EU-Africa relations: What’s in store for 2013?


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      Each year ECDPM publishes a Policy Brief, on Challenges for EU-Africa Relations, outlining key events and expected trends for the year to come. This year’s ‘Challenges Paper’ will aim in particular to cover the preparatory work for the EU-Africa Summit in 2014, and the major issues that will influence it or be addressed there, as well as the impact these issues might have on future EU-Africa relations. This article provides an initial indication of our plans for the paper that will be published at the end of year. If you have a different take on EU-Africa relations in 2013 we would welcome hearing you.

      Africa has been forging ahead in many respects this past decade. Many countries on the continent are experiencing unprecedented growth rates, the benefits of a commodity boom, and an increasing inflow of Foreign Direct Investment.

      Geopolitically, Africa is once again important because of its natural resources, its minerals and increasingly its oil, but also because of its land and water supplies and its potential for renewable energy.

      Yet, economic growth in Africa is also coupled with high unemployment, particularly among young people, rising inequalities, political instability and persistent poverty and hunger in many places.  So while some African countries are graduating to middle low-income status, others are expected to remain stuck in the low income and fragile group where global poverty is expected to stay concentrated in the years to come.

      As Chinese, Indian, Brazilian and US interest in Africa grows, both Africans and Europeans need to rethink their relationship that has for so long been taken for granted.

      The process started tentatively in 2000 with the first Africa-EU Summit and was boosted by the establishment of the African Union as a clear partner for the European Union. However, the Joint Africa-EU Strategy signed in 2007 at the secondsummit in Lisbon has faltered and is seen as largely irrelevant both to the evolving relationship and the rapid pace of change on the African continent.

      Currently, in international fora, many eyes are turned to the future framework that will replace the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) after the deadline year of 2015. But the next two years will also be crucial for the more geopolitical concern in EU external affairs: the direction of EU-Africa relations. As both sides prepare for the next summit between leaders of the two continents in early 2014, the inter-continental relationship clearly needs an overhaul. A new vision is also needed as the end of the Cotonou Agreement approaches in 2020.

      With a new Commission in place at the African Union, and the EU side led by a more political and less development-oriented body in the shape of the European External Action Service, preparations for the summit may be very different in character than those for previous meetings.

      The post-2015 debate will be part of this discussion as the MDGs have been central to the way Europe has seen Africa for the past decade. However, EU-Africa relations are about more than development. From migration flows to trade and the supply of raw materials, through to global governance and security, the fates of Africa and the European Union are closely intertwined.

      The Summit will not just be about the Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES), but the JAES is the prime instrument for follow-up. Leaders launched the strategy in 2007 as a political framework going beyond formal government institutions. The ambition was also to go beyond development, to tackle issues of shared concern within the continent-to-continent relationship and on a global level. It was to be a partnership among equals, avoiding traditional “donor-recipient” behaviour.

      Five years after its introduction, the JAES can claim some success, notably in the improved dialogue on peace and security, but neither side is satisfied with the overall results. There is still ample room for improvement.  The lack of ownership and contradictions outlined in this article need to be addressed.

      Meanwhile, the EU is struggling with its own financial difficulties, leading to a decrease in development aid for Africa and a review of development policies in several EU member states.

      The EU has also been reformulating its overall development policy to encompass fields beyond the traditional realms of cooperation. With its 'Agenda for Change', the EU has articulated how it wants to structure its future development cooperation to put greater emphasis on governance, private sector development, mutual benefits and a refocus on growth and result-based strategies. It is also intended to differentiate more between countries, reducing aid to those where economic progress is showing the best results.

      The linkages between the EU’s wider external policy actions and its development cooperation are more forcefully emphasised in the Agenda for Change and in the EU’s Policy Coherence for Development (PCD) framework.

      The 2014 EU-Africa Summit could potentially be a turning point in relations between the two continents.  In addition to resolving the various strategy issues raised above and breathing new life into the JAES, the EU and the AU should ideally use the Summit to agree on joint action on specific global issues such as climate change, where they have at times already worked together, or the post-2015 global development framework, where they have strong common interests such as deciding whether the new framework should include both Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and MDGs type targets.

      This is the subject matter we are exploring for the 2013 Challenges Paper. If you have a different take on EU-Africa relations in 2013 we would welcome hearing you. 


      The ECDPM Challenges Team consists of James Mackie, Anna Rosengren, Quentin de Roquefeuil and Nicola Tissi.

      James Mackie is Senior Adviser EU Development Policy.
      Anna Rosengren is Junior Policy Officer  in the Trade & Economic Governance Programmes.
      Quentin de Roquefeuil is Junior Policy Officer in the Trade & Economic Governance Programmes.
      Nicola Tissi is Research Assistant in the Africa's Change Dynamics Programme. 


      This blog post features the authors’ personal view and does not represent the view of ECDPM.

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