Finland’s Africa strategy – Towards stronger political and economic partnership

The Finnish Government has approved Finland's Africa strategy on 18 March 2021. It will be used to diversify and deepen Finland’s relations with African countries, the African Union (AU) and regional organisations, with focus on political and economic relations.

The strategy covers the strategic priorities of Finland's Africa policy and its aim is also to ensure a more comprehensive and coherent approach to Finland’s Africa policy. The emphasis of the strategy is based on the Government Report on Finnish Foreign and Security Policy.

According to Minister for Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto, significant changes have taken place in Africa in recent years:

“Many African countries have experienced strong economic growth, the continent has become more integrated politically and economically, and the population is growing at a rapid rate. Africa has become more important strategically, geopolitically and in terms of commercial and economic relations. For instance, the ability of the African countries to adapt to climate change, preserve biodiversity and meet the challenges arising from population growth by providing young people with education, jobs and political power not only impacts development on the African continent, but also Europe and Finland.”

New perspective and target setting

The perspective and target setting of the Africa strategy are new. The strategy does not focus on the development of Africa or development cooperation, but on the development of Finland’s relations with African countries. It emphasises the strengthening of mutually beneficial political, commercial and economic relations.

“The aim of the strategy is to strengthen political cooperation, for instance by increasing contacts and exchanges of views. Finland's diplomatic and commercial presence in African countries will also be expanded by various means. We also strive to intensify cooperation on global issues,” says Minister Haavisto. The objectives of cooperation on peace and security include, for instance, expanding Finland's participation in crisis management in Africa. 

Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade Ville Skinnari is of the view that there is great potential for building business relations between Finland and many African countries. The relations can be developed in a manner that will benefit both Finnish and African actors.

“Among other things, the objective has been set to double trade between Finland and African countries from 2020 to 2030 and to increase investment in both directions.”

Emphasis on reciprocity, cooperation and broad relations

The starting point for the development of relations between Finland and African countries is the understanding that Africa is a politically, economically and culturally very diverse continent of 54 countries, who are responsible for their own development and security.

Although development cooperation will continue to be one of the key instruments of Finland's foreign policy in Africa, the strategy does not focus on development cooperation measures, but focuses on diversifying and expanding relations.  The content emphasises reciprocity and mutually beneficial political, commercial and economic cooperation.

The strategy states that Finnish actors can also benefit from African know-how, for example in scientific and research cooperation and health safety. The strategy also emphasises the importance of relations beyond central government, such as the diaspora, businesses, research institutes, civil society and young people.

In addition to its bilateral relations with African countries, Finland will promote the objectives of the Africa strategy as an EU Member State, in cooperation with other Nordic countries, in international financial institutions and within the framework of the UN and other multilateral cooperation. The policies of the European Union’s recent Strategy with Africa are also taken into consideration in Finland’s strategy, as well as the objectives of Agenda 2030 and Agenda 2063 of the African Union.

Extensive preparation and consultation process in the background

The preparations of the Africa strategy were led by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in close cooperation with other ministries. Through an extensive consultation process, a wide range of actors from state institutions, business, science, research and education, as well as representatives of civil society, were also involved in the preparation. African partners, such as the Finnish African diaspora and the ambassadors of African countries, were also consulted in the process.

The aim of the consultation process was also to increase Finns' awareness of change in Africa and of opportunities for cooperation. Cooperation with various actors will continue throughout the Government's implementation of the strategy.