Green turnaround, digital transformation, sustainable growth and employment, peace and governance, migration and mobility – European Union and African Union cooperation is gaining momentum.
„A better world based on a rules-based international order“ – this is how Josep Borrell, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy / Vice-President of the European Commission, expresses it in 2020. In 2007, a joint EU-AU strategy was adopted. It marks the formal relations between the Union and the countries of Africa. Cooperation is implemented through time-based action plans. They contain five key areas for joint action. In March 2020, the EU and EEAS presented a communication on cooperation with Africa. It is a partnership on migration and mobility; green transformation and access to energy; digital transformation; peace, security and governance; and sustainable economic growth and employment.
Agricultural model estate: helping people help themselves – successful collaboration across continents
Co-creating for a better world is what the responsible officers of GrowExpress Ltd. based in Ibadan in the West African state of Nigeria are pursuing. Thomas Wegener, a native of Berlin, sees himself as a citizen of the world. Having traveled professionally for decades in various African countries, he is committed to sustainable perspectives with social engagement beyond his professional activities. Years ago, he was entrusted with a model farm to produce food as an environmentally sustainable land use for self-help. For GrowExpress, the focus is on improving local communities and their lives. „If you go to Africa, the first thing you notice is the many, many children and young adults. Africa’s society is young and ambitious, who want a better local life,“ says Thomas Wegener.
This is precisely where GrowExpress comes in with its model farm. „After the oil discoveries a few decades ago, Nigeria had neglected its own agriculture. Working together as a team with further training opportunities, knowledge transfer and step-by-step support for the successful cultivation of the model estate,“ explains Wegener. GrowExpress works with farmers* on their own large-scale block farms, which allows each farmer* to work on a specific area within the land provided and also to participate in modern equipment, knowledge exchange and logistics chain. At the same time, the purchase of the goods is guaranteed and, in the best case, they are processed on site to achieve an even higher refinement of the staple foods and thus achieve higher sales prices. Executive Director Erik Simon explains that the results have been stunning and promising, as it has encouraged local communities through major improvements in overall village life. „It’s a cycle that could be created with a long-term perspective,“ says Erik Simon, adding that this leads to sustainable improvements in everyday life and community life. Starting with improved sanitation, financial inclusion by opening individual bank accounts, participation in public life also by connecting to the Internet, enabling children to access and participate in school, a stable and secure food supply.
Implementation of regional strategies
They cover, for example, the Horn of Africa, the Gulf of Guinea, and the Sahel. The Horn of Africa has been battling drought for several years, causing a severe humanitarian crisis. In 2011, the EU introduced measures to help the population establish peace and security. The main problem in the Gulf of Guinea is the lack of control over the coast and coastal waters. Crime such as human trafficking, drugs, theft and illegal fishing is on the rise. The EU has been working on the rule of law and supporting local governments since 2014.
The example of Mustergut in Nigeria makes it clear how important regional projects are. „The population in Oyo State is given a new sustainable perspective so that migration to the metropolis of Lagos is reduced,“ states Kingsley Ekwueme, GrowExpress Operational Manager. GrowExpress focuses on education and training. Agricultural training on the latest locally adapted technologies is continuously provided, together with internationally renowned institutions such as IITA (International Institute for Tropical Agriculture) and GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit). GrowExpress leaders see this as confirmation that only through joint partnerships can change be created in a sustainable way. „Trainings concern modern seed systems and economic fertilization and harvesting methods incl. real business examples from IITA and the National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC) of Nigeria. Professor Lateef Sanni emphasizes perspectives in the trainings and urges farmers to engage in projects with a general entrepreneurial mindset to ensure longevity,“ explains Kingsley K. Ekwueme COO.
Europe and Africa growing together
The European Union strongly supports Africa’s efforts to develop and improve living conditions. The EU funds development programs that benefit many countries in Africa. Targeted strategies with partnerships build trust and lead to sustainable improvements in living conditions, this can be derived from the EU-AU strategy. Erik Simon comes from the banking and business domain, knows that in today’s world, independent and qualified advice to countries and institutions is becoming increasingly important to achieve short, medium and long term goals and successes that contribute to the sustainable improvement of people’s lives on many levels. Erik Simon: „Whether building a health care system or financing bilateral economic agreements at the state level, expertise, advice and support at all levels of economic policy are essential for long-term success.“ Not to be neglected, the consistent development of economic relations by the respective embassies in each country, combined with core competencies by unions and institutions, result in a broad portfolio of instruments that offer tailor-made solutions for long-term and peaceful coexistence.
Global Citizenship: Transformation – Justice – Security
The EU is heavily involved in Africa for several good reasons. These include security, migration, and economics. Because of Africa’s relative proximity to Europe, any conflicts and internal threats in Africa have a negative impact on all continents. „Africa must no longer serve only as a good sales market and source of raw materials, but as an equal member of the world,“ Thomas Wegener is convinced. GROWEXPRESS stands for sustainability, with investments in the future and enables the highest efficiency and yield increases with innovative production processes. „Local resource protection comes first, followed by people and their living conditions,“ says Kingsley Ekwueme. As an innovative company, GrowExpress has lean structures and access to the latest technologies and solutions, investing in the development and operation of sustainable production facilities in conjunction with local food production.
Managing together with partnerships, security, equity and the challenge of transformation. GrowExpress Ltd. is demonstrating in a small way what the EU-AU strategy means in a big way. Not only African countries and the European Union will benefit from the activities, but changes will be felt worldwide. They offer great opportunities for development, have an impact on security in the regions and improve the living conditions of many people.
Student and blogger
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Chief Operating Officer – GrowExpress Ltd.
Cocoa House, Dugbe
GrowExpress Ltd office is located in Nigeria, Cocoa House, Dugbe, 200263 Ibadan, one of the major industrial estates in Oyo State, Nigeria. The company GrowExpress Ltd. manages an agricultural estate of 800 hectares about 200 km north of the megacity Lagos in Nigeria. GrowExpress stands for sustainability. By investing in the agricultural future with innovative production methods for maximum efficiency and yield increases. For more information, visit https://growexpress.org