Will the EU-AU summit reshape Europe-Africa relations?

The sixth summit of heads of state and government of the European Union (EU) and the African Union (AU) aims to “completely overhaul” the EU-Africa relationship, according to its host, French President Emmanuel Macron.

Speaking at a press conference in December, he raised the prospect of “reforging an economic and financial New Deal with Africa”, saying that Europe wanted to “establish a real system of peace and prosperity for strengthen investments in African economies and build [a] shared future” at the summit held in Paris on February 17 and 18.

But some commentators are less optimistic. The summit is likely to result in “grand declarations of intent” that have little substance, said Carlos Lopes, honorary professor at the Nelson Mandela School of Governance at the University of Cape Town.

“The announcements will have an impact but there will be no concrete changes that augur a profound change in the relationship,” he told the French newspaper. The world in January.

Two decades of strategic partnership between Africa and Europe

Africa-EU summits have been taking place since the former Organization of African Unity met the EU in Cairo in 2001, adopting the Cairo Declaration which redefines the strategic partnership between Africa and Europe in the spirit of equality, respect, alliance and cooperation.

He also set up the Africa-EU Partnership, a formal political channel through which the two continents work together.

The second summit, in Lisbon in 2007, saw the adoption of the Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES), which confirmed the fundamental objectives of the partnership and defined a political vision for future cooperation.

According to the AU, the summit plays an important role in moving “beyond a donor/recipient relationship towards long-term cooperation” on common interests.

The summit usually takes place every three years, alternating between Africa and Europe, to take stock of progress in implementing commitments and provide political guidance on future work.

the fifth summit gathered under the theme “Investing in youth for a sustainable future” in 2017 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the sixth summit, scheduled for November 2020, has been postponed until now.

Macron puts on background music

French President Emmanuel Macron presents his program for the EU-AU summit during a press conference in Paris on December 9, 2021. (Photo: Ludovic MARIN / POOL / AFP)

In December, when presenting his program for France’s six-month EU presidency, which began on January 1, President Macron made it clear that relations with Africa would play an important role.

“Since the beginning of my mandate [as president of France], I have made the relationship with Africa a priority, and I deeply believe that the relationship between our two continents which border the two shores of the Mediterranean is a major political and geopolitical project for the decades to come”, a- he declared during a press conference in Paris.

“The goal of [the EU-AU] summit is to completely overhaul the relationship because it has become – it must be admitted – through its instruments, bureaucratized and rather tired.

The relationship, he said, should be based on the following themes:

  1. Rebuilding an economic and financial New Deal with Africa: As Africa grapples with an annual deficit of €300 billion in the coming years due to Covid-19 (leading to the reallocation of IMF Special Drawing Rights to African countries), “the Europe must defend a joint strategy with Africa in international forums to promote this solidarity, and recast these solidarity investment mechanisms with regard to Africa,” he said.
  2. Establish a health and climate education program commensurate with the challenges facing Africa: Europe will pursue initiatives on girls’ education, train teachers and develop educational structures across Africa; and pursue a health agenda with a much faster and stronger deployment of vaccine production in Africa; and supporting Africa’s energy and climate transition through initiatives such as the Great Green Wall.
  3. Security: Faced with growing security threats, particularly in the Sahel, France hopes to “Europeanise” its existing defense commitments to Africa in order to build “a genuine Africa-Europe security partnership” to fight terrorism.
  4. Migration: Addressing the issue of ‘mobility’, the President expressed the hope of creating an agenda that would combat human trafficking in the Mediterranean and tackle the misery it exploits. He said it would help build a better future for Africa’s youth and enable “chosen migrations”, whether for academic, scientific or cultural purposes.

“We want to establish a real system of peace and prosperity to strengthen investments in African economies and build this shared future,” he said, adding that the agenda had been developed in successive meetings with leaders. African colleagues over the previous months and that preparations would continue until the time of the summit.

President Macky Sall of Senegal met Macron on Dec. 20 by phone just as the French president was receiving President Paul Kagame of Rwanda at the Elysée Palace in Paris. The discussion focused on the issue of Covid-19 vaccines for Africa, with the Elysée recognizing the need to accelerate vaccination campaigns for each African country.

Macky Sall will represent the AU at the summit, having taken over the chairmanship of the organization at the AU summit in early February and is expected to establish fairer pricing of natural resources and change in the central elements of global governance of its one-year term.

Issues likely to be contentious at the event include the West’s response to Covid-19 and migration, with the pandemic putting increasing pressure on Africans to migrate.

President Macky Sall of Senegal with President Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron during a dinner at the Elysée Palace in Paris in November 2021. (Photo: GONZALO FUENTES / POOL / AFP)

Summit must go beyond ‘grand declarations of intent’

The AU and African states will come to the Brussels summit with their own priorities, the head of the French Agency for International Development, Remy Rioux, told our sister publication. New African in a recent interview.

“I believe that a new type of alliance will emerge, based on a different narrative and with financial resources commensurate with the crisis that has hit us, also mobilizing the private sector in Africa,” he said. .

Speak French on a daily basis The world in January, prominent African development economist Carlos Lopes expressed fears that the summit would only produce “grand declarations of intent” from the European Commission, President Macron and even President Macky Sall.

“Look at what happened during the pandemic: as an aid, the European Commission simply reprogrammed funds that were already intended for the continent. They didn’t add a penny. And the EU does not have [originally] want to encourage patenting [on vaccines] that Africans were asking for,” Lopes said.

“Europe must understand the direction Africa is taking with the establishment of the AfCFTA [African Continental Free Trade Area]“, he told the newspaper.

When the interviewer pointed out that the EU had provided significant financial support for the establishment of the AfCFTA, Lopes responded by saying that Europe had 13 types of trade agreements with Africa, each strongly defending .

“Even if the money is pouring in to fund the AfCFTA, we Africans need to be more united to defend our own interests,” he said.

Mary I. Bruner