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Debating the Dutch Government’s new strategy for Africa

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By Nicola Francesconi

KIT recently co-hosted the debate ‘Redefining Relations’ on the Dutch Government’s newly launched Africa Strategy. The debate centred around the question: What does an equal partnership between African and Dutch institutions look like? Following up on the discussion, Dr. Nicola Francesconi, a senior economist at KIT, shares his thoughts on the key ingredients for forming equal partnerships and the unusual approach KIT has taken in its collaboration with AKADEMIYA2063.

The Africa Strategy for 2023-2032 provides the vision of the government of the Netherlands on its intended political and economic cooperation with the African continent as a whole, encompassing both North and sub-Saharan Africa. The strategy overlaps and seeks to create synergies with the second implementation phase of the African Union’s “Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want”.

This is the first Africa-wide strategy ever endorsed by the Dutch Government. It has the ambition to look 10 years ahead, to anticipate long-term changes in the relations between Africa and Europe. The main hope is that the relationship between Europe and Africa will continue to evolve towards one of greater equality and deeper interdependence. We at KIT strongly share this vision and are committed to help realize it.

Invest in the relationship, not just the outcome

To do so, common goals and interests should be at the heart of the relationship between African and European institutions. The identification of common goals and interests will require deep understanding of each other’s position, as well as mutual commitment to invest in the relationship per se, rather than the relationship’s outcomes.

However, we at KIT also believe that cooperation on an equal footing will need to depart from the usual bilateral and multilateral support strategies, in which African institutions are considered as passive beneficiaries, and take a truly symbiotic or partnership-based approach.

The current political crisis and terrorism threat that is sweeping across the Sahel is arguably the regretful conclusion of decades of bilateral support, from France towards its former colonies, which is also and derogatively known as “françafrique”. Multilateral, intergovernmental or international institutions, with their top-heavy bureaucracies,  have also and too often contributed to foster dependency, as opposed to empowerment, among African institutions.

In addition to this, both bilateral and multilateral support strategies have proven to be more sensitive to prevailing political interests than rigorous empirical evidence.

Global partnership organisations

KIT has therefore decided to take a different path that aims at establishing deep and equal partnerships with like-minded African institutes, or what we like to call ‘global partnership organisations’. These partnerships are specifically intended to provide evidence-based thought-leadership for the design, implementation and harmonization of EU and AU development policies.  

As an example, in October 2022 KIT signed an memorandum of understanding (MOU) with AKADEMIYA2063, a Rwanda and Senegal based knowledge institute supporting the African Union’s (AU) in the design and implementation of rural, agricultural and food related policies, within the framework of Agenda 2063.

Such a partnership does not involve financial exchanges between KIT and AKADEMIYA2063, it is instead driven by joint fund-raising and employment-creating efforts geared towards the establishment of a legitimate and credible research-policy interface that can deliver evidence-based intelligence on agri-food systems to both European and African policymakers.

Read the Dutch Government’s Africa Strategy here.

About the author: Nicola evaluates and manages the impact of a series of multi-million, multi-year and multi-stakeholder projects in support of rural cooperation and resilience, agri-food value chains and seed sector development across sub-Saharan Africa. Moreover, he’s been spearheading KIT’s partnership with AKADEMIYA2063