A road map to re-launch the Africa-EU partnership!

The Lisbon summit of 2007 adopted a Joint Africa-EU strategy, the document stated that Africa’s 55 countries and the EU Member States have a shared neighborhood, history and future, and should cooperate in building a strong political relationship and close cooperation in key areas.

The strategy aimed to move from a traditional donor-recipient relationship to a real partnership. It’s been ten years since that document was signed and the partnership, which has gained some results, has not still delivered what was expected in term of economical growth, improvement of better life conditions and strengthening of democratic governance and security. The year 2017 seems to be a crucial year for the partnership which has been put again on the top of EU agenda, especially on the light of the refugee crisis. In this sense, the European Council together with the Parliament have published on March 2017 a document titled: “For a Renewed Impetus of the Africa-Eu Partnership” expressing the European commitment for a relaunch of the partnership.

Last November the 22nd 2017, the European Parliament hosted a high-level conference on Africa titled: “Towards a renewed partnership with Africa” divided in plenary panels and thematic workshops (Peace, security and good governance; development and growth; migration, youth and human development). The event aimed to further discuss the EU-Africa partnership on the light on next week meeting, the fifth one but the first official meeting between the European Union and the Africa Union as a regional entity, which is going to take place in Ivory Coast. The works were opened and moderate by the EU Parliament PresidentAntonio Tajani and saw the participation of many international delegations, NGOs, Institutions and high level politicians both from the European Union and Africa, such as the President of Central African Republic, the Malian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the President of the European Investment Bank, the President of the Pan-African Parliament, the EU commissioner for budget and human resources and final remarks from Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the EU for foreign affairs and security policy.

Nowadays Europe is the first commercial partner of Africa, one third of African trade, in fact, is with European Countries. Despite this, in the last decade Europe has lost influential power if compared to other competitors in the area such as China, but also Turkey and India. The EU Parliament President expressed his commitment for a relaunch partnership and for an increase in investments in Africa, from 21 billion invested nowadays per year (6 from direct EU budget + 15 from Member States) to 40 billion per year. He also expressed his commitment to avoid any possible cut to financial aid for growth possibly due to the absence of the United Kingdom in the new EU budget. In the logic to develop a full partnership, moving from aid to a development strategy, the European Investment Bank is implementing new financial instruments such as loans, while there is also a try, with the Juncker plan, to attract private investments in Africa.

The polyphony of voices and actors involved in the region has been underlined as another obstacle to the implementation of the partnership. In many occasions, in fact, the European Union has not acted as a single player in the region but with many different voices coming from the different Member States. The simplification of the arena, with the European Union and the African Union as crucial elements of the partnership has been considered as a goal to reach, together with the implementation of a clear institutional and regulatory framework with the task to deliver and control the state of implementation process.

The last point that this article is going to analyze is the content proposed for a renewed partnership, the aim to put youth as the very core of the strategy. Africa is, in fact, the World’s youngest continent, with more than 60% of the population under the age of 25. This demographic dynamism brings enormous challenges and opportunities, and it is for this reason that the fifth Africa-EU summit has been titled “Investing in youth for a sustainable future”. The challenge is not simple and take into account different levels: from youth political participation, creation of million of jobs and the investment for peace and security, that is a fundamental pre-requisite for a development agenda. Other important aspects such education and incline to entrepreneurshipmust be considered. A survey conducted in a number of selected sub-Saharan African countries underlined that, with the exception of South Africa, they have among the highest rates of young people entrepreneurial activity in the World. For this reason, actions supporting start up and SMEs are surely significant and the EU is also working to expand the participation of African citizens to the Erasmus + program.

This approach represents a possible road map for a renewed partnership between the continents and, since the geographical proximity between the two continents, it is not only a duty but an interest for the European Union to help Africa facing and governing the phenomenon to avoid the possibility of negative spill-overs towards Europe.


Flavio Previtali