The situation in Africa is characterized by a catastrophic humanitarian situation, where more than 20 million people are affected by hunger. East Africa and the Horn of Africa in particular, as well as South Sudan, Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia are affected by persistent drought. Countries in the Sahel- and Chad regions also face huge humanitarian challenges. Violent conflicts are aggravating the situation and lead to big refugee flows. Many West- and East African states also are vicitims of frequent attacks by the Islamist terror militia Al Shabaab.
In light of the extraordinary humanitarian crisis and at the initiative of Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, the Austrian Federal Government provided 10 million Euros from the Austrian Foreign Disaster Fund for Africa. From 2007 to 2016 the Austrian Development Agency provided 30 million Euros in supportof 60 projects for food security in Africa.
More than half a century after the end of colonialism, the situation in Africa south of the Sahara differs to that of other parts of the continent. Economic growth, which in some countries, like Ethiopia, and Rwanda, is above growth rates in the industrialized world and consolidation of democratic structures in some countries like in Kenya stand in contrast to violent conflicts and fragile peace and democratization processes especially in the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes region. The number of countries in which multiparty elections take place is increasing even though shortcomings, non-compliance of mandate restrictions and the arbitrary postponement of elections such as in the Democratic Republic of Congo remain. Stability in the Great Lakes region around the Democratic Republic of Congo is fragile. Somalia’s new president and new government raised expectations of reforms and the holding of democratic elections. However, not least due to the permanent threat by the Islamist terror militia Al Shabaab, the country still is far from being stable. In South Sudan (the youngest state in Africa which separated from Sudan in 2012 following a referendum), rivalry between President Salva Kiir and his former Vice-President Riek Machar led to a violent conflict along ethnic lines, huge refugee flows und a hunger crisis. Despite the holding of elections in the Central African Republic, the security situation remains a concern.
As Austria had no colonies, bilateral relations are not strained by the past and are focused on a few countries and specific topics. Austria is represented by Embassies in Senegal, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya and South Africa as well as by 4 coordination offices of the Austrian Development Agency ADA Burkina Faso, Uganda, Ethiopia and Mozambique and by Foreign Trade Offices in Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya. Austria is participating very actively in the articulation of EU-politics towards Africa focusing on the protection of civil society, the protection of journalists, women and children, “Rule of Law”, disarmament, the reduction of irregular migration as well as dialogue of religions and culture. The strategic partnership between the EU and Africa is Africa’s most institutionalized partnership. Its focus is on increasing the political dialogue between equal partners and the implementation of concrete measures in areas of common interest. The EU-Africa-Strategy which was agreed upon in Lisbon in 2007 is still the political framework for relations between both partners in 8 key areas. Despite a reorientation of African countries towards new partners in Asia, Latin America and Arab world, the EU remains Africa’s most important trading partner. The EU has increased its activities in particular in the areas of peace, security, infrastructure and development cooperation (see CFSP- operations in Africa). The EU provides humanitarian emergency aid for crises and remains the most important donor of development aid in Africa. In November the 2.8 billion USD EU Trust Fund for Africa was founded. The EU also fosters trade between African and EU-member countries and helps to improve conditions for investments in Africa.
As one of Europe’s closest neighbours and a continent of increasing importance, Africa represents great challenges in terms of demographics, security policy and the consequences of climate change. But it also offers opportunities for the European and the Austrian economy.
The 5th EU-AU summit will take place at the end of November 2017 in Abidjan under the motto ”Investing in Youth- For a sustainable Future“.