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Jan 8, 2024

A very timely EUVP visit - Coletta Wanjohi

I attended the EUVP programme from 25th September to 2nd October 2023. When the EU Delegation in Ethiopia nominated me to attend the programme, I was excited, but I wasn’t sure how to prepare for it. So, I decided to attend it with an open mind, prepared to learn.

I had produced news stories on EU policies in Africa while working in Ethiopia where the African Union Commission has its headquarters. The EUVP helped me practically understand things that I had just heard from press conferences and interviews.

All the EU interlocutors I was scheduled to meet were so kind to help me understand my focus. The interactions were more conversational with all of them, and in many instances, we found ourselves caught up by time before finishing the interesting discussions.

My EUVP visit came at the time when the African story is bolder than ever. We in Africa want to tell our own story in our own way and own it. We want to have partnerships that are on a win-win basis. We want to erase the previous teacher-student mentality that characterized the EU-Africa relations years back.

That is what founded the basis of my interaction with the officials I met. I questioned how the EU policies on peace and security, migration, development and integration are aligning to the direction that Africa wants to head to. The officials I met were patient with me and delved even into areas that I was so ignorant about. It was great learning experience for me.

Some areas of discussion attracted more lengthy conversations, for instance my argument with some of the officials I met was about the aspects of human rights being tagged to support to African countries. There was also the aspect of how the EU will align its trade with Africa to fit into the African continental free trade area and not the other way round. Some discussions were left for “another day”, but I was glad that the officials took their time to help me understand how the EU is trying to meet Africa with its demands halfway.

An equal EU-Africa relation on all aspects is work in progress and one that I hope will happen while we are still alive to see it. From my interaction with all the officials that were all lined up for me, the EU understands this and is working towards keeping the continent as its major partner.

The EUVP programme is so well planned that it avails one with all the sources of information he or she needs. The one-on-one interaction is also a good approach because you get a whole hour to yourself with the officials to discusss the topics of your interest.

And the walking! Ooh the walking was definitely part of the adventure of the visit!

And to crown it all, the participants that I visited the EU with were all amazing. I met colleagues from Congo, Japan, Lebanon, Papua New Guinea, Laos and Bhutan. I had never met anyone from Papua New Guinea, Laos and Bhutan, so it was a true discovery.

Each and every one of my colleagues in the EUVP cohort made every day so much fun, we ruled Brussels and France with our daily evening loud laughter – I was thrilled to have met these very good people!

I’m grateful I was part of the EUVP programme and I wish it for many other Africans so that they can better understand the Africa – EU relations.