Why Africa, EU must build sustainable partnerships for future generations

Deputy Prime Minister of the Netherlands Wopke Hoekstra delivers a speech in Paris, on January 28, 2022. [AP photo]

In preparation for my visit to Kenya, I learnt about the notion of Pamoja which is so deeply embedded in the Kenyan culture and so badly needed in our world today.

Because today's challenges have one thing in common, they can only be met together, in unity, by embracing each other's perspectives with an open mind, and by taking joint responsibility for the world we share.

Among them is the challenge of keeping our continents stable, peaceful and safe. In Kenya, you can feel the war that is raging in Europe, and Europeans similarly feel the impact when there is instability in the Horn of Africa.

Here we must work together... and we do. For example, by hosting refugees in the region. Kenya is showing great leadership in this regard. Safety and stability in the region are important because it also ensures economic growth and therefore also development in a broader sense.

Another shared interest is in maintaining our multilateral system. Kenya's voice has been strong on this matter, particularly when it comes to upholding the UN Charter. While multilateralism is an important vehicle for unity and achieving our goals, we also see the need to make this system more effective and inclusive.

Together with the African Union and African countries, we want to explore how we can support UN reform processes and also ensure better representation for African countries, more in line with the current demographics of our world. Because a system only works if all voices are heard.

Other shared challenges include climate change and the energy transition. Here, I strongly believe our countries and continents hold the key to a more sustainable future. While Europe can offer technology and investments, Africa not only possesses critical resources but also generates many innovative ideas.

From a broader economic perspective, the Netherlands invests bilaterally and through the EU in strengthening economic relations, for example by taking a leading role in sustainable digitalisation and in agriculture. The aim is to ensure that everyone benefits.

At their closest point, Africa and Europe are just 14 kilometres apart, a distance that poses no real barrier to today's challenges. I believe that cooperation, too, can easily cross that divide. President Ruto's visits to Europe and the Netherlands are proof of this. Our countries and continents have a solid foundation to build on.

The EU is Africa's main trading partner and investor. Within the EU, the Netherlands is the largest market for Kenya, larger than all other EU countries combined. Worldwide, the Netherlands is the second largest export destination for Kenya.

This relationship presents tremendous opportunities in a wide range of fields. Yet to bring our partnership to the next level, more is needed. Listening to each other's views on issues of key interest is of crucial value.

That is why we have also initiated a structured dialogue with African think tanks. And that is why we are eager to listen to the innovative and bold ideas of young Africans on making our world more sustainable. They can be true drivers of change.

'We all share one planet and one humanity, there is no escaping this reality' is how your esteemed compatriot Nobel prize winner Wangari Maathai described what binds us. The Netherlands wants to protect these invaluable resources.

We want to invest together with you in tomorrow's generation and ensure that the world they inherit is livable, prosperous and safe. That is the basis of the sustainable partnership that my country would like to engage in with you.

-The writer Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Wopke Hoekstra