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High-level conference

Looking Beyond 2013 – Are EU-Africa Relations Still Fit for Purpose?

28 October 2013

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European Think-Tanks Group’s High Level Conference

Ahead of the 2014 Africa-EU Summit, and at a time of shifting and complex internal and external dynamics in Europe and Africa, the European Think-Tanks Group is holding a High-Level Conference: Looking beyond 2013: Are Africa-EU relations still fit for purpose? on Monday, 28 October 2013.

See the conference programme

Download (PDF, 132KB)

For more information, the background note is available here, as well as the conference report. Geert Laporte and Faten Aggad presented the conclusions of the ETTG Conference at the JTF plenary session of the Africa-EU Joint Task Force on 29 October 2013 at the EEAS in Brussels.

This event is by invitation only.

Background of the Conference

Six years after the launch of the Joint EU-Africa Strategy (JAES) in Lisbon in 2007, where European and African leaders resolved to “build a new strategic political partnership for the future, overcoming the traditional donor-recipient relationship and building on common values and goals,” familiar concerns continue to be raised regarding the nature of EU-Africa relations.

The context of the partnership has indeed evolved since 2007: needs, priorities and interests of Africa and Europe are shifting, foreign policies are under pressure to support geostrategic objectives, global challenges are multiplying. It is, therefore, urgent for Africa and Europe to clearly redefine the added value of their partnership and to step up the nature of relationship.

In light of this changing context, this High-Level Conference will assess how to ensure that Europe-Africa relations remain fit for purpose.

It will provide an opportunity to take stock of the successes, challenges and failures of the efforts to launch a strategic partnership, to revisit strategic questions on the nature and objective of the partnership and to have an open debate on what both partners expect from one another in order to inform the future relationship.

The High-Level Conference will provide a platform for key African and European policy makers to discuss key strategic and thematic questions around the future of the Africa-EU partnership. The outcome of the Conference will feed reflections in the run up to the EU-Africa Summit, due to be held in Brussels in April 2014. The Conference will discuss how this strategic partnership can be improved in order to ensure that Africa-Europe relations are fit for purpose.

Also visit ECDPM’s blog, which brings together voices from both Africa and Europe to ask: ‘what next for Africa-Europe relations?‘ Add your voice to the debate ahead of the Africa-EU Summit in April 2014.

Objectives of the High Level Conference

The conference will address both strategic and thematic questions and focus on the following questions:

  • What have been the successes and challenges with the EU-Africa partnership since its creation at the Lisbon Summit in 2007?
  • What are the interests at stake for both continents in renewing the partnership?
  • What are the burning issues both continents would like to prioritise and cooperate on going forward?
  • What is needed to ensure that the partnership is fit-for-purpose in a changing global landscape to respond to the priorities, needs and ambitions of both partners?

The conference will be structured around four vital areas for future EU-Africa dialogue and relations:

1) Supporting African Private Sector Development
Private sector has been gaining momentum in African development debates. Yet, despite the ‘political capital’ that the cause of private sector development has gained in Africa, and the steady GDP growth that has accompanied it, African firms still struggle to make their way on domestic and global markets and establish themselves as competitive actors internationally. The conference will seek to address how the EU-Africa partnership can support the African private sector to play a central role in future economic development. In particular, it will focus on how can the ‘Agenda for Change’ be used to support future cooperation on private sector development.

2) Governance and EU Political Conditionality in Africa
The EU has a long tradition of supporting governance in Africa. Recently, such support has started to take into account the realities in partner countries, and recognised some of the limits of conditionality and incentive-based approaches to political reform. Within the context of the JAES a dialogue on governance has been launched in order to address some of these challenges. This session will explore some of the questions that were raised, including: the relevance and incentives of political conditionality pursued by the EU and whether these are conducive to domestic change. Lessons drawn from previous governance support experiences will also be looked at.

3) Food Security
In times of steady economic growth, much of Africa is still unable to make its own people food-secure. This holds particular relevance for Sub-Saharan Africa, where hunger affects nearly a quarter of the populace. In order to feed and make food-secure a growing population, Africa is in dire need of enhancing its agricultural productivity. In recognition of this reality, several African-driven initiatives on food security were launched. 2013 marks the 10th anniversary of CAADP, Africa’s comprehensive agricultural program, which was subsequently included as an area of cooperation under the JAES. In the meantime, the EU is refining its Food Security Policy Framework and reforming its much-contested Common Agricultural Policy, a process unfolding in 2013 and to be completed in 2014. The session aims to engage participants on the potential cooperation in this field, with emphasis on the potential role of the EU in terms of technology, capital and knowledge transfer to support African-led agricultural programs and ensure coherence between the different policies that have a bearing on food security.

4) Dialogue on Peace and Security Challenges

The present security context still poses major challenges to African countries. In recognition of this, the EU provides substantial funding through the African Peace Facility, and engages in regular dialogue with African countries and the AU (through the African Union Peace & Security Council (AU PSC) and EU Political and Security Council (EU PSC) meetings). However, internal EU divergences have on a number of occasions prevented a coordinated EU response (e.g. Libya, Mali), sending a mixed message to Africans with respect to EU interests in Africa. The Conference will, therefore, discuss to what extent the dialogue on peace and security have evolved to the satisfaction of both partners. It will also consider what could be the main elements and interests of a future EU-Africa dialogue on security issues over the next years.

Join and follow the discussions

Twitter: to join in the discussion on this topic use #AfricaEU2014

For an overview of all tweets during the conference, please go here.

Go to ECDPM’s new blog, ‘AFRICA-EUROPE RELATIONS – LOOKING BEYOND 2014’. A blog looking ahead to key topics likely to be discussed at the 2014 Africa-EU Summit. It brings together voices from both Africa and Europe to ask: ‘What next for Africa-Europe relations?’. Add your voice to the debate ahead of the Africa-EU Summit in April 2014.

Live from the European Think Tanks Group conference, watch Pedro Pires, former President of Cape Verde and winner of the 2011 Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership speak on 28 October at 7:30pm (GMT+1) on our YouTube channel: Please read the speech by Mr. Pires here.


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African institutions and regional dynamicsCross-cutting TopicsEuropean external affairsSecurity and resilienceSustainable food systemsTrade, investment and financeAfrica-EU RelationsPrivate Sector Development (PSD)