New European leader chooses Africa as 1st overseas visit

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — The new European Commission president says she chose Africa as her first visit outside Europe as it has some of the world’s fastest-growing economies and some of its biggest challenges, including climate change.

Ursula von der Leyen spoke after meeting with Ethiopia’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning prime minister on Saturday. Ethiopia hosts the African Union continental body.

She praised Ethiopia’s new leadership with Africa’s only current female president and its gender-balanced Cabinet and said it has given hope for the continent at large.

The European Union has announced 170 million euros to support Ethiopia’s economy and its election in May. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed replied that “we still demand more financial support because we are ambitious.”

Von der Leyen said she was not in Africa to present “some grand plan” but to listen and learn. She added that “you here on the African continent understand climate change better than anyone else,” with deserts advancing and flooding more frequent.

She said her separate meeting with African Union Commission chair Moussa Faki Mahamat discussed the pressing issues of migration, security and other matters, and that the discussion was “intense.”