Will AU-EU reset relations to acme-opportunity?

The long-awaited summit between the African Union (AU) and the European Union (EU), is scheduled to be held as of 17th February after the world was hardly hit by the corona pandemic that has stalled a decade of continuous growth and human capital improvement on the African continent.

The summit will present a unique opportunity to lay the foundations for a renewed and deeper AU-EU partnership with the highest political involvement and based on trust and a clear understanding of mutual interests. Leaders are expected to discuss how both continents can build greater prosperity.

The aim is to launch an ambitious AfricaEurope Investment Package, taking into account global challenges such as climate change and the current health crisis. They should also be talking about tools and solutions to promote stability and security through a renewed peace and security architecture.

The Africa-EU Partnership was formally established in 2000 at the first Africa-EU Summit in Cairo. It is guided by the Joint Africa-EU strategy (JAES), adopted in 2007. To tackle the challenges of the times and set political priorities, the EU and African Union have been meeting over the years in different formats.

The partnership strives to bring Africa and Europe closer together by strengthening economic cooperation and promoting sustainable development, with both continents co-existing in peace, security, democracy, prosperity, solidarity and human dignity.

Against this backdrop, the two partners are determined to work together on a strategic, long-term footing to develop a shared vision for EU-Africa relations in a globalized world. The Partnership is a multi-actor partnership guided by the EU and African Union (AU) Member States along with several non-state and civil society organizations, youth bodies, economic and social actors, and the private sector.

The renewed partnership is grounded in an ongoing dialogue with the EU’s African partners that are taken forward at the 6th EUAU Summit in Brussels in February 2022. So, can this summit bring something important for the two continents especially for Africa through applying win-win situations? Will the partnership between the two continue as a “true partnership of equals”? It is crystal clear that Europe’s future is highly dependent on the fate of Africa as it is a neighboring continent for the EU.

Due to this rapprochement, Africa not only shares a rich history with EU countries, but also common values and interests. Through the Africa-EU partnership, the two engage in political and policy dialogues, and define their cooperative relationship with one another. Today’s realities make this relationship all the more important.

The ongoing COVID pandemic and the growing urgency of the climate crisis show how interdependent the two continents are, and why it is so important that both seize shared opportunities and tackle common challenges. In December 2020, a new platform was created to enable stakeholders from both continents to exchange ideas, best practices and make recommendations on major challenges affecting both Africa and Europe.

These Africa-Europe Foundation Strategy Groups in the areas of Health, Digital, Agriculture and Sustainable Food Systems, Sustainable energy and Transport and Connectivity play “a think tank and advisory role for all those committed to taking Africa-Europe relations to the next level”.

They bring together the expertise and skills of academics, think tanks, civil society, and the public and private sector. The groups operate in coordination with the newly established Africa-Europe Foundation led by the Friends of Europe think-tank and the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, in partnership with ONE and the South Africa Climate Foundation.

The initiative builds on the four sectoral task forces on digital, transport and connectivity, rural Africa and energy, created in 2018 under the Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs. Since 2020, with the summit repeatedly having been stalled, African leaders have strengthened ties with other global powers— think China.

The eighth Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) held in December last year not only demonstrated the impressive depth and breadth of China’s relationships with Africa, but crucially signaled a new approach based on ‘soft’ assets, very much stepping on the EU’s toes and their 300 billion EUR worldwide connectivity strategy.

EU fellow W. Gyude Moore argued that a stronger Africa was in Europe’s economic interest and vice versa. This is truer than ever in the wake of the economic scarring from COVID-19.

An economically stronger Africa would unlock new opportunities for capital investment, cheaper and more varied imports and a ready supply of new workers at a time when Europe’s working-age population is declining. In early 2020, the EU set out its Comprehensive Strategy with Africa.

Although this contained some key elements of a novel approach and a promise of a “move away from the donorrecipient relationship”, it was perceived by African leaders as an attempt by Europe to continue to dominate the relationship, echoing a colonial legacy.

There was a clear disconnect between the priorities of the two continents, with the EU focused on climate change and migration and Africa determined to end the COVID-19 pandemic and jumpstart its economies. Within each partnership, the focus is on actions at continental and regional level where the EU and Africa have a collective capacity to deliver.

Appreciating the multifaceted partnership with the EU, Chairperson of the African Union Moussa Faki Mahamat in 2020 summit said that as it is guided by shared values and common interests, equality and respect is imperative even though there are differences. “— only the recognition and acceptance of these differences, the language of frankness, will allow us to remove the obstacles that may hinder our cooperation.”

Editor’s Note: The views entertained in this article do not necessarily reflect the stance of The


The Ethiopian   16 February  2022

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