WHILE President Robert Mugabe boycotted the fourth European Union(EU)-Africa summit, most African leaders took advantage of the meeting to market their countries as safe investment destinations.
Zimbabwe boycotted the summit principally over the EU’s decision to deny Mugabe’s wife Grace a visa, citing the EU travel restrictions slapped on her and that spouses were not invited.
Information available shows that 40 African heads of state and government attended the summit, while close to 50 African countries participated.
A total of 28 European countries were present, 22 of which were represented by heads of state.
The summit, held under the theme Investing in People, Prosperity and Peace, discussed several issues among them trade, education and training, women and youth, immigration and ways to stimulate growth and create jobs, among other things.
EU head of delegation to Zimbabwe Ambassador Aldo Dell’Ariccia said the summit also sought to eliminate trade barriers between the two continents.
Running alongside the summit was the fifth EU-Africa CEO business forum held on Monday and Tuesday. The forum brought together more than 700 government officials and business executives from the two continents.
Most African countries and businesses took part in the forum, including Zimbabwe’s private sector, although the country was not represented at government level.
Since the adoption of the Joint Africa-EU Strategy in Lisbon, Portugal, in 2007, economic cooperation between the EU and Africa has been growing.
Between 2007 and 2012, EU imports from Africa increased by 46%. In 2012 the EU imported African goods worth €187 billion while African imports from the EU amounted to €152 billion.
“Throughout this time the EU remained Africa’s prime source of imports (34% of total African imports) as well as its main export market (40% of African exports). In total, 37% of African trade took place with the EU in 2012,” according to a factsheet on the EU-African summit.
“In 2012, EU accounted for 48% of foreign direct investment stocks (€221 billion) and 21% of global FDI flows (€7,8billion) to Africa. Over the last 10 years, African investment in Europe increased by more than 700% and was standing at €77 billion in 2012.”
In addition, Europe remains Africa’s biggest development partner.
Between 2007 and 2013, EU and its member states disbursed around €141 billion in aid to support Africa’s development.
Zimbabwe’s decision to boycott the summit was self-defeating.
The EU has indicated it is likely to lift in November Article 96 of the Cotonou agreement it slapped on Zimbabwe in 2002, allowing for the normalisation of relations.
Trade between Zimbabwe and EU doubled between 2009 and 2012, reaching a total of US$800 million at the end of 2012, with the terms of trade being US$200 million in Harare’s favour.
Mugabe has ratified the interim Economic Partnership Agreement between the EU and eastern and southern African states, giving the country unlimited opportunities to export its products to countries in the 28-member bloc duty free and quota free.
Figures from Brussels obtained this week showed in the first eight months of last year, trade between the EU and Zimbabwe stood at €523,4 million, with Harare exporting goods worth €333,5 million, while €189,9 million worth of European goods entered Zimbabwe. This gives the country a trade surplus of €143,6 million.
Zimbabwe also boycotted the summit over issues concerning Egypt, Morocco, Sudan, and Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic although the EU clarified matters.