ACP YPN at EESC Post-Cotonou meeting

On 15-16th May 2017, Yentyl Williams ACP YPN President and Founder presented at the European Economic and Social Committee’s (EESC) 28th meeting of ACP-EU economic and social interest groups on the panel on ‘The future of EU relations with the ACP group of countries’. The panel was chaired by Brenda King MBE, EESC rapporteur on post-Cotonou and the other panellists included, Geert Laporte, Deputy Director, European Center for Development Policy Management (ECDPM), Chinedu Madichie, Board Member, African Diaspora Network Europe (ADNE), Steffie Neyens, Member of the ACP Working Party, Concord.

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Yentyl raised three main points:

Firstly, with regards to trade and regional integration, Yentyl asked whether the Economic Partnership Agreement’s (EPAs) engender the regional integration that would foster the structural transformation that ACP states seek? She highlighted that the EU and ACP states must engage in the constructive criticism that surrounds all EPA debates. For example, the EU and the ECOWAS, EAC and SADC regions have negotiated long and hard to get a goods only EPA agreement, which contrasts strongly from ‘comprehensive’ Caribbean EPA that includes services, intellectual property and public procurement amongst others. However,  many critics of the EPAs underline that these newer EPAs were concluded in order to safeguard African regional integration first and foremost, as the foundation for development. In this regard, she recalled the words of Sir Shridath Ramphal, former Commonwealth Secretary-General who aptly highlightedThe challenge that faces developing countries is not merely the challenge of economic development, but the fact that in failure lies the danger of returning to a new dependency – a new kind of colonialism – deriving from economic weakness.” (2014).

Secondly, on development cooperation, Yentyl recalled the critical work on Walter Rodney who identified the ‘development-underdevelopment’ dialectic in his seminal work on ‘How Europe Underdeveloped Africa’ (1972). She asked whether the EPAs are a continuation or an end to the development under-development dialectic and evoked the importance of understanding the current rejection of these agreements by Tanzania in East Africa and Nigeria in West Africa, amongst others. Moreover, she highlighted that these agreements are post-SDGs and may not be aligned with the universalism that the SDGs are based on. Thirdly, Yentyl invoked the relevance of discussing Brexit, which up until her presentation was not mentioned and remained the ‘elephant in the room’.

Yentyl concluded by underlining how ACP YPN is innovating the EU-ACP policy space by implementing the provisions of Article 26 Cotonou on youth issues, and recommended how EU-ACP relations can benefit innovating the structures that already exist:

1.     Establish a scholarship for 3 ACP students to complete the College of Europe Masters programme – similar scholarship exist for other regions but not the ACP region (!)

2.     Allocate a part of existing budget to finance implementing Article 26 Cotonou on youth cooperation – ACP YPN founded the Youth Forum at the EU ACP Joint Parliamentary Assembly, and despite it’s institutionalization in the Assembly there have been no funds allocated to support young people to attend (!)

3.     Include youth organizations as formal members monitoring the provisions of international trade agreements at the level of the EESC – ACP YPN has advocated for this with the EESC, the European Parliament and is observer at the Cariforum-EU Joint Consultative Committee

About the EESC:

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) organises meetings with the economic and social interest groups in the ACP-EU countries. This role was confirmed by the Cotonou Agreement, which mandated the EESC to organise consultative meetings and informal meetings between EU and ACP economic and social interest groups (Protocol No 1).

In accordance with the role entrusted to it by the Cotonou Agreement, every three years the EESC holds general meetings in Brussels bringing together economic and social interest group delegates from the 78 ACP countries and EESC members, along with representatives of the EU institutions, national economic and social councils, the Secretariat of the ACP Group of States, ACP and EU states’ diplomatic missions, NGOs, international organisations, international socio-occupational organisations and other stakeholders. Aside from these general meetings, regional seminars are organised in ACP regions on average once a year.

These general meetings in Brussels aim to factor the points of view of civil society into the implementation of the Cotonou Agreement.

Link to official photos here.

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ACP YPN at New Approach on Collective Security in Africa, Dakar, Senegal

On 16th May 2017, Tarila Marclint Ebiede, ACP YPN expert on peace and security and Research Fellow (PhD) at the University of Leuven, participated as an expert at a workshop on “New approaches to collective security” organized by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Peace and Security Centre of Competence in Sub Saharan Africa. The meeting was attended by experts drawn from Africa and Germany.

