Nigeria successfully exits recession

This week in Brussels the focus is on Africa-EU relations at the S&Ds with Africa week-long event.  Delegates will discuss the challenges that we face together and highlight our shared vision of a future governed by the principles of cooperation and freedom.  As the Nigerian election approaches in February 2019, we are reminded that the country under President Muhammadu Buhari has stood, and will continue to stand, as a beacon of progress in Africa.

In 2000, at the first Africa-EU summit in Cairo, Europe and Africa came together to form the Africa-EU Partnership. Defined by the Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES) in 2007, the goals of the partnership are clear: to reinforce dialogue between Africa and the EU, to expand Africa-EU cooperation, and to promote a people-centred partnership. Since 2007 several successful multiannual action plans have been agreed upon and put in place to work towards the tenets of the partnership.

This week in Brussels the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) hosts S&Ds with Africa, a 5-day homage to the many challenges that Africa and the EU are facing hand in hand, to our shared vision, and above all to the reality that Africa is Europe’s largest and closest neighbour and that in this ever-changing world we are better off facing the future together than apart.

Some of the key trials we face together in Africa are centred around the themes of peace and security, democracy and good governance, human and economic development, corruption and the rule of law, and climate change. It’s worth noting that these are not African problems, here in Europe we are fighting on many of the same fronts and meeting success and failure in many of the same areas. There are leaders in Africa just as there are in Europe championing the causes of democracy, freedom, and the rule of law.

Across the continent, African citizens are increasingly being given the opportunity to vote for candidates that represent this forward-looking spirit; candidates like the newly elected President Bio of Sierra Leone, and President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria. In his first few months of office, President Bio has already issued an executive action offering free education for primary and secondary school students in government run state schools throughout the country, eliminated application fees for students applying to public universities, and directed the justice ministry to set up an independent commission of judges to investigate institutional corruption and graft.

In 2015 President Buhari took office on many of the same campaign promises as President Bio in Sierra Leone; pledging to tackle corruption at every level, invest in the people of his country, kick-start many segments of the economy, and empower a new generation of Nigerians to participate equally and together build a brighter future for the country. In February 2019 Nigerians will have the chance to once again empower Buhari with the ability to continue delivering on his promises and, like Bio, forge a future that all Nigerians, young and old, can be proud of.

Over the past 4 years President Buhari has been able to deliver on many of his promises. He has invested widely in the future of the country through many programmes including reviews for a better health care system designed for the growing population, social investment intervention programmes including home grown school feeding and job creation, and significant pension reform.

Perhaps his most notable achievements include tackling corruption to the tune of over one trillion Nigerian naira within the country, the equivalent of 2.4 billion Euros, through establishing cooperative agreements with European agencies and governments in order to tackle rampant tax-evasion. President Buhari’s government has also recovered the infamous “Abacha loot”; a 300 million USD hoard stashed away in Switzerland by the previous military ruler.

The path these leaders choose to take is fraught with traps and pitfalls; it is all too easy to forget that change takes time and that the battle for democracy and rule of law is a battle against engrained and institutional practices that favour the few over the many, those that have rather than those that don’t.

Europe should be watching this election with great interest. Nigeria is a beacon of economic power in the region and grow into one of the global powers; just as it has the potential to fall into a pattern of political and economic corruption that is all too common across the continent. Nigeria is nothing less than a staunch ally and strong strategic partner of Europe in a part of the world that receives too-little attention, and we would be fools to consider the country as anything less than on our doorstep and its fate as anything other than intertwined with our own.

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