Examination of Witness (Questions 73-79)|
Mr Myles Wickstead
2 FEBRUARY 2006
Q73Chairman: Good morning and thank you very
much for coming to give evidence to the Committee. As you know,
we are looking at various matters in the EU's policy towards Africa
arising out of the published Strategy for Africa and we are particularly
focusing on implementation of the various proposals rather than
on the individual policies themselves. I understand that you are
happy to go straight into questions. If that be the case, can
I ask you in the first instance to tell us a bit about your opinion
on what the strategy that was adopted is going to add to the work
of other organisations and bodies which has already been carried
out or is being carried out?
Mr Wickstead: Thank you for inviting me to be
with you this morning. What was important about last year was
that we had a large number of bodies all coming behind Africa's
developing strategies. Of course we had the Commission for Africa
report in which I was heavily involved but we also had the UN
and the Sachs Report. It was very important given the significance
of the European Union as a donor to Africa and a partner to Africa
that there should have been some statement of the sort that we
achieved in December. Politically, that was a very important step.
The statement that was made is extremely consistent with the other
reports that were produced during the course of last year. As
you rightly say, I think the trick now is implementation and I
am sure that is the correct focus. There are various areas in
which the EU will have a comparative advantage. For example, there
has certainly been a refocusing of attention on infrastructure
and it is clear from the document that the EU recognises the need
for that shift and I think the European Union can play an important
role in that. The paper also talks about the importance of partnerships
between the European Union and Africa and proposes developing
in particular student partnerships and other partnerships on the
lines of the Erasmus Programme. There is a lot in that and that
is where Europe has a major role to play. In particular, the new
members of the European Union, the new accession states, can have
a real contribution to make in this area. They have been through
a transformation process of the past 15 years. That is the sort
of process that is now beginning to take root in Africa and I
think they can bring their expertise and experience to bear.
Q74 Lord Freeman: Could I ask Mr Wickstead
to elaborate a little further when he talks about infrastructure?
Is he referring to government or physical infrastructure or what?
It is an extremely important point.
Mr Wickstead: I was referring in this case to
physical infrastructure but there is also the human infrastructure
and the capacity building. Underlying everything that needs to
happen in Africa is the development of capacity, the development
of institutions, of expertise. I think there are particular linkages
that could be created between European institutions and African
institutions. I see the potential, for example, for some good,
strong linkages between the European Parliament and the developing
pan-African Parliament. I have in mind particularly the importance
of physical infrastructure, to join Africa up with itself and
to the outside world. I was very struck by a comment I heard from
somebody last week that the most important investment you can
make for Malawi is to develop Mozambique's roads because what
Malawi lacks is that access to the sea and ports to get its goods
Q75 Chairman: We have all seen the strategy.
Like all European Union documents, there is little in them to
oppose and they are all full of good things. Given that there
is a massive task here, what would you list as the priorities?
Would you attempt to prioritise?
Mr Wickstead: I understand that the Commissioner,
Louis Michel, is proposing to produce a subsequent paper which
will be about implementation. I assume that that paper will essentially
do two things. First of all, it will link the ideas in this paper
with the available finances and I think that is a very important
issue: how will the things that are going to be taken forward
be paid for? It will also give what the Commission sees as the
key priorities for its own programmes. When we had the G8 discussions
and the G8 summit, what we wanted to happen with the Commission
for Africa report was that the G8 countries would generally buy
into the overall strategy, but we did not expect every single
G8 country to put finance and resources into every single one
of the 90 or so recommendations of the Commission for Africa report.
Clearly, particular countries have particular areas of expertise.
If the US decided to put a lot into HIV and AIDS, for example,
that means that other countries in the G8 could put resources
into other areas. I think the Commission will need to choose its
own priorities which will be different country by country. In
the countries that I know wellfor example, EthiopiaI
think the Commission has developed a particular expertise in food
security and food issues. That is very important and I would expect
that to continue. As I said earlier, this whole area of capacity
building is absolutely crucial. Europe has a particular experience
to bring to bear on this, given the experience of the last 50
or 60 years and the fact that we now have an African Union and
many institutions which are either in place, like the pan-African
Parliament, or which are proposed maybe a hundred years down the
road, like an African Central Bank et cetera. They are basically
following the pattern of what has been developed in Europe. I
hope that implementation document in a couple of months' time
will pull out those areas and focus very strongly on the priorities.
Q76 Lord Tomlinson: I was interested
to hear you suggest that there might be some benefit in an African
Union parliamentarians/European Parliament dialogue. What gives
you cause for feeling that that might be more successful in Africa
than it has been, for example, with the ACP?
