A safe Africa benefits all of Europe
“Safety and development are interdependent and follow the same track. By investing in Africa the EU is promoting safety in Europe, and this work needs countries such as Finland,” says Koen Vervaeke, Managing Director for Africa at the European External Action Service.
Vervaeke spoke at a seminar organised by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the International Crisis Group (ICG), an international peace negotiator, which dealt with the background of violent extremist groups and the reasons for radicalisation in Africa.
The Sahel region suffers from drought, climate change and poverty, as well as the ensuing radicalisation and violent extremism. Extremist movements have had a devastating impact on development in many African countries. Boko Haram operating out of Nigeria and several armed groups active in Mali have forced thousands of people to leave their homes and made the region increasingly unstable.
“The Sahel region is extremely fragile. What it needs are jobs, equality and development that engages all people. The EU is very active in questions concerning safety, since events and incidents in Africa have an immediate impact on Europe. Many problems are difficult to tackle, because their root causes are myriad,” says Vervaeke.
The EU aims to help the Sahel region resolve its worsening problems resulting from population growth, environmental load, extreme poverty, social and economic inequality, internal tensions, undeveloped social and economic infrastructures, and a lack of food. These factors also underlie the displacement of people, criminal activities, radicalisation and violent extremism, as well as illegal migration, human trafficking and the smuggling of migrants.
The EU’s Emergency Trust Fund is used especially to support the employment of women and young people. The focus is on vocational education and on launching small businesses. People returning to their communities receive education and training, while communities are supported through basic services such as food security, health care, education and social security.
Partnership in economic and safety issues
According to Vervaeke, Africa and Europe must jointly work on issues concerning politics, the economy, safety and migration. Many African countries are assuming more and more responsibility for their own safety.
“Africa offers huge opportunities for Europe, as long as we deal with the threats in the region and democracy gains ground there. Job creation is of major importance. Not only do young people need work, but Africa needs investment and structural change, which is already under way. Many African countries are leaping straight into the digital era, with digitalisation generating an increasing share of the African GNP,” Vervaeke points out.
“The Sahel region is anxious to see the EU take action. Matters have generally been approached from the perspective of safety, and development has been sidelined,” explains Kirsi Henriksson, Head of the EU civilian crisis management mission in Niger. “The international community wants to guarantee its own safety, which is understandable. The key question, however, is how to prevent radicalisation.”
The International Crisis Group (ICG) is an internationally recognised independent organisation that works in conflict prevention and management. ICG’s field-work based analyses, policy recommendations, free distribution of information and high-level lobbying have a direct and indirect influence on conflict prevention, conflict resolution and post-conflict management.
ICG annually produces some 90 reports and surveys, as well as 12 editions of the Crisis Watch bulletin, which features analyses of the most urgent conflicts and their status.
Finland has supported the organisation by EUR 1.25 million in 2013–2016.
Links to ICG’s latest reports:
Nigeria: Women and the Boko Haram Insurgency: https://www.crisisgroup.org/africa/west-africa/nigeria/nigeria-women-and-boko-haram-insurgency