Inside EU’s Global Gateway Initiative – Business Daily
Migrants who were detained by Libyan authorities on a boat off the coast are held at a detention centre in Surman ahead of their deportation. PHOTO | AFP
In a world that is increasingly becoming multipolar, the European Union (EU) in December 2021 launched the Global Gateway Initiative as a connectivity strategy that aims to create smart, sustainable and secure links with countries around the world. Seen as a sign of changing the world, it will reshape the future of commerce by investing in enabling infrastructure.
The initiative seeks to expand the union’s influence, and this might counter China’s massive $1 trillion infrastructure investments in multiple economies around the world.
Already, the EU has promised to mobilise $300 billion between 2021 and 2027 for this new connectivity strategy, and it intends to establish safe, reliable, and intelligent connections with other nations in the fields of digital, energy, and transportation. It also aspires to improve the global health and educational systems.
During the Sixth EU-African Union (AU) Summit on February 18, 2022, this grand idea was revealed as part of a joint vision for 2030 in which the EU will invest €150 billion of the €300 billion under the Global Gateway Initiative. It is building on established programmes and partnerships, and thus increases the union’s public and private investment in the continent.
But most important of all, it is how the initiative will facilitate the EU’s independence to use its industrial, commercial and legal standards as a strategic tool for closer political and economic relationships. Unlike China, the EU has more to gain from new strategic alliances with the developing world, particularly Africa.
For Africa, the initiative will enhance strong and inclusive, green, digital recovery and transformation, and help in accelerating the regional economic integration under the Africa Continental Free Trade Area.
And considering that it is only the Mediterranean Sea that separates the EU and Africa, the two regions have had a chequered relationship for a long time. As a result, a considerable number of Africans have been crossing the Mediterranean in search of work. While some have died in the process, a majority have found their way into Europe for employment. The few who have made it through to the EU are the subject of intense political debate.
In this context, history in some way is repeating itself. A look at the Great Depression in the 1930s and how it disrupted Europe and the US.
The economic stagnation brought fodder for the far-right political parties to thrive leading to the development of authoritarian regimes and war. And now the economic challenges in developing countries are also threatening to cause similar outcomes of the 1930s depression.
It is also being argued that the economic migrants from the developing to the developed world have become the root cause of the emergence of far-right politics. And this is threatening to bring back authoritarianism.
Over the years, political scientists have established a close relationship between economic instability and the rise of far-right extremism. If there is anything to learn from this relationship notion, it is the fact that Italy’s last month election gave the country’s first far-right Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni and the most right-wing government since 1945. Italy has experienced the greatest brunt of migration as the country suffered the effects of the global financial crisis in 2008.
Prime Minister, Meloni is on record accusing French President Emmanuel Macron of impoverishing some African states and setting the circumstances for migratory flows towards Italy. France reacted to Meloni’s uncharacteristic attack by recalling its Ambassador to Rome.
Be that it may, the EU’s Global Gateway could be the cure in my view and would bring back greater hope and political stability for the people in the two continents.
Supporters of this massive concept say that if it comes to fruition, it will expand EU-AU relationships to new heights and unlock dormant opportunities. More importantly, the initiative will create new space for policy thinking, strategic foresight, and a comprehensive rethink of crucial sectors for multilateral cooperation and strengthening of AU-EU on the global stage.
While other critics, however, see the deal as the EU’s strategy to re-establish its standing, particularly in Africa, in my considered opinion, Africa should give the EU benefit of the doubt.
The writer is Kenya’s Ambassador to Belgium, Mission to the EU, Organisation of African Caribbean and the Pacific States and World Customs Organisation. The article is written at a personal level.