News & Media / In conversation with... Horst Köhler

In conversation with... Horst Köhler

17 February, 2022

On 15 February, Ibrahim Prize Committee member and former German President, Horst Köhler was joined by members of our Now Generation Network (NGN) for a discussion about Africa and Europe. 

Meeting just ahead of the 6th EU-AU Summit, they explored the longstanding relationship between the two continents and how this should evolve in this “century of change”. Horst Köhler started the conversation with an overview of the strong links between Africa and Europe, based on historical ties, geographical proximity and mutual interests. 

Noting multiple areas for win-win cooperation – including greater ‘brain circulation’ (the exchange of labour and ideas), the march towards carbon neutrality, and investment in Africa by European pension funds – Horst Köhler called for a new relationship in which Africa and Europe “leave old habits behind and learn to share opportunities, ideas and responsibilities”.  

In the wide-ranging discussion that followed, the NGN members agreed that it is time to reimagine the partnership between Africa and Europe, and that young people from both continents are key to bringing about this change. 

Both parties have something to offer, they bring something unique that is complementary in some cases. It should be a win-win situation where each party highlights their needs and their unique strengths.

~Ademulegun Olowojoba, Now Generation Network member

We are at a really important point in the development of the relationship between Africa and Europe. We need to value what Africans produce; it is the only way we are going to achieve the kind of partnership that we are talking about.

~Norbert Haguma, Now Generation Network member

The group agreed that the relationship between Africa and Europe has largely been unequal. They discussed the impact this imbalance has had on the technology and energy sectors, with Africa being left out of intellectual property development processes. Most recently, this has extended to vaccine manufacturing. 

If you look at some of the wind systems that have been used in South Africa, they’ve largely been developed in Europe and exported to Africa. The continent wasn’t really part of the IP development. We also see this with the vaccine issue.

~Nomahlubi Jakuja, Now Generation Network member

Conditional assistance makes this partnership unequal. In the sixties, African countries left abusive, forced marriages, and now, 62 years later, we are still struggling to find the space that we need to grow.

~Bora Kamwanya, Now Generation Network member

The green energy transition must be a priority topic for both Africa and Europe. The NGN members highlighted Africa’s energy challenges, highlighting that many economies on the continent are still reliant on fossil fuels, presenting real barriers to getting to net zero. They also outlined African-led solutions for reducing global emissions such as the Great Green Wall project, a movement to grow a wide belt of trees, vegetation and fertile land across the Sahel.

It is understandable that we should join the rest of the world in shifting towards renewable energy, but I think the developed world has the moral authority to lead on that, while allowing African countries to build their capacity and their ability to join them.

~Patrick Godi, Now Generation Network member

The discussion concluded with the NGN members calling for a positive shift in the Africa-Europe partnership. Wider engagement by young people from both continents will help to secure a better, more equal relationship in the future.

To coincide with the webinar, a poll (590 responses) conducted by the Foundation revealed that 42% of young Africans are optimistic that a stronger Africa-Europe partnership can improve safe and legal pathways for African migrants (39% no; 19% maybe). 53% felt African countries should not be expected to achieve their energy goals without using fossil fuels (31% yes; 16% unsure). Lastly, 71 % of respondents were aware that, as of 27 January, just 10.2% of Africa’s population is fully vaccinated compared to 70.2% the EU.

Horst Köhler was joined by: 

Watch the conversation: