Opening speech by President von der Leyen at the 6th European Union-African Union Summit, 17 February 2022
Dear President of the European Council, Charles Michel,
Dear President of the African Union, Macky Sall,
Dear President, Emmanuel Macron,
Mr Chairman of the African Union, Moussa Faki,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is very good to be here with you.
In my very first speech when I came into office as President of the European Commission, I emphasised that Africa would be the key partner in building the world we want to live in. And the very first trip abroad of the new Commission, the College of Commissioners, was to visit the African Union – Moussa Faki, you remember – in Addis Ababa. Since then, we had many exchanges – my latest one with you, Macky Sall, in Senegal, as President of the African Union. And I summarise: We all share the same vision: We want to create stability, prosperity for our people. And of course, for that, we need economic and social dynamism. And this Summit is the perfect opportunity to discuss how we are going to work together, how we are making our joint ambitions a reality.
I want to talk about investment. Solid, tangible investment. I want to talk about Global Gateway. Global Gateway is a strategy for investment in infrastructure and in people. The most precious investment you can do is the investment in people. We want investments in quality infrastructure – connecting people and goods and services. We want a values-based approach, we offer transparency and good governance – and the former speakers mentioned all these values we share together. Because we want to turn Global Gateway into a trusted brand around the world. Global Gateway will muster Europe's power to unlock unprecedented levels of investment, not only public but also private capital. We can expect a package of at least EUR 150 billion for Africa for the next seven years. This is the first package under our Global Gateway Strategy. And now, we need you to tell us what the needs are and what is best for the people.
With this new package, we want to catalyse investments in three categories. The first, of course, is infrastructure. And there, the top priority is energy. The pathway to renewable energy and, of course, the transition towards renewable energy. Because we all know firsthand that sustained economic development hinges on reliable access to energy. Africa has solar, wind and hydropower in abundance. So let us build on that. Let us invest in Global Gateway projects, for example to build together green hydrogen capacity. And let us discuss the transition, how to get there. Macky Sall, we have been discussing it last week in Senegal. Indeed, the transition from the status quo today to a world where we have these renewable energies. It is a huge challenge for us, but we are able to make it together. Or the investments for electricity interconnections and energy access. People need access to electricity. And the numbers you are telling us, Macky Sall, about 600 million people without access to electricity, are a real challenge – but together, we can make the difference.
We need to invest in transport corridors like roads and railways and waterways. It is the connection of energy, electricity and transport that opens, widely opens, the door to the African Free Trade Area. Or take the digital transition: This is where the new model of economic productivity lies. In Dakar, I met young entrepreneurs who do not need any smart business idea anymore because they have them in abundance. That is fascinating to listen to them. But what they need is access – access to the internet to develop their brilliant ideas. That is all they want, access to the internet. Thus, we want to focus on connecting Europe and Africa via submarine cables, and Africa's regions via terrestrial cables. And also satellite communication, it covers both our continent, to indeed bring high-performance broadband to the remote regions.
This is what young entrepreneurs need, combined with, of course, access to capital. They have the passion, they have the ideas, they have the will to succeed. They need investment in connectivity and in skills. And investments in micro, small and medium enterprises. Thus, with Global Gateway, we will heavily invest in Technical Vocational and Education Training. Global Gateway is here to invest in the talent of Africa.
And the third point is: investments in health. And indeed, much has been said, in the short term, on how we will contribute to focus on the provision and roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines. But I want that our investments in health go beyond the immediate urgency and take a strategic perspective that looks beyond the pandemic. It is about the capacity of Africa, indeed, to produce their own vaccines, to develop mRNA manufacturing capacity across Africa. And I think that we are making rapid progress. Because remember, we started in April last year. Emmanuel, c'était à Paris, au Sommet. This is where it all started. And now, we expect to build at least two state-of-the-art factories in Rwanda and Senegal this year.
Last week, I visited the Pasteur Institute in Dakar, which will be one of the new vaccine production sites. Yesterday, the pilot production facilities were presented by BioNTech in Marburg. In parallel, we are supporting the World Health Organisation to set up a technology transfer hub for mRNA vaccine production in South Africa. I am confident that this hub will empower African scientists and companies. And the fascinating part is that this is not only about COVID-19 vaccines, but this mRNA technology is phenomenal in engineering vaccines for other diseases that are the real killer, like, for example, malaria or tuberculosis. So there is a lot of progress in it.
My fellow leaders,
This is what Global Gateway is all about: to turn our vision into a reality. Together, we share our priorities. Now, you have to tell us how we get there. Concerning the green transition – what is it that you envisage? Or for the Digital Decade – what is the infrastructure needed? Precisely, what are the young generation's needs to make their dreams come true? We all know the very beautiful African proverb that says: If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together. Let us embark on that journey together.
Today's Summit is our first milestone. I cherish the vision of two continents working hand in hand to improve the world we live in.
Thank you very much.