30 Sep 2013

Entrepreneurship: A Solution to the EU’s Africa Migration Programme?

by Mohamed Ali, Iftiin Foundation

Roma Termini is a cavernous, polyglottic cacophony of German, French, Italian, and English -- bickering, raucous, ebbing, and flowing. The deluge swallowed me up as I stepped out into the terminal, as did the cold November drizzle.

27 Sep 2013

Challenging Europe-Africa Relations: Why question the partnership?

by Sahra El Fassi

This year’s European Think-Tanks Group (ETTG) Conference is entitled “Looking Beyond 2013 – Are EU-Africa Relations Still Fit for Purpose?” While some might ask what leads us to question the partnership, others might wonder whether Africa-Europe relations have ever been fit for purpose?

There is no limit to discuss the links, expectations, challenges and benefits of Africa-Europe relations. Shifting dynamics on both continents, however, give us a reason to channel discussions, reassess the partnership and aspire to a viable and productive vision and strategy for the future. There is currently rhetoric of Africa experiencing a surge of economic dynamism and assertiveness as an international actor while the European geo-political and economic weight on the global scene is waning. Rhetoric of the increased involvement of emerging powers in Africa is having a detrimental effect on Africa’s relations with its ‘old partners’.

Certainly, Africa’s unprecedented trade and finance opportunities paired with new approaches, agreements and possibilities render the dynamics with Europe more complex. The political and diplomatic scene is also changing with African countries increasingly speaking their minds as they become more integrated in the world economy, as their partnerships diversify and as their voice in global governance progressively gets heard.

While Africa-Europe relations have undeniably been challenged since the adoption of their Joint Strategy in 2007, both continents remain relevant to each other in many areas. Europe has an acknowledged comparative advantage in areas such as peace and security, democracy and human rights. Africa is not only a source of extractive materials but also an important partner in the global arena. The next EU-Africa Summit will take place in April 2014. Both partners now have a bit more than half a year left to exchange as effectively as possible on strategic and thematic issues around the EU-Africa partnership. Against this backdrop, the European Think Tanks Group conference aims to fuel policy recommendations and engage a variety of stakeholders in the debate on successful and beneficial relations between European and African countries beyond 2014.

Partners with interests and benefits

Since the first transcontinental summit in 2000 and enhanced by the launch of the Joint EU-Africa Strategy (JAES) six years ago, political leaders of both continents resolved to some laudable aims; a new strategic political partnership for the future, overcoming the traditional donor-recipient relationship; built on shared values, mutual responsibility and common interests. A few months ahead of the next EU-Africa summit, it is valid to question and find out what has become of the diplomatic laudations recurring in regular intervals? On a policy level, the two grand frameworks (Lomé turned Cotonou and the JAES) have been revised and formally adapted to new challenges for EU-Africa relations and might from the outside appear suitable for the continent-to-continent vision.

On a more practical level has the European side been able to understand Africa’s priorities and interests? At the same time, is the African side ready to overcome its perception of European partners as being lecturing, disdainful and preaching principles that it does not comply with? The shifting geo-political dynamics and increasing Africa-owned processes do not only leave room for new approaches of cooperation but also require a mature and trustful partnership.

The EU remains the biggest aid donor to Africa. However, decreasing levels of Official Development Assistance (ODA) are coupled with increasing agreement that ODA is not sustainable. This suggests a reorientation towards intensified private actor involvement and an improved business environment for both continents to cooperate.

At the same time rising Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) requests efficient Africa-EU cooperation that takes into account opportunities created by a growing middle class of more and more educated and skilled citizens.

To remain relevant for each other, both sides have to examine how to balance their interests, and become more important political and economic partners. While staying faithful to its values, Europe has to respect African views when it comes to the promotion and support of good governance, democracy and respect for human rights.

Policies to tackle food security challenges, peace and security, migration or climate change need to be better coordinated, more consistent and more inclusive in order to have a positive impact in Africa and Europe.

If both sides seize their opportunities to initiate and advance dialogue, if they are mindful of the counterpart’s interests and if they are willing to see the gains of their cooperation, Europe and Africa might indeed become partners with the benefit to address and solve challenges of common interest.