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Tarila discussed the challenges of sustainable peacebuilding in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region in the context of “why peace fails in post-conflict countries in Africa?”. Tarila discussed three key issues within this topic 1) understanding violent conflicts in Nigeria’s Niger Delta. 2) the amnesty and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) of ex-combatants in Nigeria’s Niger Delta. And 3) Instability since the implementation of an amnesty and DDR programme.

  • First, Tarila explained his research project at the University of Leuven’s Centre for Research on Peace and Development. This research project shows that there are multiple dimensions to armed conflicts in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region. However, the Nigerian government focused mainly on one dimension, which is the armed militancy against the Nigerian government and oil industry in the region. This has informed the state response to conflict in the region. Hence, while the state peacebuilding policy focuses on armed militancy, other forms of conflicts continue to persist in local communities. This argument of the research is in Tarila’s published paper with African Security.
  • Second, Tarila explained that the application of an amnesty and DDR programme provided financial incentives for armed groups to participate in the peace process in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region. However, these financial incentives increased the cost of the peace process. The Nigerian government is no longer able to bear the cost of the DDR programme due to formidable economic challenges. This has triggered new violence in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region.
  • Finally, Tarila discussed the new forms of violence in Nigeria’s Niger Delta. He explained that this renewed violence is caused by ex-combatants who are struggling to maintain the financial incentives in Nigeria’s DDR programme.

In summary, Tarila argued that a key lesson from Nigeria’s Niger Delta is that peacebuilding within new approaches to collective security in Africa should pay attention to the unintended consequences of incentive structures that are created as a result of financial benefits in peacebuilding programmes such as DDR. Tarila noted that peacebuilding policies such as DDR should not create a dependent relationship between armed groups and the state. Instead, peacebuilding should focus on addressing the various dimensions of armed conflicts as it affects conflict impacted communities.

Want to know more about peace & security?

Get in touch with Tarila Marclint Ebiede: @temarclint

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ACP YPN at High-Level Post-Cotonou Roundtable

On 24 April 2017, Yentyl Williams, ACP YPN President and researcher on EU-ACP trade relations, presented at the French Representation to the EU, Institute of Research for Development and (FERDI) Roundtable on the Future of EU-ACP relations. Yentyl presented in the panel on Regional integration and economic and trade dimension alongside Koen Vervaeke, Director General, Africa; Shada Islam, Director of Policy, Friends of Europe; François Bockel, Director of regional cooperation and external relations of New Caledonia; and Yves Sommeville, Deputy Secretary General of the Walloon Federation of Agriculture (FWA), European Economic and Social Committee.

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Yentyl presented three points on the new generation of EU-ACP trade agreements, and the Economic Partnership Agreements. She underlined:

  1. This new generation of free trade agreements must not engender economic weakness in the developing regions of the ACP countries. She recalled the words of Sir Shridath Ramphal, former Commonwealth Secretary-General, who/and aptly highlighted that “The challenge that faces developing countries is not merely the challenge of economic development, but the fact that in failure lies the danger of returning to a new dependency – a new kind of colonialism – deriving from economic weakness” (2014). Yet, there is tension between these agreements promoting further regionalism or fragmentation.

2.    She asked whether these agreements can bring the necessary structural transformation to ACP economies, which would depart from a history of relations based on the development-underdevelopment dialectic, identified by Walter Rodney in his book ‘How Europe Underdeveloped Africa’. In 1972, Walter asked: “[…] by distorting our economies to fit in with the demands of the world market, the demands of which are not always compatible with the demands of our own development, are we not, in the process, depriving our economies of the capacity for a self- sustaining growth which is a precondition for development?” Yentyl asked whether the EPAs are the right tool, especially as they are pre-SDGs, and underlined that they will need to be effectively monitored.

