Thursday was a major day of fighting for the Belgian police.

While the 30 NATO defense ministers were heading home, the 27 heads of state and government of the European Union arrived in Brussels.

And then another forty heads of state from the African Union – each with their own escort, of course.

The African guest list had recently become longer and longer.

Interest in the two-day-long EU-AU summit is huge, an EU official said, noting that only thirteen leaders attended the recent African Union meeting.

Thomas Gutschker

Political correspondent for the European Union, NATO and the Benelux countries based in Brussels.

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It has been more than four years since the last summit meeting - in between all sorts of opportunities were missed.

Actually, Ursula von der Leyen started her office as Commission President at the end of 2019 with the firm determination to take relations with Africa to a new level.

In her first week she visited the African Union headquarters in Adis Ababa.

But then came the pandemic.

The planned summit with the African colleagues had to be postponed several times, while the Chinese - the big competitor - continued to meet and invest with the Africans.

They also pledged more than a billion doses of vaccine, while the EU, while talking a lot about solidarity and donating a lot of money, skimped on vaccines.

Scholz highlights energy partnership

Last December, the South African President then burst the collar.

Cyril Ramaphosa complained about "vaccine apartheid" after the EU had stopped all flight connections to southern Africa overnight - because of the omicron mutant that is widespread there.

As is well known, that was of no use, it had been there for a long time, and South Africa in particular had analyzed it in an exemplary manner.

It had been speculated that Ramaphosa would remain at home in protest.

But then he ended up in Brussels.

This Friday he will chair a round table on health and vaccines with Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Such formats also exist for other issues to promote direct exchange in smaller groups.

When he arrived in Brussels, Scholz emphasized the opportunities of an energy partnership with Africa.

As for vaccines, the EU has shipped almost 150 million doses to Africa so far.

This number is expected to rise to 450 million by the summer.

To date, only 11 percent of Africans have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, far from the global 70 percent target.

However, the real problem is not so much the supply of doses as their vaccination.

In many places there is no public health system.

Currently, only ten million people are vaccinated each month.

The EU Commission wants to speed this up by helping the African Medicines Agency, which has just been created, with 100 million euros.

For their part, Africans are demanding that vaccines be off-patent so that they can produce for their own needs.

The EU is not ready for this.

However, von der Leyen referred to a pilot project by Biontech.

The manufacturer wants to deliver mobile production systems for mRNA vaccines to Africa.

With the "Global Gateway" against China's influence

The focus of the consultations in Brussels is an initiative to expand infrastructure in Africa.

In the next seven years, 150 billion euros are to be mobilized, for example to build solar and wind energy plants, create Internet access via satellite even in remote areas and connect the continent to the European communications network via a fiber optic connection.

This is part of the "Global Gateway" initiative, with which the EU Commission wants to push back Chinese influence.

Half of the planned funds should go to Africa.

Of course, the real amounts are lower.

Brussels is offering almost 37 billion euros from the EU budget, it also wants to guarantee loans of 53 billion euros, and the member states are to add another 20 billion euros bilaterally.

The private sector is to contribute another fifty billion in investments – this is the only way the sum will come about.

Opening the summit, AU Chairman and Senegalese President Macky Sall pointed out that Africa needs between 130 and 170 billion dollars in investment every year.

Six hundred million people have no access to electricity "and live in darkness".

Sall advocated a "refounded, reconsidered partnership with Europe" and spoke of a "message of confidence and reconciliation".

He made it clear that this also includes the return of cultural assets;

this is also an issue at a round table.