Africa will start the New Year stronger than ever before both financially and politically, says a new paper from the European Centre for Development and Policy Management (ECDPM).
This comes at an important time as the 4th Africa-EU Summit takes place in April 2014, the first Summit to be held since the start of Arab Spring. Africa’s “growing assertiveness” could mean the relationship with Europe can go beyond that of donor-recipient relationship.
However, the biggest challenge for Africa-EU relations is to identify appropriate leadership on both sides to take ownership and provide the joint leadership to make the process work over time, says ECDPM.
At a time when the European economy is stagnating, there is a new opportunity to create better trade links with rising African countries. However, despite being the largest trade partner with Africa, the influence of the EU is decreasing while emerging economies such as China and India begin to take an interest and build strong commercial links.
This is problematic for Europe as the free trade talks between the two continents, the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), remain a highly contentious issue and if the negotiations are not finalised soon it could potentially disrupt the Summit.
Africa is also now increasingly in a position where it should be able to finance its’ own institutions. Thus for instance with Africa-led initiatives such as the African Peace and Security Architecture, while Africa has certainly provided the soldiers for the APSA peacekeeping operations much of the funding has come from the EU and many Africans would like to see a stronger element of African funding.
During the Summit, the two continents will renegotiate the terms of the Joint Africa EU Strategy (JAES). The EU has set aside €845 million for a new Pan African Programme to fund this. Ideally it would be good to see co-financing from Africa to avoid sliding back into the donor-recipient relationship, says ECDPM.
The focus of the Summit could potentially be spread too thin and not achieve much, if the agenda does not prioritise key issues. The three priorities of the Summit, according to the paper, should be on:
1. An open discussion about the Arab Spring and its consequences for the relationship,
2. Formulating an EU and AU joint position on the goals and financing of the post-2015 agenda, and
3. Agriculture. 2014 has been named as the African Union Year of Agriculture and Food Security. The Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) is now also ten years old. Yet it is unlikely to reach its goal of putting 10% of African national budgets into agriculture and raising agricultural productivity by 6%.
Next year will also mark a turning point in the EU’s aid relationship with Africa. The EU remains the continent’s largest donor, yet the EU’s new Agenda for Change policy aims to increase the effectiveness of EU development assistance by focusing on a more limited number of priority countries and sectors. This “differentiation”, means the EU will allocate a greater proportion of funds to certain countries and regions where it believes aid can have the greatest impact, such as least-developed countries (LDCs) and fragile states.
At the same time 2014 will also be the year of the European Parliamentary elections, the new Commission and new leadership at the EU Council and the European External Action Service. The question is therefore what impact will this change in political leadership have on Africa-EU relations. Will it create a new sense of direction, and/or major changes in EU development policy? Will the new EU political leadership pick up smoothly on the commitments made at the Africa-EU Summit?