Poverty and hunger remain key issues for the EU-Africa Partnership, according to Europe’s citizens

EU The special Eurobarometer ‘The EU and Africa: working towards closer partnership’ aims to gauge the European public’s views on the key issues that should be addressed in cooperation between Africa and the EU ahead of the 3rd Africa-EU Summit in Libya on 29-30 November. It intends to assess the attitudes of the European public to the challenges facing the continent of Africa, their image of Africa and the future of Africa-EU cooperation.

Main results of the special Eurobarometer

Poverty is seen as the most important challenge to be tackled by the EU-Africa partnership. 38% of Europeans asked named poverty as the number one issue. This corresponds to the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving extreme poverty by 2015, and could reflect the heightened media attention that the MDGs have enjoyed in the wake of the UN High Level Meeting on the MDGs in New York on 20-22 September.

Poverty and Hunger are seen as the most important issues for African countries to address together. 64% of Europeans frame African cooperation as first and foremost a development-oriented partnership, rather than one based on any other core policy area. In declaring poverty to be the most important issue both for the EU-Africa partnership and for African cooperation, most Europeans reaffirm the centrality of core development issues over related policy areas such as trade, migration, fighting climate change, justice and good governance. On the one hand, this underlines the need for policy coherence so that related issues impact positively on poverty-related challenges, which supports the Lisbon Treaty’s emphasis on policy coherence. On the other hand, it suggests that successes in individual countries (such as South Africa’s organisation of the 2010 World Cup, Burkina Faso’s Fespaco film festival, and Rwanda’s innovations in the IT sector) are eclipsed by images of poverty when Europeans think of Africa as a continent.

Positive images of Africa revolve around wildlife and nature. When asked about what positive images they associate with Africa, most Europeans cite the continent’s natural beauty and landscapes (28%) or its wildlife and game reserves (24%). On the other hand, some new, more dynamic images linked to African culture, entrepreneurship and trade appear to be emerging, with nearly 1 in 10 Europeans citing economy or technology related positive images of Africa.

The emphasis on natural landscapes and wildlife can be seen as a basis of support for the values of environmental sustainability and biodiversity in Africa-related policies. These responses also point to the tourism industry as a continued potential market for African countries to target, which can be a mutually beneficial basis for economic growth.

42% of Europeans think that Africa will remain at the same level of importance as a partner of the EU. Furthermore, 32% of Europeans think that Africa will grow in importance as a partner, while only 10% expect the trend to go the opposite way. Nevertheless, relatively many respondents (14%) were not able to form an opinion on this, suggesting that there is still room to increase optimism for the future of the EU-Africa partnership.

Selected country-specific results

In most EU countries, the proportion of citizens who thought that poverty was the most important issue for the EU-Africa partnership was close to 50%, with Hungary, the Czech Republic and Cyprus recording the highest percentages, whereas in Belgium, Portugal and Ireland this figure was around 30%.

The highest percentages that thought corruption was important for African countries to tackle together were recorded in the Netherlands (63%), Belgium (55%) and the UK (52%).

Relatively high proportions of citizens in Luxembourg (39%) and France (37%) associated Africa with images of natural beauty, while the EU-wide average was 28%. 9% of Finnish and 6% of Swedish respondents mentioned renewable energy sources as a positive image associated with Africa, which was higher than the EU average of 3%.

Migration is not seen as an area of major importance despite relatively high media coverage of illegal immigration issues, particularly in Southern Europe. Although respondents in Spain (11%) and Malta (18%) do attach significantly higher levels of importance to this issue than the average European (6%), migration is, on average, still seen as less important than poverty, human rights, and democracy and good governance in both countries.

The most variation between EU countries emerged in views on the future importance of Africa as a partner of the EU. In Sweden, Austria, Luxembourg, Germany, Slovenia and Portugal most respondents thought that Africa’s importance as a partner would increase. The highest proportions of “don’t know” responses to this issue were recorded in Romania, Bulgaria and Malta.

Different trends in old and new Member States

The most apparent demographic trends in responses to the survey concerned what Europeans felt were the most important issues for EU-Africa cooperation and those that should be tackled by African countries together. In both cases, the 12 newer Member States tended to mention poverty and hunger first, while the “EU15” attributed greater importance to democracy and good governance in EU-Africa cooperation, and corruption in Africa-wide cooperation.

Another difference that emerged is that more citizens from the 15 older Member States think that the importance of the partnership will grow (36%), whereas 25% of citizens from the newer members held this view.

Young Europeans are more likely to appreciate African art and culture

Elderly citizens tended to emphasise corruption and peace and security as important issues in their responses. On the other hand, a higher percentage of young EU citizens mentioned African art and culture as positive images. This suggests that progress is being made in spreading positive messages of Africa’s successes in the newer Member States and among Europe’s youth, although efforts to raise awareness about African culture could be strengthened further.

The survey

The Special Eurobarometer 353 ‘The EU and Africa: Working towards closer partnership’ was carried out in the 27 EU Member States in June 2010. 26,500 citizens were interviewed face-to-face about their views on Africa-EU cooperation.

Questions of the Special Eurobarometer 352 ‘Europeans, development aid and the Millennium Development Goals’

Q1. In your opinion, from the following list, which are the two most important areas of cooperation between the European Union and Africa?

Q2. In your opinion, from the following list, which are the two most important problems for African countries to tackle together?

Q3. Among the following list, when you think of Africa, what is the most positive image?

Q4. Looking ahead to the period to 2020, do you think Africa will become a more or less important partner for the EU?

Development cooperation between the European Union and Africa

The EU as a whole – European Commission plus Member States – is the world’s largest development aid donor, accounting for more than half of global official development aid. The largest share of EU assistance is directed to Sub-Saharan Africa. The two continents share an array of historical, cultural and economic links. They also face many common challenges in the areas of energy, climate change or migration, to name just a few. Together, the EU and Africa constitute a quarter of the world’s population and more than one third of the members of the United Nations. The EU remains Africa’s most important political ally and a reliable trade and development partner.

Building on the work of the first Africa-EU summit in Cairo in 2000, leaders from both continents decided to move cooperation to a new level in 2007. At the Lisbon Summit, 80 Heads of States and Government from Europe (27) and Africa (53) agreed to pursue common interests and strategic objectives together, beyond the focus of traditional development policy. To do so, they adopted the Joint Africa-EU Strategy which redefines the relations between the two continents for tackling global challenges together. In the context of the Strategy, the first action plan for the period 2008-2010 was structured around eight strategic partnerships covering a range of policy areas.

Access the full report here.


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