AFP/ Addis Ababa
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen assured Africa of the EU’s strong support during a visit to Ethiopia yesterday, her first trip outside Europe since assuming her post.
The former German defence minister, who took office on December 1, landed in the capital Addis Ababa in the morning and headed to the African Union headquarters for talks with AU chief Moussa Faki Mahamat.
“I hope my presence at the African Union can send a strong political message because the African continent and the African Union matter to the European Union and to the European Commission,” she said after the meeting.
“For us, for the European Union, you are more than just a neighbour.” Von der Leyen, who has prioritised the fight against climate chang, said the EU and AU could collaborate on the issue.
“You here on the African continent understand climate change better than anyone else,” she said.
She and Faki also discussed migration and security issues. “Honestly I don’t have all the answers to these challenges but I am convinced that together we can find answers,” she said.
Faki for his part called for greater international mobilisation to counter security threats, including terrorism.
Von der Leyen also met with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, congratulating him on winning this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. “I think that Ethiopia has given hope to the whole continent,” she said, adding that “I want you to know that we are at your side”. Abiy thanked her for the EU’s support but said he hoped for more funding to spur economic reforms.
The EU and Ethiopia also signed agreements worth 170mn euros ($188mn) yesterday. Of that sum, 100mn euros will go towards transport and infrastructure in the East African country, 50mn for the health sector, 10mn for job creation and 10mn for elections ahead of landmark polls next year. Yesterday’s agenda also included a sit-down between von der Leyen, the commission’s first woman president, and Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde, the first woman to hold that title.
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