EU - Africa relations in focus
On Thursday, Goethe-Institut, the German Cultural Center in Kacyiru, hosted the BrainS TORM round table discussion addressing a crucial contemporary subject based on the theme Everything you always wanted to know about the…EU and AFRICA
The discussion was led by a panel of discussants with Michel Arrion the Head of Delegation of the European Union in Rwanda as guest speaker.
Other speakers included the Ambassador of Belgium Marc Pecsteen among others.
Dr. Peter Stepan hosted the hot discussion which began with Michel Arrion giving a brief background of the EU and African relations.
“Since the creation of the EU in 1957, Europe and Africa have been close allies. First with the colonial relations and then as independent states.
Our relations are not only in aiding budgets but also various trade preferences and exchange and diplomatic presence of Europe in Africa and this has been from way back in the 60’s and am glad to say the ties are growing stronger today,” Arrion said.
To what extent is Africa benefiting from the EU?
A local journalist Edmund Kagire observed that the relations between EU and Africa can’t ignore the past and the main reason they offer aid is because they are paying back for the damage they caused. Which till to date can’t be fully compensated.
“Yes a lot has been done by the EU but they never do anything without thinking of a way they are benefiting from the aid. It is more of a mutual benefit not a one way aid.
The trade terms between EU and Africa are visible but clearly the protection they give for their market can’t allow any trade. An African has to labour to export to Europe yet some European countries sell to us substandard goods,” he added.
Michel Arrion observed that the EU doesn’t buy any primary product from Rwanda and they are not the reason Africa can’t set up processing industries. He added that all African output is welcome in Europe as long as it’s up to standard.
“Yes we agree that incase for example we were building a road, we would rather work with a company from Europe than an Asian company. But not because they are our people but because of the degree of convenience in working with them,” Arrion said.
Alex Gakire from the East African Newspaper noted that there were strained historical relations between Europe and Africa and right now Africa didn’t need Aid from Europe.
Arrion responded saying that colonial history did not stop other countries from standing proud and tall today.
“Countries like Vietnam were also colonized but 30 years down the road they are now exporting computers to Europe. Colonial rule should not be an excuse,” said Arrion.
The ambassador of Belgium to Rwanda Marc Percsteen noted that Africa should take a look at Vietnam and China that were once colonised.
“The aid that is given is managed by African leaders and if it’s put to good use then it’s made effective,” Percsteen.
Kiki Gakore a member of the audience also expressed her need to see Africa do its best to stop relying on Aid and devise means of self reliance.
“How can you ask people to love you yet you don’t love yourself. This mishandling of aid is by our own selves, our fathers, uncles and aunties and it’s only us that can get to stop it then look for help later,” said Gakore.
Arrion told The Sunday Times that he was very glad that such a discussion took place.
“I loved to see people open and frank about these issues. Though I was sad that people don’t believe out aid is sincere but certainly we go with the blaming game but focus more on the future than the past,” Michel said.
Dr. Peter Stepan, director Goethe-Institut in Kigali, said that Goethe-Institut introduced BrainS T O R M because there seemed to be lack of open debate in public life in Rwanda.
Contact email: patrick.buchana[at]newtimes.co.rw