Writes Zeus, Content writer, Headline Diplomat, LUDCI.eu
Understanding its leadership role in the world, the European Union (EU) tries to promote international cooperation and development policy that contributes to reducing poverty and ensuring sustainable economic, social, and environmental development around the globe. For many decades, the European Development Fund (EDF) has been the main instrument through which the EU delivers developmental assistance to the African, Caribbean, and Pacific Group of States (ACP) and the Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs). Created in 1957 by the Treaty of Rome, the EDF is managed by the European Commission (EC) and the European Investment Bank (EIB). Each EDF lasts for several years and is funded outside of the EU budget by the EU Member States based on financial payment on certain contribution shares.
The EDF supports actions in developing countries and territories to promote economic, social, and human development and regional cooperation. One of its important programs is the Regional Indicative Programme (RIP), which has had several funding periods and focuses on different regions of the world. In Africa, the EU’s Regional Indicative Program identifies and focuses its efforts on the four Sub-Saharan regions: West Africa, Southern Africa, East Africa, and Central Africa.
Efforts of the RIP (2014-2020) in the Central Africa region
Central Africa is made up of Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Sao Tome, and Principe. Although the region has a huge potential for social and economic development, it has often been troubled for decades by several internal and external crises. This has created a situation where many of the countries within the region are politically unstable, allowing transnational organized crime (TOC), corruption, and terrorism to thrive. There have also been conflicts between countries and between local communities, and owing to the weak or absence of local authorities around many of these places, it has created a route through which many illicit activities, such as the trafficking of persons, poaching, drugs pushing, and arms deals, are perpetrated. Furthermore, the problem of climate change and uncontrolled demographic growth in the region are affecting the seasonal movement of pastoralists, bringing about conflicts with other social groups and increasing food insecurity and internal displacement, which further promotes instability and insecurity in the region.
Although 70% of the Central Africa region is rural, it is rich in natural resources and contains the second-largest tropical forest area in the world. For many countries in the European Union, the region remains an important source of raw materials, such as wood and oil. Yet, many countries in the region have not been able to successfully take advantage of their natural resources to improve the general standard of living of their people.
The EU has a strong and long-standing relationship with the Central Africa region and has identified that the key challenges facing the region border on:
- fostering peace, security, and stability
- preserving the fragile ecosystems and ensuring their sustainable use and development
- climate change and illegal trafficking of flora and fauna
- diversifying economies and increasing food production
- promoting a better investment climate, an integrated regional economy, and improved infrastructure
What the EU hopes to achieve in the region
The European Union seeks to implement actions to tackle these challenges through the Regional Indicative Programme for Central Africa, which was adopted in June 2015. The EU’s cooperation with Central Africa under the 11th EDF is concerned with the problem identification, formulation of studies, and finally, the implementation of suggested actions. The RIP for Central Africa (2014-2020) has the overall objective to contribute to reducing poverty by supporting better growth and regional economic integration among countries in the region. The program provides about €350 million to the Central Africa region and is focused on these three key areas:
- political integration and cooperation for peace and security
- economic integration and trade
- sustainable management of natural resources and biodiversity
The Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) are responsible for implementing this program at a regional level.
The RIP (2014-2020) in Cameroon
Cameroon, being the largest middle-income country in Central Africa, has a dynamic private sector and a fairly diversified economy. However, despite its natural resources, Cameroon’s economic growth has been rather slow compared to other countries. The 11th EDF National Indicative Programme (NIP) allocated €282 million to Cameroon for the 2014-2020 funding period, which focuses on governance and rural development.
While the NIP is concerned with the implementation of the developmental goals in respective countries of the region, it also addresses other issues such as gender equality, the environment, prevention of HIV/AIDS and malaria, and human rights (especially that of the pygmy people). Cameroon plays a vital role in the region and is the first country in the region to ratify the Economic Partnership Agreement with the EU. On its part, the EU supports achieving the strategic priorities of Cameroon, which are:
- becoming a middle-income economy by 2035
- restoring peace and security
- reducing poverty
- reinforcing national unity and consolidating the democratic process
Some of the projects furnished by the EU through the National Indicative Programme (NIP) include:
- CAMWATER Project: Rehabilitation and extension of mineral water infrastructures in the capital Yaounde and the cities of Bertoua, Edea et Ngaoundere.
- Kribi Gas-fired Power Plant
- Lom Pangar Reservoir Dam
- Africa Mobile Network LTD. Project: This was done to give access to telecommunication to residents of rural communities in Cameroon.
The RIP (2014-2020) in the Central Africa Republic
The Central African Republic (CAR) has, for decades, been unstable due to several internal and external conflicts, and the resultant unstable governance. The CAR population is faced with many harsh difficulties because of food insecurity and lack of basic needs such as water, health, and education. A quarter of the population has been forcibly displaced both within and outside the country.
The European Union is the main partner of the CAR and, over the years, made efforts to support the recovery and stabilization of the country. The EU has continued to support the Central African Republic in addressing the governance, economic, social, security, and humanitarian challenges. The 11th EDF National Indicative Programme (NIP) allocated €442 million to CAR for the 2014-2020 funding period, with a focus on economic governance and social services, security sector reform and democratic governance, and rural resilience with job creation. The EU supports the CAR’s national strategy called “Plan National de Relèvement et de Consolidation de la Paix en Centrafrique”, which focuses on the following three areas:
- ensure economic recovery and boost productive sectors
- renew the social contract between the State and the population
- support peace, security, and reconciliation
The EU, through the 11th EDF National Indicative Programme, has accomplished several projects in the Central Africa Republic some of which are listed below:
- In 2015 the EU assisted the government and the Autorité Nationale des Elections (ANE) in the organization of free, fair, and credible elections leading to the return to Constitutional order.
- The EU has supported 300 schools in areas affected by conflicts, and as a result, benefitting 150,000 of the most vulnerable groups as well as 5,000 teachers.
- Through the EU, over 2 million people received medical care of good quality provided by EU projects in the whole country. EU is also working with the government and other donors in the implementation of free basic healthcare for children under 5 years, as well as vulnerable people.
- EU assisted over 750,000 farmers to improve productivity and increase production and access to markets. Over 2 million animals were vaccinated to improve animal health, food safety, and food security.
- 12,000 individual women and over 600 groups benefited from activities for their social and economic empowerment
- The EU also contributed to the improvement of the security sector through its support to the internal security forces allowing redeployment across the territory and the recruitment so far of 500 new policemen and gendarmes.
The European Union, through the RIP (2014-2020) for Central Africa, has supported and accomplished a lot for the Central Africa region. However, a lot still needs to be done. As a matter of urgency, the region needs the support and assistance of the EU in coping with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Furthermore, there is a need to promote more intra-regional trade within Central Africa. Presently, the “resource curse” theory in which countries with an abundance of raw materials have lower economic growth seems to apply in the region. Hence, the region needs to be supported to improve the value chain of their raw materials to promote export diversification and increase revenue.
In Cameroon, more effort is needed to fight against the proliferation of the Boko Haram insurgency, especially in the Far North region of the country. Also, specific efforts need to be made to address the multiple poverty crisis affecting the northern region. The Central Africa Republic remains one of the poorest countries in the world, and for this reason, there is a vital need to continue to ensure peace and stability and fight against poverty in the country through purposeful policies. The agricultural sector of the country needs more intervention and investment to tackle the persistent problem of food insecurity.