November 28, 2019
The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne
Minister of Foreign Affairs
First of all, congratulations on your reelection and your new Ministerial appointment.
The Africa Study Group (ASG) of the Canadian International Council’s National Capital Branch was created in 2007 with the objective of expanding Canadians’ awareness of African issues. The ASG’s founders realized that Canadians were insufficiently knowledgeable about the continent, and that the then Government of Canada was no longer paying sufficient attention to the continent. Unfortunately, we firmly believe that this is still the case, despite the importance of Africa with respect to questions that are central to your Government’s concerns, notably climate change, the equality of women and men, refugees and migration, security and, increasingly, to trade and economics, as the economic importance of the continent grows.
It is in that light that we submit the attached paper, “Why Africa Matters”, based on the ASG’s 2019 Vision of Canada-Africa Relations, for your consideration. Its thrust is that Canada needs a much stronger relationship with the continent, for our benefit as well as for Africa’s, and as part of a broader and clearer foreign policy. We believe that building such a relationship requires a sustained effort, in which relations with the fifty-four countries are not simply relegated to development issues, as so often in the past. To demonstrate that we are seeking a broad and mutually beneficial relationship, the Minister of Foreign Affairs needs to play a lead role. A key signal of Canada’s intentions could come from ministerial-level visits to the continent, making the case not just for our pursuit of a Security Council seat, but also for our joint efforts in support of rules-based international system. While we recognize that the Government faces many competing pressures, and will have concerns about travel, we would argue that such an exercise is in Canada’s interest.
In the trade area Canada should increase the resources of the Trade Commissioners Service on the continent, work with the African countries to ensure that reforms to the WTO take account of Africa’s needs and work creatively with the new African Continental Free Trade Agreement. We also need to make sure that Canadian companies behave responsibly on the continent.
To date development assistance has not only been the core, but indeed the bulk of Canada’s relations with Africa. Even in this context of looking more broadly at the continent, we would also argue for a significant increase in the International Assistance Envelope. The 2019 budget merely prevented Canadian ODA from dropping below its already very low level of 0.26% of GNI. At such levels, Canada cannot justify its claim to be a world leader.
We hope that you and your advisers will find our perspective of value as you pursue your efforts to ensure that Canada plays an appropriate role on the world stage. We would be very pleased to see some mention of these issues in the Throne Speech and the next Budget.
With best regards
Chair, Africa Study Group
CC The Honourable Mary Ng Minister for Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade
The Honourable Karina Gould, Minister of International Development