The EU’s relationship with Africa is a key priority for the Commission. The new COVID reality makes this relationship all the more important.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the growing urgency of the climate crisis show at the same time how interdependent our two continents are, and why it is so important that both continents act urgently to seize the shared opportunities that lie ahead and to tackle the common challenges that we all face. This pandemic knows no borders and, as it has demonstrated, a global response and an ability to act as an international community are essential.
What is the EU proposing?
The European Commission’s 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. It proposes to work together on five key global trends:
- A Partnership for the Green Transition and Energy Access
- A Partnership for Digital Transformation
- A Partnership for Sustainable Growth and Jobs
- A Partnership for Peace, Security and Governance
- A Partnership on Migration and Mobility
Today’s Strategy with Africa is the roadmap to move forward and bring our partnership to the next level. Africa is the European Union’s natural partner and neighbour. 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)
These proposals build on a growing momentum in EU-Africa relations. Deepening cooperation based around shared interests and values will enable both sides to achieve their common goals and to tackle global challenges.
The proposals set out not only the opportunities and challenges faced within each of these fields, but also 10 clear action points as a basis for future cooperation.
What is happening now?
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, and the subsequent postponement of the 6th European Union - African Union Summit to 2021, long-term strategic priorities must remain at the forefront of the partnership with Africa, all of which, are even more important and urgent in a post-COVID world. The priorities outlined in our Joint Communication “Towards a Comprehensive Strategy with Africa” remain pertinent to ensure a sustainable and resilient recovery: boosting economic relations, creating jobs in both continents and deepening our partnership.
The Summit's postponement has given more time to deepen discussions with our African partners and all stakeholders from both Continents, to hear their views on the EU proposed priorities.
This includes the Debating Africa-EU series which Commissioner Urpilainen has been a patron of, and in which other Commissioners from both the EU and African Union have taken part. The debates involved a broad exchange around the key themes of the proposed EU strategy with Africa and have been an opportunity for young people, civil society, business sector and policy-makers to share their vision for and comments on the future of the partnership.
What are the next steps?
The EU-African Union Summit in 2021 will be the culminating moment when African and European Heads of State and Government meet to determine joint priorities for their common future.
Ahead of the Summit, an Africa-EU Leaders’ meeting will take place on 9th December 2020, to maintain the momentum of our outreach at its highest level.
Although an informal meeting, it will provide the opportunity to discuss challenges such as the COVID-19 response, debt relief and access to financing for recovery. The occasion should also be used to exchange views on common areas of cooperation in a renewed Africa-EU Partnership, to be further developed jointly in the run-up to the EU-African Union Summit.
The Africa-Europe Foundation Strategy Groups
Widening the scope of outreach between African and European stakeholders
In 2018, four sectoral taskforces were set up under the Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs in the fields of digital, transport and connectivity, rural Africa and energy. These proved to be highly successful platforms upon which stakeholders from both our continents could exchange ideas, best practices and make recommendations.
The need to continue this type of structured dialogue between influential partners from both continents was evident, with the longer term goal of identifying and discussing major challenges, global as well as regional, affecting both Africa and Europe and to see how both continents can best work together to live up to these challenges.
A new structure and approach was established with the support of the EU under five Africa-Europe Foundation Strategy Groups in the areas of Health, Digital, Agriculture and Sustainable Food Systems, Sustainable energy and Transport and Connectivity. These Africa-Europe Foundation Strategy Groups, launched on 2 December 2020 together with a consortium of Friends of Europe, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation and IPEMED, bring together the expertise and skills of a multitude of stakeholders including academics, think tanks, civil society, and the public and private sector.
A joint letter by Presidents Michel and von der Leyen was sent to all African Heads of State and Government outlining the establishment of the Strategy Groups and that they will play “a think tank and advisory role for all those committed to taking Africa-Europe relations to the next level”.
The Strategy Groups will be further developed and operate in coordination with the newly established Africa-Europe Foundation lead by the Friends of Europe think-tank and the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, in partnership with ONE and the South Africa Climate Foundation.
Over the next 2 years, each Group will produce a thematic scoping report, identifying the issues at stake and highlighting the main topics/issues to address. This will be followed by a preliminary informative report. At the end of 2 years, a final report with recommendations will be presented.