Members of the Africa Europe Faith and Justice Network (AEFJN) had their 2018 seminar on 15 March 2018. AEFJN is a network of 48 male and female religious congregations advocating and lobbying for economic justice between Europe and Africa, at the European Union headquarters in Brussels.  The seminar took place at the General house of the Missionaries of Africa. The 2018 seminar focused on developing a four year Plan of Action (PoA) for advocacy and lobbying at the EU. This process started in October 2017, with a questionnaire sent to member congregations. The questionnaire asked each congregation to identify and suggest, from the experience of their members on the ground in Africa, particular areas for advocacy, while bearing in mind EU’s economic policies in the continent. Suggestions of focus areas for advocacy will enable AEFJN’s secretariat in Brussels, to develop concrete strategies that bring out opaque economic policies, that are not in the interest of the poor in Africa. It also empowers the secretariat to advance alternative and people centered economic policies that will intentionally embrace the poor in Africa. The secretariat collated responses to the questionnaire, from which they produced a draft PoA. Focus areas that emerged from the responses were: Climate change, Extractive minerals and Corporate Social responsibility, Food Sovereignty, Good governance, Migration and Trade.

The Executive Secretary of the network Chika Onyejiuwa CSSp, presented the draft PoA to the participants at the seminar. He highlighted some contextual changes in the economic relationship between Europe and Africa. Last year, the former through the initiative of the government of Germany, The EU proposed a Marshal and compact plan with Africa, which is put forward as a “new partnership for Development, Peace and a better Future” in Africa.  Another economic bloc, the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) presents another emerging but interesting economic context in Africa. Lobbying the EU involves knowledge of the economic policies of the BRIC nations in Africa. It is also essential to pay attention to the actions of Trans National Companies (TNC) in Africa, some of whom neither follow due process in their business deals, nor respect human and environmental rights. Aided by corrupt and rent seeking African elites, these TNCs continue to impoverish millions in the continent, which produces the raw materials that propels global post-modern industrialization. The Executive Secretary emphasized that  AEFJN’s  new PoA, should take these and other emerging issues on board in designing efficient and effective strategies for advocacy and lobbying at the EU.

Twenty-two participants representing different male and female religious congregations participated at the seminar. They worked in three language groups on the draft PoA, and identified priority areas for the network’s advocacy in the next four years. Participants agreed that many of the issues in the PoA are interconnected, since one issue is necessarily linked to other, and effective advocacy on one issues will affect others. Underlying these issues is the question of poor governance and oversight responsibility on the part of governments in Africa, not forgetting the greed and profit driven business initiatives of TNCs. Given the complexity of the context and the multifaceted nature of the actors, the participants advised the secretariat to focus on one or two areas. Participants emphasized the need for formation and training on the use of advocacy to advance the mission of member congregations. They also emphasized the need for formation and training in the use of advocacy to advance the mission of member congregations.  They suggested establishing more local antennae of member congregations at the grassroots. These antennas will form the bedrock of local AEFJN advocacy while assisting to provide the secretariat with credible information for advocacy at the EU. Member congregations were invited to the antenna meeting of the network which will make place in Namur Belgium, from the 11th – 13th May 2018. The antenna meeting in Namur will bring together representatives from different European antennas, while representatives from Africa will join the meeting via skype. Religious congregations who wish to join AEFJN’s initiatives at the EU are invited to contact its President, François de Paul HOUNGUE SMA by email

Jude Nnorom CSSp