Austrian leader watches on as AU chair laments Europe's failure to sign migration pact

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (L) greets Moussa Faki Mahamat (R), Chairperson of the African Union Commission at the start of a EU-Africa high level forum meeting in Vienna. (AFP)
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (L) greets Moussa Faki Mahamat (R), Chairperson of the African Union Commission at the start of a EU-Africa high level forum meeting in Vienna. (AFP)

African Union (AU) Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat has expressed disappointment at the failure of some European countries to sign a recent global compact that will help manage migration around the world.

The topic of migration overshadowed Tuesday's Africa-Europe summit on digital co-operation as the host - the right-wing government of Austria - was one of the at least eight EU countries that controversially didn't agree to the migration compact in Morocco last week.

Mahamat told European and African government leaders at the opening of the summit: "I was recently in Marrakech where many EU states didn't sign the global compact on migration, even though it's not binding. We must not let political difference divide us. Initiatives such as promoting the digital economy can in itself provide solutions."

He said what was needed was a "situation where we can provide training and young people can develop".

It was not about "charity and handouts for the African 'problem'", but speaking to societies about reaching their potential, he said.

Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Austria, Latvia, and Italy also rejected the migration agreement.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz made no mention of migration in his opening speech.

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Speaking entirely in German, Kurz said Europe should think about Africa as equals.

"We want to change the European perception of Africa so that when they think about Africa, they not only think of poverty, but of opportunity," he said.

Kurtz added that Africa offered a significant market to Europe. President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, said Europe and Africa should "create a balanced relationship based on shared responsibility".

He said: "For too long the relationship was seen as based on those who give and receive, and based on migration alone. Today's summit is not about migration, but a summit between equals."

He said the destinies of Africa and Europe were linked.

Investors in Europe and Africa should be "more brave" and invest in Africa. AU chairperson, Rwandan President Paul Kagame, said Africa wanted to collaborate with Europe to reach its goal of boosting innovation and job creation.

"We are not going to measure success solely in terms of migration statistics," he added.

"A much better yardstick is how creating high-quality digital jobs in Africa will also boost job growth in Europe."

Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams represented South Africa at the summit.

Carien du Plessis is in Vienna courtesy of the Austrian government.

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