Africa-Europe relations: A strengthened partnership reimagined
- The Africa-Europe Foundation
Early this year, the 6th EU-AU Summit took place in Brussels, providing a platform for global policymakers and industry leaders to address the changing global dynamics and shared challenges ranging from the climate crisis to recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The commonalities in the challenges made the partnership between the two continents more crucial than ever.
In this regard, the Africa Europe Foundation (AEF) invited youth across Africa to share their perspectives on the priorities to achieve a renewed partnership between Africa and Europe at the Summit. The call for contribution allowed them to discuss how the AU (African Union)- EU (European Union) could strengthen their partnership by highlighting various issues that curtailed progress. In addition to lending their voice to address pressing matters, they also provided recommendations to leapfrog the continent to create better opportunities for all. The entries covered topics ranging from youth unemployment and capacity building, digital economy, green economy, governance, and democracy, to name but a few.
AEF believes that high-level fora globally should integrate youth voices across to inform policymaking, create interest around youth issues, bring youth and decision-makers closer on both continents, and improve the level of partnership through multilateral discussions.
From an African perspective, it would translate to addressing some of the structural imbalances between Europe and Africa and having meaningful African representation across the global fora, including the G20, the IMF, and the World Bank. Partnership translates to equal representation of European and African interests on the European side.
The Africa-EU partnership is a formal collaboration borne over a prolonged period. Institutionally, it began with the first Africa-EU Summit in Cairo, Egypt, held in 2000, followed by the 2nd Summit in Lisbon, Portugal, in December 2007. The Summit led to the adoption of the Africa-EU Joint Strategy (JAES) and its Action Plan. After that, the third AU-EU Summit was held in Tripoli, Libya, in November 2010.
Historically, the cooperation between Africa and Europe has been one of co-dependence. Thus, it is essential to redefine and overhaul the relationship to focus on democracy and address pressing issues, including but not limited to unemployment, human rights, migration, climate change, and social justice, and reduce its historically grown dependence.
On paper, the AU-EU partnership is very aspirational. It provides frameworks for tackling structural challenges between Africa and Europe in areas such as economic and trade cooperation, green transformation, digitalization, and governance, to name a few. But will these promising declarations of intent on paper translate to the enablement of both parties to realize the long-awaited partnership of equals?
It is important to note that the future of the current geopolitical context highly depends on the growth trajectory regarding economic development and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, a mutual win can emerge through an innovative and comprehensive relationship with the African continent. This relationship should turn away from the age-old development aid approach and conditionalities. It should also refrain from embracing the framework conditions for investment and trade and consider capacity building in a digitalized economy and the global value chains.
The contributions submitted draw attention to some of the priority areas that require attention to achieve a stronger relationship.
Below are excerpts from some of the entries received.
“Migration is and has always been a human phenomenon through the years. Some scholars have argued that migration is a human right. Yet, it has been one of the most violated rights in history. The lack of human rights-based migration policies between Africa and Europe drives constant violations of those rights.
By not advocating and asking for change, we are giving power to smugglers and human traffickers.”
“Development of digital economy can transform vital sectors finance, education, health, agriculture, transport, environment and therefore should be central to European-African partnership. Given the circumstances around Africa, it is clear that both sides can benefit from this focus, which should not be approached as business as usual.”
Green Technological Industrialization
“Green-centered technological Industrialization centered around securing green energy as a priority is the next stage of development. It is intended to be a development that benefits the planet’s welfare and eventually reduces human contribution to global warming and environmental degradation. This partnership will place both regions in a powerful position and in the front line of a new age of development which works to respect and fulfill the provisions disclosed in the Paris Agreement of 2015- strengthening their relationship.”
Christine M. Gitau, Kenya
“The Green Economy is an alternative vision for growth and development; one that can generate economic development and improve people’s lives in ways consistent with advancing environmental and social well-being. Greening economies using cost-effective economic policy instruments, in smart combinations with other environmental management tools, may promote environmental and social sustainability and inclusive economic development.”
Ibrahim Hashim, Sierra Leone
Deepening local governance and democracy
“An association of Local Governments from both continents formed out of the Africa - Europe partnership could birth many opportunities to foster grassroots development in both continents and especially Africa, which would serve as incentives for African states to ratify the African Charter on decentralization.”
Unemployment and Capacity Building
“Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) as a means to ameliorate the canker of unemployment among the youth as well as the need for a multifaceted approach in tackling climate change and sustainable, inclusive growth.”
Cephas Awedaga Babachuwe, Ghana
Digital skills development
“The EU and Africa should develop common interests in many aspects of digitalization, including working together on improving broadband access across Africa, supporting the development of Africa’s digital single market, supporting digital skills development, and developing e-governance which all can lead to the employment of many youths in Africa.”
Rogers Kigenza, Rwanda