3.    Yentyl also highlighted the current landscape of shifting paradigms : (i) EU has published the results of its consultation and presented the likely future framework based on the three pillar structure, yet in other policy areas the EU is moving towards a more pan-African approach, which could side-line the Caribbean and Pacific regions. Therefore, the structure will not stand if one pillar is substantially stronger, but merely serve as a transitional agreement to an EU-Africa partnership. (ii) ACP side has published its own vision in the Waigani declaration, “to consolidate South-South and Triangular Cooperation for the socio-economic development of their peoples; Re-affirmed their vision to make the ACP Group the leading transcontinental organisation; more effective intra-ACP cooperation, while diversifying the ACP Group’s cooperation”. (iii) BREXIT is the new elephant in the room, but it offers leverage to those countries who want to leave the EPAs because of the fundamental change BREXIT invokes in future EU-ACP relations, and this is possible under  Art. 62 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.

On the subject of youth (Article 26 EU-ACP Cotonou agreement), and future EU-ACP relations, Yentyl made three points:

1.    The College of Europe must establish scholarships for ACP students and encourage diversity promotion at the EU level;

2.    At the parliamentary level, ACP YPN founded the ACP-EU JPA Youth Forum that has been institutionalised at the bi-annual JPA. However,there is lack of financing to ensure youth remain a part of this exchange resulting in a lack of sustainability and ownership;

3.    At the level of the EESC, youth need to be integrated into the monitoring processes of trade agreements. Already, ACP YPN is an observer at the Cariforum-EU Consultative Committee, and have applied for full membership. This needs to be done for all the other EPAs, and why not for all trade agreements? ACP YPN already recommended this at the International Trade Committee of the EP.

In conclusion, Yentyl underlined that we need concrete steps to construct a future based on more positive EU-ACP relations: 1) to overcome historic critique of EU-ACP relations and 2) to be more inclusive, especially vis-à-vis young people who will inherit this agreement.

There is a lot at stake in post-2020 negotiations, and both the EU and the ACP needs to do some deep soul-searching in the short time we have beforehand.

Contact & follow Yentyl Williams via LinkedIn or Twitter

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ACP YPN at Allen and Overy discussing entrepreneurship

On the 19th of April, ACP YPN attended Allen and Overy to take part in a panel discussing entrepreneurship. The audience predominantly comprised a group of high-achieving graduates, investment bankers, consultants and legal professionals who were interested in launching their own businesses. ACP YPN’s representative was the only woman on a panel made up chiefly of ex-investment bankers who had launched businesses in hair and beauty, dining apps, online news, driverless cars, investments and pensions. We spoke of the challenges of setting up organisations, how to access finance, and the persistence and drive required therein. Watch the full event here.


The audience were itching to know the secrets: How to make it big; How to create serious profit; How to know who are the right people to hire and bring along on the journey. The panel had to bring the audience back to reality. Here are four points to note that were discussed with the audience.

  1. Setting up a business takes extreme perseverance and long hours.

Entrepreneurs spoke of their experience of long hours, sleepless nights, early mornings and exhaustion. This is mainly driven by an intense passion for one’s product and the value that it can provide to the world or the related market. It is often a balancing act trying to juggle several jobs, networking, and taking part in unpaid work in order to turn dreams into reality before the funds start coming in.

  1. The reward is initially very low.

As outlined above, sourcing funding to start a business is difficult, especially as profit-making and revenue streams do not occur automatically. Most people spoke of the extended period where their business is not in profit, and the need to work in the professional sector for a few years to save up funds to invest in their own business whilst reaching out to venture capitalists. The point was raised that investors can make tax-deductible investments and therefore are looking for projects to feed money into. However, they demand sound business plans of how they can get return on their investments and not just flashy PowerPoints! Knowing your business case is important.

  1. There may be other competitors in the market but that is not necessarily a bad thing.

Doing your market research is important. There may be people already doing similar things as you are offering. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but you will need to have some sort of innovation or new spin that you can drive forward. At the end of the day, there are loads of businesses that sell the same product but some are more successful than others and it is important to figure out what your differentiator is.

  1. Who are the right people to hire and bring along on the journey?

The entrepreneurs recognised that you need a strong team of willing volunteers, assistants, and people with different skillsets whose capacity you can leverage. They also need to share your passion and vision. Family and friends can be important supports, as well as reaching out to people you meet through networking. One entrepreneur stressed the benefit of his team of people for blogging, youtube videos and endorsements to get his product out there.

If you would like advice on setting up an initiative, or you are interested in information and funding opportunities with any of the businesses on the panel, including ACP YPN, feel free to get in touch!

Have you got some questions? Write to us: or via @acpYPN

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