The future of relations between African and European nations must be mutually beneficial and interdependent, said ECR Group co-Chair Syed Kamall at the opening of the ECR’s first ever Africa Summit today in Brussels.

Opening the summit with European Parliament President Antonio Tajani, Kamall talked of the growing importance of Africa as an economic player over the coming decades as well as the need for greater cooperation in order to face up to the biggest challenges of the 21st century.

Bringing together politicians, international organisations, business people and policy experts, delegates were taking part in a range of panels discussing challenges as health, democracy, security and investment as well as the shape of relations in the future. Guests also debated the growth of emerging technology and how some innovations were starting to create and address common challenges such as financial and digital exclusion.

“Africa is a continent of the future. In Europe, we have to change fundamentally our approach. We must stop seeing this relationship as one of providing development aid and financial support or based on the colonialism of the past. Looking ahead, we need to recognise that our shared projects and policies, both at the national and the European level, haven’t always been a success. But we can agree on the positives that closer and better relations between our peoples, businesses and countries can bring,” Kamall said.

“Ahead of us we are facing a number of incredible opportunities. Opportunities to show just what can be achieved through cooperation, where there is mutual benefit, to take on some of the 21st century’s biggest challenges, such as security, pollution, poverty, health and education,” he added.