3 questions to Giovanni Faleg

Giovanni Faleg (@gioFALEG) is a Senior Analyst at the European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS). He is responsible for analysis and research on sub-Saharan Africa and works on issues such as conflict prevention and peacebuilding, as well as the EU engagement in the region. Before joining EUISS, Giovanni worked at the World Bank in the Fragility, Conflict and Violence Unit, at the Centre for European Policy Studies and at the Istituto Affari Internazionali.

Question 1 

Can you brief us on the Task Force on African Futures which produced Chaillot Paper N°164 ? What has been its working method and above all how did the idea for this project come about?

The task force was launched in November 2019 by the EUISS in partnership with leading African and European research institutions. Its main objective was to explore trends affecting the future of Africa in the next ten years, emphasising challenges and opportunities for policymaking. As a result of a preparatory retreat that took place in Brussels on 23-24 July 2019, the group identified the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) as a key factor driving economic, technological and societal transformations in Africa in the next decade.

Among the multiple possible futures for Africa, members of the task force agreed to focus on a favourable one, leading to integration, peace and prosperity. Using a strategic foresight methodology called ‘backcasting’, experts imagined a 2030 reality in which all African states are participating in the AfCFTA, most of them have removed tariffs on 90% or more of their intra-African trade, and the trade area extends to customs investment, intellectual property, competition policy and e-commerce. In this scenario, the implementation of the AfCFTA paved the way for deeper economic integration, producing economic growth, fostering innovation and social progress, and contributing to peace, stability and poverty reduction. Ten scenarios described how policy action in key areas between 2020 and 2030 has made it possible for the continent to make the journey towards free trade. But the story could have been different. Many things could have gone wrong, short of policy action to mitigate the challenges of the next decade, such as rising violent extremism, extreme weather events, urban sprawl, digital divide, unemployment, bad governance, low electricity access, militarisation, and ‘seablindness’. ‘Grey rhino’ scenarios were hence developed to raise red flags about what could happen if negative sectoral trends are not addressed, showing the costs of inaction.

By combining different foresight methodologies and engaging in close consultation with practitioners from both continents, the task force sought to build a shared understanding of future trends in Africa. The goal was to provide policy and decision-makers with recommendations for policy innovation or adaptation, aimed at mitigating the negative impact of transformation and maximising the opportunities to foster shared and sustainable growth.

Question 2

What should we learn from the work done? Were you surprised by some of the results and scenarios?

The Chaillot Paper African Futures 2030 offers a nothing less than a roadmap. Through its scenarios, it provides a set of actionable, cross-sectoral policy options for African leaders to move fast towards a better future under the AfCFTA umbrella, and indicates how the EU could support that vision. While the objective of foresight is generally to enhance preparedness to deal with future uncertainty, this work goes beyond that, it develops a very concrete agenda for Africa’s peace and prosperity based on one possible way forward, supported by a simple logic: anticipating the future and endeavouring to shape a positive path is better than suffering an adverse fate.

In some cases, we observed that the future became actually closer than what we initially expected. The “stress test” scenario provides a good example. We imagined that in January 2030, a proxy confrontation in Djibouti between the US and China leads to the militarisation of the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, preventing foreign ships from passing through. It is imagined that the blockade opened the most serious confrontation between US and China, in turn leading to an economic downturn and global recession, exacerbated by food insecurity caused by an overlapping weather shock. The implications sound only too familiar if we consider the impact of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine on Africa. Conclusions from the stress test outline that Africa’s vulnerability to shocks can be mitigated, and its resilience increased, through continental integration, boosted by the AfCFTA, leading to stronger African agency.

Other scenarios present innovative ideas, such as the launch of a treaty on conventional forces in Africa to contain militarisation and armaments proliferation; and develop new ways to look at processes that have geopolitical relevance, such as urbanisation, digital and green transformations or the fourth industrial revolution.

We firmly believed that harnessing expertise and perspectives from both continents can have a transformative power and contribute to a truly forward-looking partnership between Africa and Europe.

Question 3

Finally, in the light of the war in Ukraine, how do you see the continent evolving: what are the warning or comfort points that you see?

The war in Ukraine has accelerated pre-existing geopolitical transformations. Our latest Chaillot Paper, called “African Spaces”, analyses areas where geopolitical competition is taking place in the African continent, why, what is changing and what are the implications for a stronger strategic partnership between African and European countries. It includes many answers to this question.

Having said that, the competitive multipolar system is undoubtedly testing the relations between Africa and Europe. Despite the difficult geopolitical context and divergent responses to the war, it is paramount for the African Union and the European Union to harness opportunities arising from the crisis and uphold multilateralism, talk to, and understand each other. From the point of view of opportunities for cooperation, I see two priorities: first, developing a people-centred approach, for instance promoting regular mobility between the two continents, addressing food insecurity, investing in education programmes, cooperation in science, technology and skills development that can sustain transitions, particularly green and digital ones.

Second, as we suggested in the African Futures 2030 Chaillot Paper, support Africa’s continental trade and economic integration, and related infrastructure development, so as to decrease African countries vulnerability to shocks, increase societal resilience, foster African agency and provide better opportunities for the African citizens. By working together to achieve these goals, Africa and Europe can accompany each other in the path towards a fairer international system, and be better protected from future crises.