Several complementary policy and cooperation frameworks govern EU relations with African countries. 

The most long-standing cooperation is with the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group, enshrined since 1975 in the Lomé Convention and updated since 2000 in the Cotonou Agreement. 48 states of sub-Saharan Africa are parties to the Cotonou Agreement. In Northern Africa, five countries – Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia – benefit from the EU’s partnership with its Southern Neighbourhood and participate in the Mediterranean Union. EU - South Africa relations are governed by the Trade, Development and Cooperation Agreement (TDCA) of 1999.

But Africa is also pursuing its political and economic integration at the continental level. From the foundation of the OAU 50 years ago and even more so since the creation of the African Union in 2002, Africa has built continental institutions and established ambitious policies and initiatives in many key areas that are of direct interest to the EU.

Africa and Europe are immediate neighbours, bound by a common history. They share common values and interests to guide their cooperation in the future. In this context, "treating Africa as one" has become a priority for both sides. Both continents therefore decided to put their relations on a new footing, and to conclude a strategic, trans-continental partnership. At the Lisbon Summit in 2007, the European Union and 54 African countries adopted the Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES) with the ambition of:

  • Moving 'beyond development', by strengthening the Africa-EU dialogue on issues of common concern and expanding their bilateral cooperation into promising new areas of common interest such as governance and human rights, trade and regional integration, energy, climate change, migration, mobility and employment, or science, ICT and space applications;
  • Moving 'beyond institutions' by working towards a people-centred partnership, ensuring the participation of civil society and the private sector and delivering direct benefits for African and European citizens.
  • Moving 'beyond Africa', by jointly addressing global common challenges such as climate change or peace and security.