The EU’s partnership with Africa is a key priority for the Commission. As Europe’s closest neighbour, Africa not only shares a rich history with EU countries, but also common values and interests. Through the Africa-EU partnership, we engage in political and policy dialogues, and define our cooperative relationship with Africa.
Today’s realities make this relationship all the more important. The ongoing COVID pandemic and the growing urgency of the climate crisis show how interdependent our two continents are, and why it is so important that both seize shared opportunities and tackle common challenges.
The Africa-EU Partnership is a multi-actor partnership guided by the EU and African Union (AU) Member States along with several non-state and civil society organisations, youth bodies, economic and social actors, and the private sector. The renewed partnership is grounded in an ongoing dialogue with the EU’s African partners that is taken forward at the 6th EU-AU Summit in Brussels in February 2022.
In the run-up to the summit, the Africa-Europe week will be a key moment to bring together young people, civil society and the private sector from Africa and Europe to discuss the aspects of the Africa-EU Partnership that matter to them the most.
The partnership strives to bring Africa and Europe closer together by strengthening economic cooperation and promoting sustainable development, with both continents co-existing in peace, security, democracy, prosperity, solidarity and human dignity. Against this backdrop, the two partners are determined to work together on a strategic, long-term footing to develop a shared vision for EU-Africa relations in a globalised world.
Together we can build a more prosperous, more peaceful and more sustainable future for all.- Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission (9 March 2020)
The European Commission and the European External Action Service's vision of the future Africa-EU partnership is outlined in the Joint Communication ‘Towards a Comprehensive Strategy with Africa’ and supported by Council Conclusions.
Within each partnership, the focus is on actions at continental and regional level where the EU and Africa have a collective capacity to deliver.
The Africa-EU Partnership was formally established in 2000 at the first Africa-EU Summit in Cairo. It is guided by the Joint Africa-EU strategy (JAES), adopted in 2007. To tackle the challenges of the times and set political priorities, the EU and African Union have been meeting over the years in different formats.
EU-AU summits of heads of states
The summits of EU and AU heads of states and governments take place traditionally every three years, alternating between Africa and Europe. These summits provide the political guidance for further work.
The 5th AU-EU Summit was held on 29-30 November 2017 in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, under the central theme ‘Investing in youth for a sustainable future’.
The AU-EU ministerial meetings take place on an ad-hoc basis to exchange views, take stock of the commitments and advance cooperation in certain fields.
The 2nd meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Member States of the AU and the EU took place in Kigali, Rwanda, from 25-26 October 2021. Ministers focused on the response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the digital and green transitions, peace, security and global governance, migration and mobility.
The 4th agricultural ministerial conference took place on 22 June 2021.
The Commissioners of both the European Commission and the African Union Commission meet annually, alternating between the cities of Brussels and Addis Ababa. The participants monitor the progress achieved between summits and discuss how to improve the cooperation between the two institutions.
The 10th Commission-to-Commission meeting was held on 27 February 2020, at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa.
The European Parliament and Pan-African Parliament (PAP) meet regularly to evaluate the strong points and shortcomings of the existing partnership. the last inter-parliamentary meeting was on 20 November 2020. The next parliamentary meeting is planned for February 2022.
Non-state actors, such as civil society, local authorities, youth representatives and the private sector play an active role in the Africa-EU Partnership and its decision-making process. In preparation of the institutional meetings, various stakeholder groups meet on a regular basis to bring their views and recommendations to the table.
Young people are key drivers for change and are advocating to have a more active role in global issues. Decision-making bodies on both continents are reflecting on this call, and on ways for moving towards meaningful engagement and empowerment of their young population. Ahead of the 2017 AU-EU Summit, the 4th Africa-Europe Youth Summit took place from 9-11 October 2017, and resulted in the adoption of the Abidjan Youth Declaration and Youth Agenda. The AU-EU Youth Cooperation Hub has further developed these ideas into concrete pilot projects.
The Africa-EU Civil Society Forum is an integral part of the Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES). It gathers representatives of African and European Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), with the objective of bringing their views to European and African leaders on critical issues. The 3rd edition of the CSO forum took place in Tunis, Tunisia, from 13-17 July 2017.
The first Africa-Europe Local and Regional Government Forum took place in Abidjan on 27 November 2017 to put the local government perspective on the agenda of the AU-EU Summit.
Private Sector: EU-Africa Business Forum
The EU-Africa Business Forum (EABF) provides an unrivalled occasion for high-level dialogue and networking, bringing together African and European business leaders to discuss how to improve the business and investment climate. Among these are multinational companies, large corporations, small and medium-scale enterprises and confederations, as well multilateral and regional institutions.
Specific thematic dialogues or expert meetings make an important contribution to the partnership and include: the AU-EU Human Rights Dialogue,; the High-Level Policy Dialogue (HLPD) on Science, Technology and Innovation (STI); the Africa-EU Energy Partnership (AEEP); and the Africa-EU Reference Group on Infrastructure (RGI).
In December 2020, a new platform was created to enable stakeholders from both continents to exchange ideas, best practices and make recommendations on major challenges affecting both Africa and Europe. These Africa-Europe Foundation Strategy Groups in the areas of Health, Digital, Agriculture and Sustainable Food Systems, Sustainable energy and Transport and Connectivity play “a think tank and advisory role for all those committed to taking Africa-Europe relations to the next level”. They bring together the expertise and skills of academics, think tanks, civil society, and the public and private sector. The groups operate in coordination with the newly established Africa-Europe Foundation led by the Friends of Europe think-tank and the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, in partnership with ONE and the South Africa Climate Foundation. The initiative builds on the four sectoral taskforces on digital, transport and connectivity, rural Africa and energy, created in 2018 under the Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs.
Complementarity with other cooperation frameworks
The Africa-EU Partnership, with its continental approach, is an instrument of political dialogue and cooperation, overarching and complementing existing development relationship frameworks between EU and African countries.
The Africa-EU Partnership focuses primarily on cooperation at a continental level and specifically the relationship between the European and African Unions. As such, it complements the EU's existing frameworks of cooperation with sub-Saharan Africa and with the EU Neighbourhood at bilateral and regional levels.
Other existing frameworks go beyond the African continent, such as the ACP-EU Partnership Agreement – also known as the Cotonou Agreement concluded in 2000, which involves African countries, as well as the Pacific and Caribbean (ACP) Group of States.
On 3 December 2020, the EU and the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) reached a political deal on a new agreement that succeeds the Cotonou Partnership Agreement. Marking the end of the negotiations, the ‘post-Cotonou’ agreement was initialled on 15 April 2021.