Making policies work

GREAT insights Magazine

The Current Geopolitical Dynamics in Africa and the Role of Partners like the EU

September 2013

Chissano, J. 2013. The current geopolitical dynamics in Africa and the role of partners like the EU: Towards strategic shift in Africa-Europe strategic relations in the 21st century and beyond. GREAT Insights, Volume 2, Issue 6. September 2013. Maastricht: ECDPM.

Share Button

The interests of the developed countries and those of the developing countries can no longer be isolated from each other. The political, economic and social well-being of present and future generations depends more than ever on cooperation between all members of the international community.

Africa’s strategic relations with the European Union are guided by a number of declarations and pronouncements elaborated at the level of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and subsequently the African Union (AU). These include among others the African Charter on Human and People’s Right (Nairobi 1981), the African Priority Programme for Economic Recovery (APPER) 1985, the OAU Declaration on the Political and Socio-Economic Situation in Africa and the Fundamental Changes taking place in the World (1990), as well as the Charter on Popular Participation in Development adopted in Arusha, Tanzania (1990). Additionally, the leadership on the Continent adopted the Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community (1991), the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention Management and Resolution (1993), the Cairo Agenda for Action (1995), and the African Common Position on Africa’s External Debt Crisis (1997). To these, we must also include the Algiers decision on Unconstitutional Changes of Government (2000), the Constitutive Act of the African Union (2000) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) (2001). While all the issues enumerated in the various declarations and pronouncements remain, by and large, relevant in Africa’s contemporary international relations, this paper argues for a new strategic shift in Africa-Europe relations in the 21st Century and beyond.

The need for a strategic shift in the relations between Africa and Europe is informed by the fact that the political and economic landscapes in Africa are changing. The nature and orientation of the change is largely influenced by new geo-political dynamics on the continent as well as by the embracement of new political and social dispensation based on democratic values systems. There is, therefore, no doubt that these new reality calls for a new configuration of relations with Africa’s strategic partners, particularly the European Union (EU). Consequently, there is an emerging consensus that the traditional system of North-South relations, which also characterised relations between Europe and Africa, has lost its relevance. It has increasingly become moribund as a result of the profound social, political and economic changes taking place in Africa. Currently, the discernible trend is that the traditional system is giving way to new forms of international cooperation largely influenced by the dynamics of globalization. New Actors have emerged with the new configuration of power in the world and the move from a bipolar to a multipolar world is increasingly influencing development thinking in the contemporary international economic relations. To this end, there is also a general consensus that what is required given the fundamental changes that have taken place in the world is the imperative of a new paradigm that seeks to address the profound global challenges in a more holistic way.

Against this background and from an African perspective, relations between Africa and Europe both in the context of international economic relations and development thinking have entered a new phase which requires, of necessity, a post-bipolar framework for addressing the inequalities of the past towards the establishment of a more equitable international economic order. It is goes without saying that if the certainties of the past are being questioned it is legitimate to work towards a new development paradigm. For example, it is increasingly clear that the traditional aid system of donor- recipient relations is being replaced by a new system of international cooperation that reserves a key role for the collective management of global challenges and the pursuit of common interests in a multipolar world. There is therefore critical need for a strategic shift from supply driven to demand driven approaches to development assistance, especially in the context of Africa-Europe relations.

Within this perspective, the world must now, of necessity, resort to new ways and methods for restructuring the system of multilateral development assistance and explore new tools for managing the emerging new regional and global challenges. These include managing the environment, optimal and rational use of natural resources as well as the promotion of sustainable development that is predicated upon advancing inclusive growth to bring about a fairer distribution of resources, social justice, democracy and respect for human rights. There is also the drive to safeguard human security, to provide global public goods and to restructure international system and mechanisms to create a new framework of global governance. Indeed, from an African perspective, the drive towards addressing the asymmetries of the current international system in a new equitable world order requires new responses at all levels.

Consequently, the desired strategic shift must take cognizant of the imperative need to move from supply side to demand side support in development assistance with full ownership of policy and tools for addressing and managing the contemporary discernible institutional conundrum in the relationship between the African Union and the European Union. It is not so much about budgetary support but rather about a more holistic approach to development assistance that has the capacity and intrinsic political will to address the multiple social and economic challenges facing the continent in the interest of both Africa and Europe. This provides the justification for the required strategic shift in Africa-Europe relations in the 21 Century and beyond.

