Young African entrepreneurs at the heart of economic and social development in the context of EU-Africa relations

The Africa-EU Economic and Social Stakeholders' Network sees young people in Africa as key actors in Africa's economic and social development.

The Africa-EU Economic and Social Stakeholders' Network held its annual meeting on 17 July in Brussels, organised and hosted by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC). As the only network which looks outside the box of national political parties and specific local interests, the network contributes to EU-African bilateral relations by focusing on the challenges facing the two continents.

This fifth meeting focused on Africa's young people as a driver of economic development and as the age group most concerned by migration. Participants pointed out in the final declaration that the role of the civil society in Africa-EU relations is to make a structured, regular contribution to the EU-Africa strategy and to stress the need for them to take part in the proper platforms for addressing recommendations to political bodies in the objective of good governance and citizen participation.

Along with the main priorities of the Africa-EU Partnership, the European Commission's Directorate-General for Development and Cooperation (DG DEVCO) also held fruitful discussions with the network on the much anticipated EU External Investment Plan (EIP).   

Young African entrepreneurs from Burkina Faso, Kenya, Swaziland and Madagascar, representing the geographical diversity of Africa, presented their success stories. By doing so, they demonstrated just how energetic and entrepreneurship-minded the young people of Africa are, encouraging and inspiring people across Africa and Europe.

The civil society network called in the final declaration for better access to financing for micro-enterprises, cooperatives, small traders and family businesses, and, in particular businesses set up by women or young people, which have the greatest potential for growth and job creation in the African countries and strongly recommends governments in EU and African countries to recognise and give equivalence to diplomas, degrees, credits and expertise acquired in the two continents.

The economic development is there. We need the tools, not European funds. We need to do better in Africa said Fahiz Diallo, a young entrepreneur from Burkina Faso, who is running a prefabricated construction business with the support of a project run by the Maison de l'Entreprise du Burkina Faso, which received financial assistance from the World Bank.

Ray M. Gama, manager of Swaziland Water and Agricultural Development Enterprise Ltd., described a high value crop and horticulture project supported by the EU, which help develop the entrepreneurial skills of farmers and young people in rural communities.

Kate Kibarah, a Kenyan entrepreneur trading in organic and health products, talked about the wealth of opportunities for young entrepreneurs in Africa. She shared her personal experiences and said that she aimed to access the European market.  

Regarding migration, the economic and social partners on the two continents highlighted the fact that migrants are net contributors to economic, social and cultural development in both the countries of destination and origin.

Eugenio Ambrosi, Regional Director for the European Economic Area (EEA), the European Union and NATO in the International Organisation for Migration, flagged up some facts about African migration. African migration flows are primarily intra-regional. In 2017, reverse flows of migration were observed, with more Africans returning to their countries of origin than were migrating to Europe. On the same subject, Theodoor Sparreboom, Senior Labour Economist in the Statistics department of the International Labour Organization (ILO), presented the results of an ILO and OECD report on the contribution of immigrants to developing countries' economies. One of the interesting findings was that the non-migratory populations in the countries of destination also benefit economically from immigration. Fambaye Ndoye, a member of the African Trade Union Migration Network, showed how trade unions support migrant workers throughout Africa, and Paulina Diouf, a member of Asociacion Catalana de Residentes Senegaleses (ACRS), presented the activities of her Spain-based organisation which ensured that migrants are properly informed about their economic and social rights.

Following the adoption of the final declaration, Jarosław Mulewicz, EESC member and president of the ACP-EU Follow-up Committee, concluded this important event by stressing that the Africa-EU Economic and Social Stakeholders' Network had, once again, proven its value. He pointed out that intra-African migration flows were the hidden part of the iceberg, and that migrants were generally contributing positively to economies. He also underlined the importance of assisting young entrepreneurs, starts-ups and women to reach their full potential.     

The conclusions of the meeting will be sent to the EU and African institutions and political authorities, as the contribution of non-state actors to EU-Africa relations.