Stimulating frank and open debates for successful future EU-Africa relations

In order to give an impetus to a more political and strategic Europe-Africa partnership, the conference will provide an informal platform to key stakeholders to discuss larger strategic questions and zoom into four vital areas of common interest for future cooperation and enhanced partnership that have not yet been sufficiently explored, namely:

1. Private sector development

2. Governance

3. Food security

4. Peace and security


Photo by EU External Action Service.

Sahra El Fassi is a Research Assistant at ECDPM in the Africa's Change Dynamics Programme. She can be found on Twitter here: @SahraEF

26 Sep 2013

Post-2015 and the Africa-EU debate

How does the post-2015 agenda and Millennium Development Goals fit into the debate around Africa-EU relations?

23 Sep 2013

A people-centered Africa-EU partnership: the role of civil society

“The crucial element of the people-centered agenda seems to have been missing in the last few years of the implementation plan,” explained Dr Joseph Chilengi, the African co-Chairperson of the Africa-EU Civil Society Joint Steering Committee.

“Civil society,” he adds; “ranks among key stakeholders of this valuable, people-centered partnership.”

Dr Chilengi admits that the next Africa-EU Summit needs “an increased space for civil society participation within the partnership” in an interview on the Africa-EU partnership website.

“The discussion does not have to remain at the level of the states but be left in the hands of the citizens. At the end of the day, they are the ones driving the development at the lower level.”

In terms of the partnership, he says: “We would like to suggest not collapsing the JAES Mechanism… The Joint Task Force Meeting and the Joint Experts Group should be combined in one single entity endowed with a broader mandate to tackle emerging issues. Eventually, this new formation would become the technical arm of the political dialogue.”

Though he admits the “current eight thematic partnerships could have been too ambitious”, he remains positive for the future.

“The partnership added-value is that development is delivered within the global chain in a more coherent manner. There is peer kind of pressure from both parties to encourage one another to experience better results by replicating what has led them successfully to their current level. Africa and Europe are now having less challenges reaching a common position on most issues, be they about regional or international cooperation;” says Dr Chilengi.

The relations between Africa and the EU have moved beyond ‘donor-recipient’, and now “the partnership has set those relations on new footing, essentially based on equality and equity. The civil society voice has become prominent in terms of driving the agenda. We have now reached the point where common positions are reached much faster;” he says.

He says that when dealing directly with the European and African Commissions, it was difficult to “find our ways within the maze of bureaucracy” – causing delays in getting expected results, but now the “mentality, the attitude, the perception have very much improved” due to the JAES Support Mechanism.

Dr Chilengi discusses the next Civil Society Forum, and says: “During the first Forum, there were a lot of misunderstandings between our European counterparts and us. But today, I must admit we have blended very well and have a better understanding of the whole process.”

The full interview was posted on the Africa-EU Partnership website.

19 Sep 2013

Infographic Thursday: Africa from top to bottom

This week we explore Africa from top to bottom - a look at Africa's growing economy from Master of Finance.

16 Sep 2013

Still relevant? The future of EU governance support in Africa

By Clare Castillejo (FRIDE) and Svea Koch (DIE).

EU-Africa relations are shifting and creating new dilemmas for Europe’s engagement on governance. As African countries grow and strengthen their political and economic relationships with emerging powers, the EU’s ability to promote governance reform in Africa – particularly through political conditionalities – will inevitably decline. Paradoxically, however, the Arab revolutions and crisis in the Sahel have prompted a renewed EU interest in promoting “deep democracy” in its neighbourhood and beyond. Moreover, in the context of austerity there is greater demand from European citizens that aid to Africa is carefully spent, including through the use of conditionalities. These trends require Europe to profoundly rethink its approach to Africa’s governance challenges.   

Such a rethink must begin with an honest appraisal of the EU’s current approach to governance. The use of ‘positive conditionality’ to incentivise political reforms - both through the Governance Incentive Tranche and the European Neighbourhood Policy - has clearly fallen short of expectations. Meanwhile, the EU’s application of ‘negative conditionality’, through aid cuts or foreign policy sanctions has proven inconsistent, with strategically important North African states largely spared these measures. Coordination on governance has also proved a challenge, with member states frequently prioritising their individual policies and national interests over common European approaches. The fragmented response to the governance crises in North Africa and the Sahel illustrate only too well such coordination failures. 

