The European Union launched a fund for Africa on Thursday with an initial $2 billion to combat the poverty and conflict driving migration to Europe, but African leaders said more fundamental economic change was needed.
The trust fund, unveiled at a summit with African leaders in Malta, consists largely of 1.8 billion euros ($1.93 billion) put up by the European Commission, the EU executive, from the bloc’s central budget. The Commission wants member states to match that, but few have pledged much so far.
The new money, which adds to some 20 billion euros annually donated to Africa by the EU and its 28 states, will finance projects ranging from training and small-business grants and combating food shortages to schemes directly aimed at cutting emigration and tackling radicalization and other violence.
With Europeans’ attention now gripped by over half a million Syrians and others whose arrival has plunged the EU into crisis, memories have faded of the drowned Africans whose deaths in April prompted the Malta summit. However, EU officials say that African migration presents the greater long-term concern.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed the summit was only a start: “We have a great deal of work ahead of us,” she said.
Among the biggest concerns in both Europe and Africa is the extent to which climate change, turning vast areas around the Sahara into desert, may set large sections of Africa’s fast-growing billion-plus population on the move, both within the continent and north across the Mediterranean.
Initial direct pledges from the member states, who also fund the EU budget, amount to just 78 million euros, but EU officials expect further money soon. African leaders at the summit in Valletta stressed that its effect would be limited.
“The trust fund is not enough, 1.8 billion euros is far from enough,” said Mahamadou Issoufou, the president of Niger in the Sahel, which faces serious problems with migration and drought.