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The EU’s Relations With Africa

The Joint Africa-EU Strategy  (JAES) is the overall political framework defining continent to continent relations.  The JAES strategic orientations are  implemented through Action Plans which have reinforced the dialogue and led to concrete action in key areas of common concern. The action plans are structured around eight thematic areas : 1. Peace and Security, 2. Democratic Governance and Human Rights, 3. Regional Economic Integration, Trade and Infrastructure, 4. Millennium Development Goals, 5. Climate Change and Environment, 6. Energy, 7. Migration, Mobility and Employment  and 8. Science, Information Society and Space. 

Climate Change and environment

The African continent is particularly vulnerable to climate change. Food security, sustainable water supply and extreme weather phenomena (floods, drought desertification) are major issues that require an African-EU joint effort. The partnership aims at supporting a continental pan-African approach and response to climate challenges.  Priorities include:  Building a common agenda on climate change policies and cooperation and Fighting against land degradation and aridity including the Green wall for the Sahara and Sahel Initiative.   The initiative will offer cross-border and integrated management of degraded/fragile lands, introduction of drought-resistant plant species of high economic value and creation of water ponds for agricultural production systems. This will be accompanied by other actions aimed at sustainable management of natural resources.

In  addition, the EU maintains sub-regional and bilateral relations with African countries. These are defined by different legal frameworks.

All North African countries are part of  the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and benefit from its financial instrument, the ENPI. Political dialogue with North African partners takes place in the framework of the ENP according to its own modalities. The regional approach with North Africa is defined in  the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership.

Relations with Sub-Saharan African countries take place under the legal framework of the Partnership Agreement with the African, Caribbean and Pacifc States (ACP), the so-called Cotonou Agreement, as revised for the second time in 2010. The Cotonou Agreement covers both political dialogue and financial cooperation at the national and sub-regional level. Its financial instrument is the European Development Fund (EDF) - except for South Africa which is covered by the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI).

The EU holds also specific political dialogues at ministerial level with key partners or regions (The  Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), East and Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean, Central Africa and the South African Development Community (SADC).

A Closer look at Co-operation with Africa on Environment

Water scarcity and droughts in Africa

Of all the developing regions, water availability per capita is lowest in Africa. Food security is also closely linked to water availability and irrigation. Sub-Saharan Africa lags far behind the rest of the world in proportion of irrigated arable land and its contribution to the total food supply.  Because of increasing population, demand for water for the agricultural, industrial, and domestic sectors has grown significantly.  Of the 63 trans-boundary river basins in Africa, only a very small proportion has established mechanisms for cross-border management.  Increased demand for water will have to be balanced with the competing demands of different sectors.

The EU – Water Initiative (EUWI)

At the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in 2002 in Johannesburg, the EU launched a Water Initiative .  The EUWI's goal is to contribute to the achievement of specific targets on access to water and sanitation by increasing the efficiency of water development aid through better coordination and harmonisation of donor activities, as well as better governance arrangements through a multi-stakeholder process.  The ACP-EU Water Facility was set up in 2004, with the principal objective of providing water and basic sanitation to the poor, and to improve water management and governance in African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries.

The European Commission’s  approach to  the development of actions in the water and sanitation sector is based on an integrated framework for collaboration with  partner governments, EU Member States and concerned stakeholders. The ACP-EU Water Facility is part of this integrated framework for financing water and sanitation, which includes also the National and Regional Indicative programmes, and the Africa-EU Infrastructure Partnership Trust Fund.  The second phase of the ACP-EU Water Facility of 200 million Euro  was launched in February 2010.


Forest resources play a large role in income generation and household food security in  Africa, with forestry products providing sustenance and revenue  for many families.  Despite efforts to address deforestation,  disappearing forest cover remains a concern.

FLEGT Voluntary Partnerships Agreements (VPAs) in Africa

The   EU’s Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade programme established in 2003  aims to improve governance and reduce illegal logging by strengthening sustainable and legal forest management, improving governance and promoting trade in legally produced timber. The EU FLEGT process builds upon previous regional forest law enforcement and governance (FLEG) initiatives,  including the Africa Forest Law Enforcement and Governance (AFLEG) Ministerial Conference.  Voluntary Partnership Agreements are one of the measures addressed in the EU FLEGT Action Plan. The EU is developing such legally-binding accords with timber exporting countries, under which the partner countries develop systems to verify the legality of their timber being exported to Europe. Today a number of VPAs have either been concluded or are being negotiated with a number of African countries.