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Beyond good intentions: The new EU-Africa partnership


Alfonso Medinilla and Chloe Teevan, ECDPM paper, March 2020

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The EU and Africa are each trying to find their place in an unstable world. This paper argues that the needs and expectations on both sides call for a new and more interest-driven partnership between the EU and Africa, one that does not brush over contention, but recognises diverging views and priorities, negotiates concrete solutions that work for both sides, and lays the foundations of a real political alliance in global affairs.

EU-Africa relations are haunted by their history, their inability to move beyond rhetoric, and recent contention about migration, but the case for close cooperation has never been stronger. The EU recognises that it needs Africa more than ever, as an ally in multilateral affairs, as a growing market for European investments and trade, as the testing ground for its ‘geopolitical’ ambitions, and to ensure that Africa’s growing population can meet its aspirations at home. Africa in turn is diversifying its foreign partnerships, but the EU and its member states are still its main trade and investment partner, the main supporter of its continental peace and security agenda, and can be an important partner in support of Africa’s economic integration agenda.

The paper looks at six thematic priorities of the partnership – some longstanding and some more recent: jobs, investment and trade, climate change, digitalisation, peace and security, democracy and human rights, migration and mobility. It examines common and diverging interests, the status of cooperation and the potential way forward across these different areas.

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Our dossier on Africa-Europe relations

In this dossier, we share insights on relations between the two continents. We will continue updating it with key analyses on the important policy processes and on the upcoming AU-EU summit, which make 2020 a crucial year for Africa-Europe relations.

Photo courtesy of the European Union, 2020.

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EU foreign and development policyDiscussion Papers (series)African Union (AU)European Union (EU)