So, given these lessons and the changing context, where next for the EU’s engagement on governance in Africa? As aid becomes increasingly marginal to the EU-Africa relationship, it appears that coherence and leverage across different policy fields will become Brussels’ central source of influence. In the future, the EU’s governance agenda must be systematically incorporated into its development, foreign, trade and security policies. Policy coherence - traditionally a concern of the development community – must therefore to be taken seriously in all external policy areas. The EEAS will need to play a central role in addressing and managing the inevitable trade-offs between the EU’s normative agenda and its economic, foreign policy or security goals in Africa. 

Seeking a comprehensive and reciprocal partnership with Africa on governance issues also implies that the EU and Africa develop a shared vision of the EU’s role in supporting African governance. So far, too little attention has been paid to African perceptions of the EU’s governance agenda or its renewed interest in political conditionalities. The EU-Africa relationship, however, is less asymmetrical than in the past and in order to be a credible partner the EU will need to better tailor its policies to fit African contexts and meet African demands. This includes finding effective ways to support African regional bodies, governments or civil society actors that promote democracy, as well as identifying appropriate responses in African countries that are closing down democratic space. 

Discussion on these issues will obviously take place against the background of the changing global context. Africa’s global economic and strategic importance is growing; its range of partners, investors and donors is expanding; and it is rethinking its relationship to both traditional and emerging powers. To remain relevant the EU must examine how it can balance its own interests in remaining an important political, trade and development partner for Africa with its commitments to promote democratic values. To remain effective, it must ensure that its policies have legitimacy in the eyes of African stakeholders and are relevant to rapidly changing African contexts.  

'Governance and political conditionality in Africa' will be discussed at the upcoming European Think Tanks' conference: Looking Beyond 2013 Are EU-Africa Relations Still Fit for Purpose?

12 Sep 2013

The best Africa-Europe relations infographics this week

Learn more about the history of the African Union, the True size of Africa and the Largest African populations. Find out the best infographics on Africa-Europe relations every Thursday. 

Struggle and solidarity: African Union at 50

This interactive map from Aljazeera gives an insight into the history, successes and challenges facing the African Union over the last 50 years.

True size of Africa
by Kai Krause

Largest African Populations 
by Ivan Colic at Afrographique. Twitter: @Ivanisawesome

9 Sep 2013

What the EU and the AU should do for posterity?

by C. Matthew Hawkins.

Do the the African youth of today subscribe to the old notions of EU-Africa relationship?

6 Sep 2013

Why does Sahel matter for Africa-Europe relations?

by Damien Helly. Even if there is now a new president in Mali following a hastily organized election process, development, governance and security in the region of North-West Africa, a region also called the Sahel (we are talking of people in Mali, Mauritania, Algeria, Niger, Burkina Faso, Libya, Chad but also neighouring countries) is still a matter of concern for African and European policy makers.

4 Sep 2013

A new impetus for Africa-Europe relations

by San Bilal

This is taken from ECDPM's GREAT insights magazine focusing on Africa-Europe relations, featuring contributions from by José Manuel Barroso, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, and Joaquim Chissano.

Read the full publication here: GREAT insights.

Africa’s “Agenda 2063” - a continental vision for prosperity and inclusiveness

by Sahra El Fassi. The call for 'Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance' has been echoing in the ivory towers of the African Union since the 1960s.  2013 – year of the OAU/AU Golden Jubilee – is an opportunity to put this ambitious African vision back on the political agenda. Skeptics might wonder how these lauds will resonate after the celebrations are over.

3 Sep 2013

Towards a genuine African-European partnership?

by .

The Joint Africa-European Union Strategy (JAES) promised all the fundamentals of a partnership. The JAES proposed a “partnership of equals” where European and African nations were to cooperate on matters of common interest. It promised to strengthen political dialogue and had the potential to surmount the traditional donor-recipient relationship. The relationship though has been far from even or equal. Africa has been a subordinate ‘partner’ to Europe in a relationship which is indicative of the larger political economy and their historical relationship. If the agreement is based on equality, Europe should offer a genuine partnership and Africa should demand one.

2 Sep 2013

What next for Africa-EU relations?

by Ida Horner.

What will the next 50 years look like? How will the EU respond to new players in Africa?