G7 in Charlevoix: Let’s Circle Back to Africa

Text from the Groupe de réflexion sur le développement international et la coopération (GREDIC), a group of former directors of international development NGOs (Robert Letendre, Nigel Martin, Yves Pétillon, Mario Renaud, Nicole Saint-Martin, Pierre Véronneau).

The opinions expressed by the signatories of this open letter are their own and do not engage CECI in any way. We are distributing the letter because we believe it represents an interesting contribution to the current debates on international aid.

Can Prime Minister Trudeau make the G7 summit in Charlevoix, on June 8 and 9, an unequivocal success? Will he dare present a bold initiative that could make a real difference in people’s lives? Why not a proposal for Africa, whose future is sure to influence our own, as we can already witness?

All G7 summits are influenced by current international affairs. The upcoming meeting of Trump with Kim Jong Un will certainly have an influence, for better or worse. The G7 is accusing Russia of threatening democracy worldwide by way of cyberattacks, misinformation campaigns and attempted assassinations. The decision to keep the Iran nuclear deal in place or not will affect discussions too, just as many other world events could also have an impact on the summit to be held in idyllic Charlevoix.  

With everything that is going on, Africa might very well be left on the back burner if not forgotten entirely. However, its current and future situation should be a top priority for us all. According to the UN’s projections, 40% of humanity will be African by 2100, with 4.5 billion people on the continent. In 2050 already, one third of the world’s 15 to 29 years old will be living in Africa. Nearly half of Africa’s population (550 million out of 1.5 billion) is still living in poverty today, of which 380 million people are in extreme poverty (living on less than US$1.90/day) (1).

Africa certainly has come a long way over the past decades, both socially and economically, with the consolidation of a civil society playing an ever-stronger part. Still, the challenges ahead remain significant. Nearly half of the continent’s youth are unemployed. Many try to migrate to Europe, and increasingly now to the Americas as well. Despite the dangerous conditions of illegal immigration, at the mercy of crooked smugglers, this human flow will not be stopping any time soon. This youth is also becoming the target of extremist ideologies, religious or ethnic, that feed conflicts hindering the progress of development and democracy. Finally, we can expect to see more and more climate refugees coming from the world’s poorest country in particular, including those in Africa. What we are facing is a momentous ethical and moral challenge, not only for Africa and its leaders, but also for the leaders of the world’s wealthiest countries, whom our Prime Minister will be hosting.

African leaders are fully aware of the situation. In 2001, they implemented the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) in order to fight poverty, promote a sustainable development and remedy Africa’s marginalization from globalization. And NEPAD recently became the African Union’s (AU) new development agency.

So why not decide to support these African leaders looking to affect change, by renewing the Global Partnership for Africa? The task at hand is enormous, the challenges plentiful, and these leaders need support and cooperation from the richest countries.

We know of Canada’s five themes for the upcoming G7 summit: Investing in growth that works for everyone; Preparing for jobs of the future; Advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment; Working together on climate change, oceans and clean energy; Building a more peaceful and secure world. All of those themes are very much consistent with Africa’s situation, and we believe that Mr. Trudeau could present a strong initiative to help the people of this too often forgotten continent face the colossal challenges that affect their lives and that will have a major impact on the whole planet.

The African governments and the international community should be more adamant in their efforts to improve life conditions on the continent and to offer better, fair access to quality health and education services, especially for women and girls. The continent is also suffering from the chronic failings of its infrastructure, affecting quality of life in urban areas as well as economic growth. Furthermore, fair and sustainable development in Africa will not happen until state governance issues are addressed. Corruption and lack of accountability among the ruling class are plagues that must be tackled in order to foster a healthy democracy and encourage citizens to engage in building their future.

Just as Prime Minister Chrétien did in 2002 at the G7 summit in Alberta, Mr. Trudeau could take a strong stance and convince his G7 partners to build together a flagship initiative encompassing all of the summit’s themes, making the fair and sustainable development of Africa a top priority for the international community. Such an initiative could then be promoted throughout the world’s capitals and large international organizations over the following months.

The world’s fair and sustainable development cannot take place without Africa, and this issue should remain a top priority for the international community. Everyone’s future is at stake. Our Prime Minister now has the opportunity to act as an enlightened leader in the matter, and he can count on our support to do so.

On behalf of the Groupe de réflexion sur le développement international et la coopération (GREDIC), a group of former directors of international development NGOs (Robert Letendre, Nigel Martin, Yves Pétillon, Mario Renaud, Nicole Saint-Martin, Pierre Véronneau).

  1. Sources: World Population Prospects 2017 UN; Poverty in a rising Africa 2016 World Bank


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