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ACP-EU Partnership Fights Poverty Across Africa

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By Jeffrey Moyo

HARARE (IDN) – From the Horn of Africa to the slums of Capetown and Johannesburg in South Africa, and even further up across West Africa, poverty has over the years reigned supreme affecting millions of Africans.

But since the sub-Saharan African countries joined the Caribbean and Pacific nations, signed the Georgetown Agreement in 1975 and established the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP), they have been striving to combat poverty and encourage sustainable development, a vital objective of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The European Development Fund (EDF) has been supporting the ACP as required by the ACP-EU Partnership Agreement, concluded in Benin’s large port city Cotonou in June 2000 for a 20-year period until 2020. It is the most comprehensive partnership agreement between developing countries and the European Union (EU).

Since 2000, it has been the framework for EU’s relations with 79 ACP countries – 48 from Africa, 16 from the Caribbean, and 15 from the Pacific. In 2010, ACP-EU cooperation was adapted to new challenges such as climate change, food security, regional integration, State fragility and aid effectiveness.

The aggregate financial resources of the 11th EDF amount to €30.5 billion for the period 2014-2020. The EDF is established within the framework of an international agreement between the EU and its partner countries. This ACP-EU Partnership Agreement – also known as the ‘Cotonou Agreement’ – was concluded in 2000 and is revised every five years.

Globally, extreme poverty has rapidly declined. New poverty estimates by the World Bank suggest that the number of extremely poor people—those who live on $1.90 a day or less—has fallen from 1.9 billion in 1990 to about 736 million in 2015.

In 1990, the poverty line was initially set at $1. Prior to 2015, the global line was $1.25 a day.

However, the number of people living in extreme poverty is on the rise in Sub-Saharan Africa, comprising more than half of the extreme poor in 2015, says Divyanshi Wadhwa, a junior data scientist with the Development Data Group at the World Bank. Forecasts also indicate that by 2030, nearly 9 in 10 extremely poor people will live in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Carolina Sánchez-Páramo, Senior Director, Poverty & Equity Global Practice of the World Bank. “The current forecast presents a very grim yet realistic picture of the probability of ending extreme poverty by 2030. That means, we need to renew our focus on Africa, and business as usual will not be enough to get us through to our goal.”

According to the World Population Review, over half of the nations in Africa with an aggregate population of 1.2 billion are considered the poorest countries in the world. Even though the continent as a whole is developing quickly, there are many nations that are not showing economic growth. Economic insecurity, political instability, and wars within these nations have left many of Africa’s citizens living a life of poverty.

One of the factors used to determine the richest and poorest countries in the world is by taking a look at each nation’s gross domestic product per capita. This measures the purchasing power of each nation in the international market and is a good indicator to use for determining how rich (or in this case, poor) a country is.

Based on the numbers from 2017, Somalia has the lowest GDP per capita. It is ranked last at number 54 in Africa and is ranked 188th in the world. The second poorest country in Africa is Central African Republic. Not only is it one of the poorest nations in Africa, but it is also one of the poorest in the world. The third poorest country in Africa is the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The top 10 poorest countries in Africa based on GDP per capital are as follows: Somalia, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Liberia, Niger, Malawi, Mozambique, Eritrea and Madagascar.

A large part of EU development funding to Somalia is financed by the European Development Fund within the framework of ACP-EU Partnership Agreement. In the last 25 years the country has been driven apart by war and clan conflicts, subsequently fueling poverty in the Horn of Africa.

The cycle of 2014-2020 amounts to €286 million. It focuses on three sectors: (i) state building and peace building; (ii) food security and resilience; (iii) education. Under the previous cycle of funding from 2008-2013, the EU dedicated €422 million to programmes in Somalia, with a main focus on state building, education, economic development and food security.

Last year at a meeting in Brussels, Somalia’s Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khayre said fighting terrorism using only the military is not an effective way. To the Somali leader, poverty in his country has over the years been blamed for fueling terrorism and as a result he (Khayre) has felt that “economic factors, bad governance and corruption are the seeds of terrorism in Somalia”.

By the end of 2017, 6.2 million people were in need of humanitarian assistance in Somalia.

Another one of the 10 poorest countries, Malawi has been classified as one of the least developed countries in the world, with 70% of the country’s population of 15 million living on less than US$ 1.90 per day.

The rapid increase of population is exerting intense pressure on the country’s land, food security, nutrition and social services. Malnutrition and HIV/AIDS remain primary concerns. Socio-economic and gender related inequalities are also high.

The ACP-EU Partnership Agreement has over the years played an important role in fending off poverty in Malawi, allocating €560 million, in a bid to improve agriculture and food security and improving road connections with other countries of the region.

For Malawi’s development experts like Kingstone Banda, without help from programmes like these, his country would have been worse off in terms of poverty. “I must say EU, not leaving out ACP, made huge contributions to most of the developments in Malawi and I must hasten to say what EU covered at most in terms of development couldn’t have been covered by now by Malawi on its own,” Banda told IDN.

The severe floods and devastating impacts of Cyclone Idai in March 2019 resulted in substantial loss of life and livelihoods, significant damage to public and private infrastructure and the displacement of thousands of people in the affected Southern African countries of Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

The ACP Governments declared a state of disaster in the affected areas and launched an urgent appeal to their ACP family, as well as bilateral and multilateral partners for assistance in rescue and relief efforts and emergency financial assistance, including: emergency supplies of tents for shelter, food supplies, medicines, chlorine to treat water, clothing, beddings, mosquito nets, and relief necessities, especially for women and children.

The ACP Secretariat created a bank account for donations as part of the emergency procedures instituted to help the victims. Voluntary technical, logistical and financial donations to address the immediate needs of the people to meet the challenges of recovery are requested.

In addition to a fight against poverty across the African continent, “ACP-EU have upheld economic dealings and trade as well as political teamwork across Africa, integrating civil society, private sector, trade unions and local authorities,” Hillary Muramba, a Zimbabwean independent economist, told IDN.

With a view to securing the poor countries’ long-term future, between 2003 and 2007, the ninth EU Development Fund provided €13.5 billion to ACP countries, in addition to €9.9 billion from the previous programming period, to combat poverty in ACP nations.

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the African, Caribbean and Pacific group of states have strategic partners in the fight against hunger and poverty and for the sustainable management of natural resources in the 79-member bloc of countries. Under an agreement signed in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, FAO and the ACP Secretariat strengthened their collaboration to better address continuing food insecurity and malnutrition, hunger, natural resources management and climate change challenges. Many small island developing states are ACP states.

In the 11th EDF member States’ contributions, keys to the Fund are further aligned with the keys used for the EU budget – with a view to ensuring more flexibility and fast reaction in case of unexpected events.

Regional funding also includes allocations to cover unforeseen needs with a regional dimension and a new shock-absorbing scheme is set up to help ACP countries to mitigate the short-term effects of exogenous shocks such as economic crisis or natural disaster. [IDN-InDepthNews – 03 August 2019]

Image credit: ACP-EU Logo

This report is part of a joint project of the Secretariat of the ACP Group of States and IDN, flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.

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