Eric Pichon By / March 31, 2014

Africa in focus: rethinking the EU partnership

EU Foreign Affairs are focused this first week of April by the EU-Africa Summit (2-3/04) bringing African and EU leaders…

(c) EU -European Council

EU Foreign Affairs are focused this first week of April by the EU-Africa Summit (2-3/04) bringing African and EU leaders together in Brussels. A dynamic player in this partnership, the European Parliament hosts the third Parliamentary Summit with the Pan-African Parliament (31/03-1/04).

On this occasion, we offer some of our insights on Africa, drawing a mixed picture of a continent that brings together both the fastest growing economies and the poorest countries in the world. Its stocks of oil, rare earths (essential components in our electronic devices) and other minerals, give hope for future wealth, as well as a risk of fuelling conflicts….

The central theme of this EU-Africa Summit, the fourth since 2000, is “Investing in People, Prosperity and Peace”. So what has been achieved for each of these three ‘P’s?


A good way to get to know others is to help them in difficult situations. “We care, we act” is the motto for the European Voluntary Humanitarian Aid Corps, a structure which allows young EU citizens to express their solidarity by contributing to EU humanitarian aid operations.

The tragedy at Lampedusa last October, or the floods of Sub-Saharan migrants jumping over the fences between Morocco and the Spanish enclave of Melilla, show that no legal measure is harsh enough to deter people from escaping a desperate situation. Although national perspectives on arrival of immigrants may vary, the idea that a fair migration policy should also address and mitigate the causes of migration is gathering support.


EU-Africa Summit
(c) EU -European Council

Does economic growth in Africa reduce poverty? Not necessarily, as not everybody benefits from the fruits of this growth. Therefore, the central criterion of “differentiation” of the new Development Cooperation Instrument needs to be applied cautiously, in order not to exclude countries with a strong growth rate but persistent inequalities, such as South Africa, nor “fragile states” where aid cannot produce the “greatest impact and value for money” (by the way, a “New Deal” for engagement in fragile states goes beyond EU aid policy). Private actors can also take part in initiatives to boost development, as is the case for the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition (NAFSN).

Aid policy is of course not the only relation that exists between the EU and Africa: cultural and economic exchange happens on many levels, see for instance the Youth Summit or the Business Forum taking place in the run-up to the Summit.

The European Union is still the main market for African trade, but negotiations on Economic Partnership Agreements with the various African regional economic communities are long and difficult. Mutual interest is hard to find: these EPAs have to be designed to contribute to sustainable development in Africa, but African countries fear that this adjustment to WTO rules might have a negative economic impact – at least as long as a full economic integration in Sub-Saharan African countries is not forthcoming. Let’s sign off with a reminder that there is now a serious challenger to European partnership in Africa: China.


Unsurprisingly, one man’s economic interest is another man’s conflict flashpoint – as the situation with mineral extraction in Congo shows: to prevent or mitigate the risk of aggravating conflict, responsible‐sourcing initiatives are required.

On the security front, the EU does a lot to support individual countries’ or the African Union’s peacekeeping efforts. EUCAP, EUTM, EUFOR: this list of acronyms represents very concrete responses from the EU to  crises in the Central African Republic or in the Sahel.

On the subject of war and peace… This Sunday, 6 April, marks the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the Rwandan genocide. We hope our selection of information sources will contribute to better understanding of this terrible tragedy.

And for EP insiders: don’t forget to check our intranet page for recent information, or to browse the library catalogue. MEP’s offices and EP staff can subscribe to email alerts that deliver the latest analyses direct to their inbox. And we hold journal subscriptions such as Africa confidential, African affairs, African development review, Jeune Afrique, Journal of African economies,…

Africa in focus
picture by V. Kern

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