African Union visit could mean Canada pivots to ‘coherent engagement’



The African Union’s high-level visit to Ottawa this week could signify a long-delayed deal with the continent, as nations vie for a chunk of a rising financial pie.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will meet Wednesday with the African Union Commission head, Moussa Faki.

On Thursday, Faki will co-host a proper dialogue with Foreign Minister Melanie Joly, joined by Trade Minister Mary Ng and International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan.

The visit was promised in February 2020, simply weeks earlier than the COVID-19 pandemic.

It comes at a time when Russia and China are making a push for affect throughout the continent.

“The geopolitical competitors for Africa’s consideration is as intense because it has ever been for the reason that finish of the Cold War,” stated University of Ottawa professor Rita Abrahamsen, who makes a speciality of African research.

She stated the assembly could recommend Canada is getting severe about Africa.

“Canada has by no means had a constant Africa coverage. It has been arbitrary (and) fluctuating,” Abrahamsen stated.

“If this could point out extra of a coherent engagement, then that could be a major change.”

Similar to the European Union, the African Union goals to preserve peace and free commerce, and contains most nations on the continent.

The group, which turned 20 years outdated this summer time, additionally intervenes militarily in conditions like alleged crimes in opposition to humanity.

Lately, it has had to reply to famine-like situations in East Africa, flooding in massive components of West Africa and a return of navy coups.

That has left organizations such because the African Development Bank apprehensive concerning the West diverting humanitarian assist to assist Ukrainians after Russia’s invasion.

Meanwhile, African nations have cut up in votes to condemn Russia, and the African Union has tried to preserve ties with Moscow.

“They’re attempting to preserve a place of neutrality and non-alignment, which is a really tough place to navigate for the continent,” Abrahamsen stated.

Many states fear their humanitarian assist shall be contingent on supporting Ukraine, with nations like Canada aggressively attempting to isolate Russia. Joly has pressured that the invasion is a key driver in international meals shortages.

“The AU is delicate to western nations patronizing them, and telling them what to do and the way to do it,” stated Abrahamsen, who can also be the director of the Centre for International Policy Studies.

She stated Ottawa ought to attempt to work with the African Union to shore up the rules-based worldwide order.

“There has to be a partnership of equals,” Abrahamsen stated.

“There has been a common tendency to underestimate the extent to which Africa and the AU can truly be a optimistic participant in safeguarding in multilateral co-operation.”

The Liberals have been slowly growing Canada’s footprint on the continent, opening a brand new excessive fee in Rwanda and dedicating a everlasting observer to the African Union. Yet Ottawa nonetheless has greater than a dozen of its ambassadors in Africa cross-accredited to a number of nations.

Joly’s workplace stated the purpose of this week’s talks is “to lay the foundations for even deeper co-operation,” on all the pieces from local weather change to public well being.

“This essential gathering is going down at a vital juncture for the world,” spokesman Adrien Blanchard wrote.

“The worldwide guidelines that hold us protected are being challenged. Democracy is going through new threats. And hard-fought positive factors to girls’s rights are being reversed.”

Meanwhile, enterprise leaders say Canada wants to reap the benefits of among the world’s youngest and fastest-growing economies in Africa.

“We’ve received to change the body during which Africa has been seen,” Business Council of Canada head Goldy Hyder advised a panel final week on the Toronto Global Forum.

He argued the continent is without doubt one of the few locations the place firms can construct infrastructure from scratch, as a substitute of bidding for upgrades. That means Canada can provide vitality, vital minerals and meals.

Hyder stated there may be additionally a startup increase, with among the highest digital adoption charges and a continent vast commerce settlement.

Liberal MP Rob Oliphant stated he desires Canadians considering in these phrases as a substitute of specializing in Africa’s wants.

As Joly’s parliamentary secretary, Oliphant has been tasked with drawing up an Africa technique “with a Canadian modesty, not the best way different nations may do it,” he stated.

Oliphant advised the Oct. 19 discussion board that Ottawa will proceed its humanitarian assist for Africa, however that the technique goals to bolster financial ties and international guidelines that permit funding to flourish.

“We do not have these colonial vestiges; even the brand new colonialism of a U.S. or a China, or a Russia, or Turkey. We’re seen as somebody who shall be respectful and have interaction at that degree,” Oliphant stated.

He stated the technique will match the African Union’s 2063 blueprint for socio-economic improvement, relating all the pieces from democracy and local weather change to how Ottawa ought to goal its commerce missions.

Oliphant stated he hopes to current a drafted technique to cupboard by the top of this 12 months, to be publicly launched in 2023.

This report by The Canadian Press was first revealed Oct. 26, 2022


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