This SDG Knowledge Weekly focuses on reports, news and recent events linking African countries’ development with the EU.

Europe’s leading annual forum on development, European Development Days (EDD), took place from 18-19 June 2019, in Brussels, Belgium, with a focus on ‘Addressing inequalities: building a world which leaves no one behind.’ As reported by Devex, Senegal President Macky Sall called for EDD to be hosted in Africa, or an alternate location. On the eve of the event, an Africa Summit took place on the theme ‘What Africa wants from Europe’ as part of Friends of Europe’s Development Policy Forum. The Summit focused on shared challenges across the two continents, each of which “are in the midst of a massive transformation of their economic, political and social structures,” and featured two main sessions on women, peace and governance; and youth, skills and digital connectivity.

A paper by researchers from the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM) calls on EU leadership for 2019-2024 to “refresh and reload” how Africa features in its priorities, including by working together on research and innovation (R&I). The authors note that a starting point is to recognize African excellence in innovations, but flag that such recognition is lacking in the EU’s proposed R&I program, Horizon Europe. The authors lament that “R&I is left in a fragile space under EU development cooperation,” even if Africa remains a “privileged partner” for EU external action. The paper describes collaboration on science, technology and innovation (STI) between Europe and Africa as having evolved into a multi-layered set of relations, solidified by the 2007 Joint Africa-Europe Strategy, but overall, emphasizes that bi-regional R&I collaboration is “challenged by misalignment between the goals of advancing excellence in science through cooperation as equal partners on the one hand, and European assistance for African capacity building on the other.”

Two policy briefings by the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) examine challenges and opportunities on resource inter-dependency between Europe and Africa, particularly as they relate to the extractives industry. The first briefing describes the trade relationship between Europe and Africa as one of “inequitable resource interdependence, whereby Africa does not benefit fully from its natural resources.” This relationship can become more equitable, the authors argue, by building more robust legal frameworks and governance systems, using “extractive justice” as a guide. They highlight the EU Transparency Directive’s and Accounting Directive’s addressing issues of illicit outflows of tax revenues and royalties, and the EU Raw Materials Initiative’s addressing criticisms of the Joint Africa-EU strategy, and they recommend filling knowledge and capacity gaps in government and the African Mineral Development Centre.

The second briefing looks at overarching challenges and opportunities for Africa and the EU. It notes that despite the EU’s transition towards a low-carbon future, the region’s “reliance on raw material imports from Africa… is set to continue.” It notes the prime importance of host-country rules that govern or constrain the behavior of international companies that operate in Africa, flagging that such rules must sufficiently ensure the companies contribute to development, rather than simply be “agents of extraction or injustice.” Recommendations include aligning the EU Raw Materials Initiative with the principles of the African Mining Vision; strengthening transparency-oriented government interventions in the minerals sector; and stronger action by the EU and other international actors on addressing illicit financial flows from Africa.

Linking the private sector in Europe and Ghana, the Ghana-EU Business Forum was held from 13-14 June 2019 in Accra, with the aim of increasing awareness of the EU External Investment Plan and its financing instruments in Ghana. Convened on the theme, ‘Boosting investment for sustainable jobs in Ghana,’ the forum featured sessions on opportunities for investors afforded by Ghana’s market developments and economic transformation; opportunities provided by the EU’s financial instrumentation; and financial support for investment opportunities in the sustainable agriculture and energy spaces, among other areas. A Business to Business (B2B) portal also helped connect participants.

Focusing on the agricultural space, the third AU-EU Agriculture Ministerial Conference was held on 21 June 2019 at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) in Rome, Italy, on the theme, promoting sustainable regional agricultural value chains.’ During the conference, the Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural Cooperation (CTA) launched a publication titled, ‘The Digitalisation of African Agriculture Report, 2018-2019’. The report recognizes progress made to date, including by the Task Force Rural Africa (TFRA), which published, ‘An Africa-Europe Agenda for Rural Transformation’ in March. As an outcome from the Ministerial Conference, a declaration and accompanying action agenda is available here.

Looking ahead to the July 2019 session of the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), the SDG Knowledge Hub has summarized the main messages of African countries’ Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) released in the lead-up to the Forum, noting in particular the governments’ calls for data and financing.

These messages are picked up in two recent reports on SDG progress in Africa. The SDG Center for Africa (SDGC/A) launched its third ‘Africa 2030’ report, during the Center’s conference on ‘SDGs Implementation in Africa: Reflections on a three-year journey,’ which convened from 12-14 June 2019, in Kigali, Rwanda. Titled, ‘SDGs Three-Year Reality Check,’ the report finds that: only 40% of the indicators in the global SDG framework are accompanied by data in Africa; two thirds of African countries are in the “low human development” category; and there remains a lack of clarity on accountability and enforcement mechanisms for the SDGs.

On SDG 5 (gender equality), however, the report flags that Africa leads the world in appointing female legislators, and that this Goal may be met by 2030, along with SDGs 13 (climate action) and 15 (life on land). On gender, BBC News recently reported that South Africa now has a gender-balanced cabinet, as was also highlighted on the World Economic Forum’s blog.

The second report – released by the SDGC/A and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) – is the 2019 edition of the Africa SDG Index and Dashboards Report. The report ranks 52 African countries based on 97 indicators across all 17 Goals, excluding Seychelles and Libya due to insufficient data coverage. It marks a significant expansion from the 2018 report, which included only 11 countries in the preliminary analysis. The report highlights that lack of funding (and understanding on funding needs) is the most significant challenge to SDG implementation and monitoring on the continent. A more detailed write-up is available on the SDG Knowledge Hub. A brief summary of the findings is also available on Brookings’ blog.

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