The private sector must play a bigger role in the EU’s development policy, according to the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) Group in the European Parliament.

“We need to empower people to lift themselves out of poverty,” said ECR Development spokesman Nirj Deva MEP.

Speaking ahead of next week’s EU-Africa Summit, Deva stressed that aid alone cannot do this and taxpayers cannot afford fill the funding gap needed to reach the UN’s development goals.

“We must use public money to leverage private investment if we are to reduce poverty.”

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals face a funding gap of $2.5 trillion despite the $1.4 trillion already spent globally on foreign aid. The ECR Group believes that by using public money to leverage private investment, this funding gap could be reduced and the strain on the taxpayer reduced.

“I am pleased that the ECR’s work promoting the potential of public-private partnerships has paid off,” said Deva. “Ahead of the EU-Africa Summit next week we’ve been looking at how private sector and financial markets can play an important role in development.”

According to ECR co-Chairman Syed Kamall MEP, aid risks fostering a culture of dependency rather than innovation, business and empowered communities.

“Policymakers, development specialists, politicians and NGOs increasingly recognise that we must work with the private sector if we are to help the remaining 767m people out of extreme poverty,” he said.