Africa -Sweden Ties: From Aid to Partnership

Published on 28th October 2008

There are many reasons for being optimistic about African development. The conditions for growth: - peace and political freedom - are spreading on the continent.  Integration in the world economy is crucial. It is anticipated that the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) between the countries of Africa and the EU will be a powerful instrument for promoting increased trade and investments.

Improvements can be seen in regional trade and integration. But we still need to see more efficiency through improved institutional capacity and infrastructure, and fewer restrictions between member countries.The business climate has improved and so has interest in Africa as an export market in recent years.

Swedish total exports to the continent have increased by more than 200 per cent since 1998.  It has become easier to invest in Africa, and foreign direct investments are increasing. But we have yet to see an increase along the lines of Southeast Asia, and there are still concerns, in several countries, regarding a secure investment environment. Individual countries need to deepen reforms on transparency and accountability in the management of ALL public resources, in order to attract more FDIs, ensure rule of law and the protection of ownership.
These are all important factors for achieving sustainable economic development and combating poverty. I hope that African investments in the north will become an everyday occurrence.

Africa’s important role in the global arena is shown by the increase in tourism to Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa is the fastest growing region when it comes to tourism. Many Swedes have long term friendships in Africa, others are just beginning to make new friends during their first visits there. But, not only are Swedes travelling to Africa, the number of Africans in Sweden has also increased over the years, albeit for different reasons.

The African diaspora in Sweden is a great asset to Swedish society. Business initiatives involving the diaspora are already in place and we are looking at ways to draw upon the various groups in our development cooperation. This is of mutual benefit.

Together we should build on this foundation by supporting the favourable trends. Development cooperation has to break new ground, be broad-based and move away from traditional aid-based thinking. Aid dependency is not conducive to sustainable economic development where each country is its own master. We have to find new forms of development cooperation based on mutual understanding and benefits. Not least, we need to strengthen the links between actors involved in development cooperation and actors within the private sector.

Increased efforts are needed if the Millennium Development Goals are to be achieved by 2015. Not least when it comes to women in development where we see it as crucial to involve women in decision-making processes. Also, global climate change is most likely going to have a serious impact on Africa in the coming decades. This not only poses a crucial challenge for Africa’s own leaders; it also represents a responsibility for the world’s rich countries. Today, Africa has the possibility to learn from our costly mistakes and leap-frog directly to energy efficient and environmentally friendly solutions.

The Swedish Africa Policy sets out a clear vision that economic growth is a prerequisite for sustainable development and the fight against poverty. It is a renewed Africa policy which places particular emphasis on trade, the importance of stronger democracy, respect for human rights and freedoms, and greater equality between men and women.

We place a special emphasis on the positive changes Africa has undergone in the last ten years, and we acknowledge the changes that have taken place over the same period in Africa’s relations with the rest of the world, including Sweden. It is a policy that provides an account of the challenges and opportunities facing the continent in its fight against poverty and efforts to achieve sustainable development.

It also discusses the foreign policy framework governing Sweden’s actions as well as the many available instruments and channels for cooperation with Africa. The AU, a key actor for promoting democracy, human rights, gender equality, peace and security has made impressive progress during the last few years. The AU has been active in finding a solution during the crisis in Kenya and continues to be an important player in several conflicts. I do hope that the AU will continue to act as a significant “agent of change” in Africa. In order for this to happen, African governments need it on several levels.

The AU needs to develop into an effective workplace and organisation, with sound funding and a strong democratic mandate. Sweden and the EU intend to continue a close dialogue with the AU and the regional organisations. We will also continue our strong support for and continued contributions to UN and EU peacekeeping initiatives in Africa. We have seen examples on how the struggle for land and resources causes conflicts and great human suffering.  The continued conflicts in Darfur, Somalia and Eastern Congo demonstrates the connection between peace, security and development and how important it is with regional solutions.  Our commitment to the peace processes in Africa is broad-based and involves, besides soldiers, to work for the implementation of UN resolutions 1325, and the most recent 1820, to ensure women’s participation in peace processes and to contribute to conflict resolution.

During the Africa-EU Summit in December last year we agreed on a joint strategy - our common strategy. An important step forward in the Africa-EU relationship. Hard work ahead of us to implement this strategic partnership. The EU and Africa will meet in a troika format during the next few months in order to put the structure in place.

Let me come back to the issue of shared values. There is a need for close dialogue for better understanding. I note that the AU, SADC and other regional organisations have all agreed on a strong commitment to democracy, governance and human rights. The Africa-EU summit last year underscored these shared values. Many important steps have been taken and improvements made in order to ensure that at the core of government business is the will of the people it represents and its democratic legitimacy. But I’m also quite disappointed that some countries in Africa are not standing up for democracy, political freedom and human rights. Let me stress that the Government of Sweden will make every effort to support governments, organisations and actors that are pushing for democracy and human rights.

When Sweden takes over the Presidency of the EU in the autumn of 2009, the Swedish Government will make use of our long-standing and good relationship with Africa and ensure that the EU-Africa dialogue comes high on the agenda. Our intention is to strengthen and broaden our relationship. The Africa-EU strategic partnership and the implementation of the Action Plan will be an important priority.I look forward to moving away from collaboration based on aid, towards a joint partnership on an equal basis for mutual development.

During the Africa-EU Summit in December last year, we agreed on a joint strategy - our common strategy. An important step forward in the Africa-EU relationship. Hard work ahead of us to implement this strategic partnership. The EU and Africa will meet in a troika format during the next few months in order to put the structure in place.

Let me come back to the issue of shared values. There is a need for close dialogue for better understanding. I note that the AU, SADC and other regional organisations have all agreed on a strong commitment to democracy, governance and human rights. The Africa-EU summit last year underscored these shared values. Many important steps have been taken and improvements made in order to ensure that at the core of government business is the will of the people it represents and its democratic legitimacy. But I'm also quite disappointed that some countries in Africa are not standing up for democracy, political freedom and human rights. Let me stress that the Government of Sweden will make every effort to support governments, organisations and actors that are pushing for democracy and human rights.

When Sweden takes over the Presidency of the EU in the autumn of 2009, the Swedish Government will make use of our long-standing and good relationship with Africa and ensure that the EU-Africa dialogue comes high on the agenda. Our intention is to strengthen and broaden our relationship. The Africa-EU strategic partnership and the implementation of the Action Plan will be an important priority.

I look forward to moving away from collaboration based on aid, towards a joint partnership on an equal basis for mutual development.

By Gunilla Carlsson
Minister for International Development Cooperation
Sweden


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