Africa is becoming an increasingly important player in the globalized world. However, a number of issues have to be tackled to further boost economic growth and increase trade relations on the continent, such as corruption or poverty.
In that context, representatives from various African liberal parties visited the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom in Brussel in order to enter a dialogue with European officials on the status quo of African-European cooperation and how it should be shaped in the future in order to support economic development in Africa and also to strengthen common liberal ties.
Annemie Neyts-Uttebroeck MEP, Member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and former President of the ELDR (now ALDE) Party, stressed the universality of liberalism and pointed out that it is as much a humanist outlook as a way to make politics – thus it can also attract people that are not directly interested in day-to-day politics. She showed herself optimistic that liberalism can serve as an instrument to create freedom, helping to overcome challenges faced by many African nations: “Freedom must come first. Then development will follow.”
As the delegates’ respective parties are members of the African Liberal Network (ALN), one of the partners of the FNF Regional Office in South Africa, the group also discussed future forms of cooperation with ALDEPAC in a meeting with Ursa Pondelek, ALDE Policy Advisor for the Committee on International Trade and the delegation to the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly.
Additionally, the politicians talked with José Costa Pereira, Head of the Pan-African Division at the European External Action Service on the wider political relations between the EU and Africa. In both discussions the importance of cooperation, be it with ALDEPAC or the EU on a more general level, was stressed. However, also the need for further action, especially on the ground level in Africa was pointed out.
To specifically share African viewpoints on the continent’s economic development and free trade with a wider European audience, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom hosted a public event during the visit of the ALN member representatives from Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Ivory Coast, Senegal and Burundi. At the event titled “Africa Rising: Free Trade on the World’s Fastest Growing Continent”, ALN President Olivier Kamitatu shared his ideas on the role and future development of free trade on the African continent (Link).
Getting liberal policies across: workshops in political communication
At the same time, the representatives seized the opportunity to get an understanding of how political communication works in Europe and to explore potential strategies they can apply in their own countries. After all, well-targeted and coherent political campaigns and an awareness of how to transfer ideals and values into day-to-day politics are vital for every politician.
Talking about how to develop policy agendas, campaign strategies and how to establish functioning systems of communication to get across liberal messages, Annemie Neyts-Uttebroeck MEP, shared her experiences as a politician on national as well as European level. She pointed out the necessity of reliable structures within a party as well as the importance of perseverance: “No party is sustainable in the medium or long-term, if it isn’t organized well, also in times of hardship.”
Thomas Leys, Policy Advisor at Open Vld Policy Centre and former Campaign Officer for Open VLD shared insights into strategies and communication channels the Open Vld, part of the new Belgian coalition government, has successfully applied in order to reach their electorate: he emphasized the role of good party branding as well as the necessity of decentralized, local campaigning. In line with that, Joakim Frantz, Policy Advisor for ALDE Party pointed out that there are often differences in how parties see themselves and how they are perceived from the outside. Parties have to be aware of this divergence and constantly re-evaluate their own strategies, according to Frantz. In addition, long-time political advisor Peter Schröder shared his rich and worldwide experience with the delegation. Internal unity and good communication within the party, in order to represent cohesiveness to the outside, was underlined by all speakers.
Putting this framework into actionable strategies, the delegation explored in a workshop methods of direct campaigning and strategies on how to make best use of social media; the latter by drawing on the example of the Facebook and Twitter appearances of the ALDE Party.
Photo credit: fnf-europe.org