Upcycling International Cooperation

Jean van wetter and delphine moralis

Jean Van Wetter, CEO – Delphine Moralis, Chair of the Board


2023: a pivotal year

2023 was a difficult year, with the war in Ukraine entering its second year and, in October, the conflict in Gaza literally exploding while the climate crisis continued unabated. Not to mention the coups d’état in West Africa, the ongoing unrest in eastern Congo and the migration crisis that is never far away. The geopolitical context is complex and makes our work difficult.

These events however also confirm that the strategy we developed four years ago is relevant as we play an essential role at Belgian, European and international level. Together with our partners, we are providing solutions to these pressing global challenges. We are present on the ground, and we are achieving visible results. We are proud to remain operational in all these contexts, with professional and committed staff who make the difference. Because over and above the impact of our operational projects, our very presence on the ground fosters dialogue. As the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, said at our 25th anniversary event in March, the Enabel teams are peace-builders.


Belgian and European agency

It is against this backdrop that the Belgian government tasked us in 2023 with launching a reconstruction support programme in Ukraine. This choice may come as a surprise given our strong ties with Africa, but it fits perfectly with our mandate as a key actor in Belgium’s and the European Union’s international policy, especially in light of Belgium’s current presidency of the Council of the European Union, and the contribution that an agency like Enabel can make to European integration. Our role as a mobiliser of public expertise is highly relevant here. Following an identification mission in September 2023 and high-level political meetings during Enabel’s joint visit with Minister Gennez and Prime Minister De Croo last February, we finalised the start-up of our activities in the country at the beginning of this year, with particular support in the areas of health, education and energy.


European and African agency

In Africa, we are increasingly working on regional projects. Because the challenges we face transcend borders, and just as Europe has developed through regional integration, we are convinced of the benefits of developing regional approaches on the African continent. We think in particular of our projects to mitigate the effects of climate change in the Sahel region, the D4D Hub, which aims to promote digital integration in several African countries, and the MAV+ project, which aims to make Africa more self-sufficient in terms of vaccine production and the access to medicines. The latter project inspired the Belgian Presidency of the European Council, which focuses on health and supports Enabel’s work in assisting the development of pan-African institutions such as the African Medicines Agency (AMA), the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and the African Union Development Agency (AUDA). There is also work on strategic corridors, which aim to open up landlocked countries, particularly those in the Sahel region, create efficient transportation corridors, stimulate socio-economic development and strengthen regional integration.

The change in the way we design our projects is already clearly visible in our Brussels office, which has become a hub for multi-country, multi-agency teams, with employees from all over Europe and Africa. We are really proud of our driving role in getting all these nationalities to work together. Cultural diversity is a source of creativity and innovation.


An investment in the future

All these projects also show the extent to which the ‘Beyond Aid’ paradigm shift which we pursue in our strategy is relevant. International cooperation has become a major political challenge in the face of our global challenges and should be considered an investment in our common future, not as a charitable obligation. It is with this partnership logic in mind that we developed several new initiatives in 2023, notably regarding the development of green hydrogen production on the African continent and regarding the impact of artificial intelligence on health and education. In these two areas, everything has yet to be invented and every country in the world is in some way developing.


A new vision for international cooperation

With this in mind, on 28 March 2024 we organised an event to mark Enabel’s 25th anniversary, entitled ‘Upcycling International Cooperation’. We invited a few unusual suspects1, a futurologist from the Netherlands, a critical entrepreneur and a youth representative from Senegal, a public management expert from the Congolese diaspora, and a Chief Innovation Officer from Benin. They inspires us with a vision of the future of international cooperation. At 25, as one of the speakers said, you are young and old at the same time. Young in the sense that you still have the audacity and capacity to innovate, and at the same time old in the sense that you are wiser and have reached a certain maturity. We have the credibility of an internationally recognised organisation, with a large volume of activity and a diversified portfolio of donors.

We would like to take this opportunity to salute all those who have built the organisation over the last 25 years. Because it is impossible to design tomorrow without understanding how yesterday was formed. Back then, there was a spirit of adventure, of people passionate about making a difference around them, a rebellious spirit, which is still very much with us and which, despite our recent growth, is our trademark. Thank you to all of you for having dared to undertake and make Enabel what it is today, an organisation recognised in Europe, Africa and the Middle East for its know-how, for its ability to achieve visible results in contexts where no-one else is present, and for its agility and its ambition!

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