State Secretary Sumuvuori: “Finland has great will and ability to deepen relations with African countries”

This autumn, the drafting of Finland’s Africa Strategy brought together a large group of people through common digital platforms. The group included representatives of research, education and training, ministries, businesses and civil society and diaspora organisations.

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs is currently collating the different views and writing the final text of the strategy.

“I was surprised that despite the coronavirus crisis and short notice so many people were able to contribute their time and thoughts for the drafting of our Africa policy. The process has already shown how topical and important it is to further improve and deepen our relations with countries in Arica,” says the Foreign Ministry’s State Secretary Johanna Sumuvuori, who leads the drafting process.

Time to prioritise

While Finland’s Africa Strategy is an opportunity to bring together the best skills, it also calls for prioritising. Otherwise, nothing will change. 

“Finland, as a small country, must be able to put its priorities in order and work towards its chosen goals in close-knit cooperation across administrative sectors and with different stakeholders. That is the only way we can play a bigger role than our size would warrant in a continent the size of Africa,” says Sumuvuori. In this work, too, the EU is a very important context for us.

Our stakeholders tell us that Finland has much to offer to African countries, but we have as much to learn too. All cooperation must be based on learning together.

According to our stakeholders, the key elements of Finland’s Africa Strategy could include resolving crises and conflicts together with African countries and improving gender equality based on Finland’s own experiences. Other areas mentioned by the stakeholders were green transition, better trade relations, job creation, water issues and the circular economy. Digital transformation, cooperation in education and research, and sexual and reproductive health and rights were discussed in almost all our consultations with stakeholders.

Strategy completed early next year

Finland’s Africa Strategy is due to be published early next year. It will be a concise and guiding text at a general level. The real work begins after that. Ministries will use the strategy to draw up their own plans for implementing the policies. In addition, they will decide the level of resources necessary for policy implementation and assign responsibilities.

“We got a great many ideas and thoughts from our consultations with the stakeholders. Since we want to have a concise strategy, we cannot fit in all these ideas directly into the strategy. However, it would be a welcome development, if these stakeholder discussions generated new initiatives and collaborations even outside the Africa Strategy.

Once the strategy is published, we can start our long-term work that will require open-minded cooperation between all actors and across sectors”, says Sumuvuori.

Summary of views from stakeholder workshops on the preparation of Finland’s Africa Strategy in Finnish (PDF, 258 KB)