ABIDJAN: More than 80 African and European leaders will gather in the Ivory Coast on Wednesday to promote jobs and stability for Africa's exploding population, with some calling for a new "Marshall Plan."
The two-day summit in Abidjan opens as the European Union increasingly sees its fate linked to Africa's following the twin shocks of unprecedented migration and terrorist attacks.
It comes as China, India, Japan, the Gulf Arab states and others also compete for influence on a continent where the 28-nation EU remains as a whole the biggest economic and political player.
European Parliament President Antonio Tajani told parliamentarians from both continents before the summit that there was little time to find ways to meet the needs of an African population set to more than double by 2050 to around 2.4 billion people.
"Africa will have to create millions of jobs to accommodate the new arrivals in the job market," Tajani said in Abidjan, the Ivory Coast's economic capital.
"If this does not happen, our young people will lose hope," said the Italian politician.
"We will then be facing problems of radicalisation, especially in unstable regions such as the Sahel, but also much more widespread migration," he added.
Millions of Africans have already been on the move within the continent to seek jobs or flee conflict but also across the Mediterranean, mainly via Libya to Italy.
The EU this year began to reduce the flow through cooperation with the Libyan authorities following a more comprehensive deal with Turkey, which has sharply cut the flow of those fleeing the Middle East to Greece.
Africa 'Marshall Plan'
More that 1.5 million people from the Middle East and Africa have entered Europe in the last two years and EU officials fear new and even greater influxes in the future.
EU officials said the migrant influx, which sparked political divisions across the EU, as well as frequent Islamist attacks in Europe have been a wake-up call to tackle the root causes of why people leave their homes.
The EU has already set up multi-billion euro funds to promote Africa's economic development while deepening counter-terrorism cooperation with African countries where Islamist militant groups are spreading.
"I talk about a Marshall Plan for Africa, as we are facing an enormous task and have, moreover, little time to act," Tajani said.
The multi-billion dollar Marshall Plan launched by the United States after World War II is widely credited for helping Europe achieve its current prosperity and stability.
Ahmed Reda Chami, Morocco's ambassador to the EU who will attend the summit, has also called for a Marshall Plan for Africa but protected by anti-corruption measures and tailored to African needs.
Both the European and African supporters of a Marshall Plan hope billions in European public funds will seed even bigger private investment.
Visiting Burkina Faso before heading to the Abidjan summit, French President Emmanuel Macron said France is setting up a billion-euro ($1.2 billion) fund for small and medium sized African businesses.
At the start of his first African tour, Macron said the money could be used to help firms maximise value from agriculture, but also the digital sector.
The summit of 55 African Union and 28 EU leaders is also likely to deal with the outrage over US television footage of black Africans sold as slaves in Libya.
AU Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat has called for "urgent measures" to stop the abuses, which critics say have been fueled by EU-Libyan cooperation to curb migrant crossings to Europe.