Urusla von der Leyen visits Ethiopia on firs overseas visit as Commission President
The new president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has praised the EU’s commitment to Africa during her first official visit outside the European Union in Ethiopia.
“It’s been less than three months since I took office and here I am,” said the new Commission president at a brief joint press conference with the president of the Commission of the African Union, Moussa Faki Mahamat, whom she met shortly after arriving in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
“The African Union is important for the European Union”, she said, adding that she wants to take the relations between the two continents “to another level”, following the roadmap of commitments made in Abidjan (Ivory Coast) at the EU-UA summit in November 2017.
“To achieve this, the European Commission proposed to promote sustainable investment, attract more private investors, support education and skills development for employability, as well as boost trade and improve the business climate,” said the former German defence minister.
Over the last decade, European countries have been eclipsed by China and the United States as investors in Africa, while Russia has also increased its military and economic interests in the African continent.
After meeting with Faki Mahamat, von Der Leyen, accompanied by the European Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen, signed four financing agreements worth 170 million euros with Prime minister Abiy Ahmed Ali.
The majority of the money, 100 million, will go directly towards supporting Ethiopia’s budget, 50 million will go to the Ethiopian health sector and the remaining 20 million will be divided between education and job creation projects.
Von der Leyen congratulated the Prime Minister on winning this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. “I believe that Ethiopia is the hope of the entire continent, you have shown that any conflict can be ended,” Von der Leyen told Abiy, in reference to the peace treaty he signed with Eritrea for which he won the prize.
Von der Leyen also made a courtesy visit to President Sahle-Work Zewde, the only female president in Africa, and then visited a migrant centre run by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).