyen said.
After her visit to Morocco, she left for Senegal, where she ended her tour of African meetings. After the meeting with Macky Sall, President of the Republic of Senegal, the President of the European Commission announced the investment of 150 billion euros in African infrastructure under the "Global Gateway" programme, although no further details on the future investment have been released so far.
"I am pleased to announce that the Africa-Europe plan is the first regional plan under Global Gateway, our global investment strategy," Von der Leyen tweeted. The president also continued to show her support for Africa in relation to the pandemic, a gesture for which the Senegalese president was grateful, in view of the European Union's allocation of 125 million euros for the distribution of vaccines, training of doctors and strengthening of laboratories on the African continent.
Global Gateway was announced in December last year and consists of a 300 billion euro fund, which will be progressively invested in public and private infrastructure in Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia over 2021 and 2027. It was created primarily to counter China's strategy and its new Silk Road, and to offer a new alternative to the various nations.
"Global Gateway is a real alternative to the Belt and Road Initative", a project created in 2013 by President Xi Jinping as a flagship foreign policy measure. This has never been confirmed, but China is believed to have invested $139.8 billion, although other sources believe the investment to be in excess of $500 billion.
The European government aims to invest the millions of euros in Africa over the next six years in sectors such as energy, education, transport and digitalisation. "To carry out the Global Gateway projects, we need everyone's help: citizens, local authorities, parliaments," Von der Leyen explained during a joint press conference with Sall. The European Union wants the "involvement of all", "wants to generate growth", and "wants to generate trust" because it is "anchored in the values on which Europe and Africa are united, such as transparency, sustainability, good governance and concern for the well-being of populations".
This strategic move by the EU is a clear challenge to China, Africa's main trading partner, as a new alternative to the Silk Road launched by the Chinese administration in 2013. In this way, they want to reduce China's connection by land and sea with Africa, Asia and Europe, as well as the indebtedness of emerging economies with the Asian country, between 2000 and 2019, African governments and institutions accepted loans worth 153 billion dollars.
Von der Leyen and Sall, who is also chairman of the African Union, also made preparations for the EU-African Union summit to be held on 17-18 February in Brussels. "Our two Unions share the same vision: that of creating a common area of stability and prosperity. At this summit it will be necessary to establish the concrete means to achieve this," said the President of the European Union. The goal of the two continents is a "renewed, modernised and more action-oriented partnership".
According to the members of the African supranational organisation, Europe and Africa have to "work together because, given their geographical proximity, the peace and stability of the continents are linked". However, investments will be discussed at next week's summit, "investments will be at the centre of the discussions because they are the means to our shared ambitions. In this area, we are the most reliable partner for Africa and the most important partner of all," Von der Leyen explained.