While the EU has focused on providing support to its own crisis countries within the Union's borders, Russia and China have invested heavily in strengthening their presence on the African continent. European investments in Africa are relatively small but can be increased with the help of business assistance and by utilizing new Swedes' network of contacts, knowledge and experience. That is the opinion of Avni Dervishi, a political scientist
It is generally known that Africa is by far the continent that receives by far the most Swedish development assistance. But in the light of the new reality in the next whole region, the question is whether it is possible to pursue development aid successfully if one does not dare to think new?
With the outcome in hand, despite Ebola outbreaks and some conflicts, Africa is a continent on the rise. Ten of the continent's countries have an annual economic growth of at least 8% and recently several natural resources such as gas, oil and minerals have been discovered. During my visits to 16 African countries, it has been impossible to miss the progress. I have met presidents, foreign ministers, entrepreneurs and civil society representatives, all of whom emphasize the importance of European investment. Europe's investments in Africa, compared to China's and Russia's, are very small. Even India has started buying land in Ethiopia and Kenya, among other places.
While the EU has focused on supporting Greece (€ 238 billion, mostly from Germany (money from Germany) and Cyprus (€ 10 billion), countries such as China and Russia have made every effort to strengthen their presence on the African continent. Of course, China's and Russia's investments mean advantages for Africa, but also disadvantages.
It's easy to believe that everyone wins on foreign investment, but that's not true. In the country of Cameroon, for example, Chinese investors bought the famous, precious, red trees in the north of the country that do not grow in many places on earth. But they paid too low prices and transported the trees at night to the port of Duala in the south to avoid protesting young people, who knew that Chinese investors had bribed a few politicians in power to exploit their natural resources. As if this were not enough, Chinese investors have built magnificent buildings such as sports arenas and river banks to appease the locals in several African countries. Of course, this only happened in capitals because there their "good will" deeds were more visible.
Russia, on the other hand, is running a different tactic that is a little smarter. At present, 8000 African students study in Russia, of which about half receive a Russian scholarship. It is a smart and long-term investment for tomorrow's decision makers. In this matter, Sweden is far behind Russia.
However, Africa has much more to offer than just what China and Russia have so far looted. Swedish and Nordic investors are known for taking local responsibility, ethically and environmentally. As a combination of development assistance and already mediated Know-How initiatives, an expansion of economic cooperation between Sweden and the other Nordic countries with Africa could undeniably generate more jobs in the Nordic region and in Africa. This would lead to an improved democracy in Africa and less refugee flows to the EU. It would benefit stability in Africa and at the same time secure our investments.
I have two pieces of advice for our Swedish stakeholders:
Combine aid and business. Establish a council for joint efforts as soon as possible. Such a council would undoubtedly be an important tool, not least with regard to the Swedish commitment to support the US new initiative "Power Africa" with 1 billion dollars over 1 years. The climate part can be earmarked.
2. Use the government and business contacts that Swedish Africans have in their former home countries and set up an investment council with regular follow-up. In addition, new Swedes / immigrants with all their experience from the region can assist with knowledge that can reduce corruption and promote development even more, which is rewarding both for the population in the recipient countries and us here in Sweden who through it, gain greater credibility that Swedish development assistance & investments make a difference to the people of the former homelands.
It's time to see the Africa of opportunities.
Avni Dervishi (Political Scientist - who has visited more than 16 countries in Africa over the past three years as an Adviser on Diplomatic and Economic Relations)