The new strategic partnership between Africa and Europe must take into account the necessity for a win-win situation in a globalized world.

In this perspective of Africa-EU relations it is therefore important to take cognizant of the decisions and declaration of the Twenty-Six Ordinary Session of the OAU Assembly Heads of State and Government of the Organization of African Unity meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from 9 to 11 July 1990. The Twenty-Six Ordinary Session of the OAU undertook a critical review of the political, social and economic situation of the African Continent in the light of the rapid changes that were taking place in the world and their impact on Africa. In particular, the Assembly took note of the changing East-West relations from confrontation to cooperation, the socio- economic and political changes in Eastern Europe, the steady move towards the political monitory union of Western Europe, the increasing global tendency towards regional integration and the establishment of trading and economic blocks, as well as the advances in science and technology.

In conclusion it is important to emphasise that any new perspective on Africa EU Relations must draw inspirations and be grounded on the understanding of the first Africa-Europe Summit which was convened under the aegis of the OAU and the EU, in Cairo, Arab Republic of Egypt from 3-4 April 2000. At that summit it was solemnly declared that “over the centuries, ties have existed between Africa and Europe, which have led to many areas of cooperation, covering political, economic, social, as well as culture and linguistic domains. There was unanimous recognition that these relations have developed on the basis of shared values of strengthening representative and participatory democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, the rule of law, good governance, pluralism, international peace and security, political stability and confidence among nations. The summit also recognized that, in the light of the rapid globalisation trends, it was imperative to strengthen cooperation between Africa and Europe in the mutually enlighten interests of all.

It was the common understanding of the summit that in order to give a new strategic dimension to the global partnership between Africa and Europe for the Twenty-first Century, in a spirit of equality, respect, alliance, and cooperation between the two regions, it was necessary to renew the commitment to the basic objective of strengthening the already existinglinksof political,economic,and cultural understanding through the creation of an environment and an effective framework for promoting a constructive dialogue on economic, political, social and development issues. In this regard, the summit stressed the importance of regional economic cooperation and integration as an efficient strategy for the orderly and coordinated development of the African continent. This was a clear recognition of the important correlation between political stability, peace and security on one hand and regional integration on the other.

The Summit recalled that Africa and the European Union have traditionally been important trade partners and therefore reaffirmed commitment to strengthen partnership by progressively removing barriers to trade between both sides, including non- tariff barriers and enhancing cooperation in all trade related areas. In other words, the Summit reaffirmed commitment to trade liberalisation in the framework of a rules- based multilateral trading system which all nations should benefit from. This obviously is in line with the Declaration on the Establishment of a New International Economic Order (NIEO) adopted by the Sixth Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly adopted in May 1974. The Declaration for a New International Economic Order represented a new determination of the international community to correct the asymmetry that exists between the North and South. It was a solemn proclamation of global determination to work urgently for the establishment of a NIEO based on equity, sovereign equality, interdependence, common interest and cooperation among all States, irrespective of their economic and social systems which shall correct inequalities and redress existing injustices, make it possible to eliminate the widening gap between the developed and the developing countries and ensure steadily accelerating economic and social development and peace and justice for present and future generations.

Significantly, current events have brought into sharp focus the realization that the interests of the developed countries and those of the developing countries can no longer be isolated from each other; that the close interrelationship between the prosperity of the developed countries and the growth and development of the developing countries; and that the prosperity of the international community as a whole depends upon the prosperity of its constituent parts. International co-operation for development is the shared goal and common duty of all countries. Thus the political, economic and social well-being of present and future generations depends more than ever on cooperation between all members of the international community on the basis of sovereign equality and the removal of the disequilibrium that exists between them.

Joaquim Chissano is the Former President of the Republic of Mozambique and Chairperson of the Joaquim Chissano Foundation.

This article was published in GREAT Insights Volume 2, Issue 6 (September 2013).

Economic Transformation and TradeStrengthening European External ActionACP Group of StatesEuropean Union (EU)AfricaEurope

External authors

Joaquim Chissano