Mr Wickstead: There are a lot of new institutions
and constructions which are happening in Africa. We have the African
Union and NEPAD.
Q77 Lord Tomlinson: I have no doubt that
they take it seriously. It is whether the Europeans would.
Mr Wickstead: I think they are being taken seriously.
I think the pan-African Parliament too is now a serious construct.
There is an opportunity to get in on the ground floor. It is a
new body. Like so many of these new bodies, I believe it has the
political will, the right ideas, but it does not have the capacity
and the expertise. There is a real opportunity, for example, through
developing access to electronic information systems. Every parliamentarian
knows how important it is to have access to up to date, current,
correct information. Is there a role for linkages between this
Parliament and other European Parliaments to help to build the
capacity of the pan-African Parliament in those areas? I know
that the overall European parliamentary association is looking
very carefully into ideas like that. To come to the answer to
your question, I think it is precisely because these are not institutions
that are 30 or 40 years old, that are there and have found a particular
way of being and need to change, that there is an opportunity
now to help shape the way that they will operate by getting in
absolutely at the ground floor level.
Q78 Lord Lea of Crondall: It is very
opportune to hear your views about the approach to implementation.
We have not yet had, as I understand it, feedback on our evidence
from the European Commission but it may well be that our emphasis
on implementation was always going to require a new document and
provoke that. Before the British presidency put the suggestion
to the Council of Ministers and the European Council, there was
in December the longer document of 20-odd pages, the EU strategy
for Africa, and it was entitled "Towards a Euro-African
Pact", which raises the huge question of credibility
about who are the interlocutors. Who is talking to whom? On the
face of it, it is the European Union talking to the African Union
in so far as you can identify any approximate part of that question.
We have been struck by how your Commission use the jargon word
"ownership" and there should be African ownership of
the strategy. That is absolutely important but how do you suddenly
get what is a European strategy to be "owned" by Africa?
Is this a huge credibility gap? Is it just wishful thinking?
Mr Wickstead: It is very important to get behind
Africa's strategy. What we have seen over the last five years
is that strategy developing through specifically the new Partnership
for Africa development. There is this interesting relationship
between the African Union and the NEPAD secretariat because NEPAD
came first. It built up a number of ideas about what specific
projects and programmes needed to be put in place in Africa to
support the overall development of Africa. Then the African Union
came along and the AU is the over-arching body within Africa.
Everybody I think would recognise that there is some tension between
NEPAD based in South Africa and the African Union based in Addis
Ababa about what those key priorities are. Leaving that to one
side, what we signalled in the Commission for Africa report was
that the G8, the European Union, the international community,
cannot afford to pick and choose any more. We cannot pick this
idea because we like it; let us go for this one but let us not
go for that one. We have to take a deep breath and say that this
is the package that Africa wants. This is the overall NEPAD package.
These are the things that Africa has put forward. We have to get
behind them. In that longer document of the Commission as well
as in the shorter one, there are very strong signals that the
international community is now ready to make that step and get
behind what Africa really wants. You are absolutely right to suggest
that there are perhaps different layers of what Africa wants because
the African Union primarily is a coalition of governments, supported
by a secretariat, as with the European Union. I certainly think
that if you talk to African civil society they will say, "We
do not own this African strategy that the African Union pretends
to have put forward. We have not been consulted properly in the
process." It may be that we need to find ways of deepening
the dialogue at that level, at civil society, parliamentarian
and other levels as well as at the governmental level. I believe
that shift of focus has taken place. There is a mindset change
that has happened over the last year or two where the international
community has now determined to support what Africa puts forward.
Africa has put forward a credible series of programmes and projects.
Q79 Lord Lea of Crondall: You are in
favour of what the Commission calls a Euro-African pact. In other
words, here we have a huge table of contents of the Commission
paper which is summarised in the strategy. It goes into everything
under the sun. That is going to be put on the table presumably
by the African Union and NEPAD at the same meeting somehow. Will
there be some sort of negotiation? What does it mean to draw up
a Euro-African pact?
Mr Wickstead: Probably it has happened slightly
the other way round. The sequence of events has been that Africa
has put forward its ideas and its strategy as enshrined in NEPAD
and the document of the European Commission points out ways in
which the EU can support what Africa has already put forward.
I was very struck, reading through the document and putting little
ticks at the side where these were ideas which had been developed
by Africa, and the Commission paper talks about finding ways of
supporting the African Peer Review Mechanism, for example. Let
us find ways of supporting this infrastructure which is now a
strong priority of Africa, of capacity building in tertiary education
which is now a strong priority for Africa. The sequencing is that
this Commission paper is on the back of what Africa has already
said it needs and its priorities.