Request for advice on Africa 2020: international cooperation in a continent with mixed growth prospects, inequality and instability

August 16, 2017

Professor J.G. de Hoop Scheffer
Chairman of the Advisory Council
on International Affairs
P.O. Box 20061
2500 EB The Hague

Date   12 October 2016

Re       Request for advice on Africa 2020: international cooperation in a continent with mixed growth prospects, inequality and instability

Dear Professor De Hoop Scheffer,

Just a few years ago the belief that global economic progress would make development cooperation redundant seemed to have convincingly won the Beyond Aid debate. Many developing countries have indeed grown out of poverty, and there have never been so few extremely poor people in the world (less than 10% of the global population). However, progress has not been as fast as predicted, more countries are lagging behind, and new problems have arisen that also affect Europe. The lack of progress is particularly stark on the African continent, where nearly 400 million people still live in extreme poverty.

One lesson we have learned is that globalisation is accompanied by large-scale inequalities within countries. This is also true in Africa: large swathes of the population have seen little benefit from the growth of national economies. Furthermore, African economies still rely heavily on raw materials. Agricultural productivity is growing, but only slowly, industrial production is negligible, and the expanding services sector is barely profitable. Africa’s great challenge in this phase of globalisation is to keep pace with the global economy and the rapid technological advances. The continent’s population is growing rapidly (from 1 billion now to an estimated 4 billion in 2100) and the rate of urbanisation is accelerating, but tens of millions of young people are out of work. Weak state interventions, internal conflicts, religious agitation and terrorist groups threaten the stability of many African countries and are further retarding their growth. More than ever before, the fallout can be felt in the Netherlands and Europe as a whole. In addition to the influx of refugees from the Middle East, asylum seekers and irregular migrants are streaming out of several African regions in search of a brighter future. Some negative developments will be exacerbated by climate change.

At the same time, international cooperation is changing. Development cooperation has helped improve the social dimension of development in recent decades: in many African countries access to healthcare and education has increased, infant and maternal mortality rates have declined, water provision and sanitation have improved, etc.

Investments have also been made in economic infrastructure, increasingly by means of private funding and blended finance. The Netherlands has given much more prominence to economic development in recent years and worked with Dutch companies and experts to make marketing chains more sustainable and strengthen private sector development. More is being done at the interface between security and development, and multifaceted support for reception in the region has added a new dimension to humanitarian aid. Development cooperation and Official Development Assistance (ODA) are modernising, covering far more fields and becoming more diverse than traditional development cooperation.

Against this background of progress and stagnation in Africa and the wider scope of international cooperation, I would like the AIV to issue an advisory report on the role of Dutch (and EU) development cooperation in improving the economic prospects and stability of Africa in the years ahead. Secondary questions could include:

- Where should the focus lie to contribute effectively to more sustainable socioeconomic development in Africa? How can the Netherlands further shape its cooperation with Dutch and foreign companies in order to strengthen private sector development? When is the emphasis on themes in which the Netherlands has experience and expertise helpful in a fragile environment and when not? When should the current limited cooperation with governments be reconsidered and when not?

- How can the Netherlands best formulate a coherent and integrated policy on development, security, defence and sustainability for disadvantaged regions of Africa? What is the relationship between such a policy and the Global Goals?

- How should bilateral efforts relate to efforts at EU level and to work through multilateral organisations?

I look forward to your report with interest.

Yours sincerely,

Lilianne Ploumen
Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation