Author: High representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
Affiliated organization: European commission
Site of publication: Eur-lex.europa.eu
Type of publication: joint communication
Date of publication: March 9th, 2020
Towards a comprehensive strategy with Africa
Africa is Europe’s closest neighbour. The ties that bind Africa and the European Union (EU) are broad and deep as a result of history, proximity and shared interests. With the 6th Summit between the African Union (AU) and the EU and the conclusion of the negotiations of the new partnership agreement between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, 2020 will be a pivotal year in living up to our ambition of an even stronger partnership. In Africa, new prospects and challenges are emerging from economic, political, social, technological, demographic, climate and environmental changes. We need to partner with Africa, our twin continent, to tackle together the challenges of the 21st century and to further our common interests and future.
Africa has been recording steady economic growth. In 2018, six of the ten fastest growing economies in the world were African. Thirty African States are middle-income or highincome countries. The continent’s economic expansion has the potential to accelerate and drive broader social and human development with new opportunities arising from the digital transformation, the demographic dividend, low-cost renewable energy, the green transition and a low-carbon, blue and circular economy. This reflects the vision of the African leaders transformative initiatives, including the African Union’s Agenda 2063, the African Continental Free Trade Area, the African Visa-free Area, a Single African Digital Market and the Single African Air Transport Market.
To benefit both continents, our partnership should be based on a clear understanding of our respective and mutual interests and responsibilities, reflecting the comprehensiveness and maturity of our relationship. These interests include: developing a green growth model; improving the business environment and investment climate; boosting education, research and innovation, the creation of decent jobs and value addition through sustainable investments; maximising the benefits of regional economic integration and trade; ensuring food security and rural development; combatting climate change; ensuring access to sustainable energy and protecting biodiversity and natural resources; promoting peace and security; ensuring well-governed migration and mobility; engaging together on the global scene to strengthen the multilateral rules-based order, promoting universal values, human rights, democracy, rule of law and gender equality.
Africa’s potential attracts increased interest from many players on the world scene. This is a welcome development, as it increases Africa’s options and creates room for synergies. It also means that Europe, with the EU and its Member States working together in unison, must adapt the way it engages with Africa, ensuring its positioning is in line with our mutual interests, and giving more prominence to values, key principles, and good regulatory practices. The EU and its Member States are Africa’s biggest partner on all accounts, be it in terms of investment, trade, official development assistance, or security. This reliable, longterm, multi-faceted partnership should now also translate into a strong political alliance. Stronger political, economic and cultural ties between Europe and Africa are crucial in a multipolar world where collective action is sorely needed. Enhanced cooperation on global and multilateral affairs will be at the heart of our common action.
To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, the EU and Africa alike need to opt for a low-carbon, resource efficient and climate-resilient future in line with the Paris Agreement. African countries are particularly vulnerable to climate change as it risks jeopardising ongoing progress on sustainable development
To strengthen the EU’s strategic alliance with Africa, the European Commission and the High Representative of the Union are proposing to engage discussions with African partners in view of jointly defining at the upcoming EU-AU Summit a new comprehensive EU strategy with Africa that could be built on five partnerships:
- A partnership for green transition and energy access;
- A partnership for digital transformation;
- A partnership for sustainable growth and jobs;
- A partnership for peace and governance; and
- A partnership on migration and mobility
- Partners for green transition and energy access
The fight against climate change and environmental degradation is this generation’s defining task. Therefore Europe and Africa are allies in the development of sustainable energy, transport solutions, farming, circular and blue economies which can underpin Africa’s economic growth. To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, the EU and Africa alike need to opt for a low-carbon, resource efficient and climate-resilient future in line with the Paris Agreement. African countries are particularly vulnerable to climate change as it risks jeopardising ongoing progress on sustainable development.
The EU and Africa must join efforts to reach the Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger and address the challenges of nutrition and food security by boosting safe and sustainable agri-food systems. A partnership on agriculture would support the development of environment-friendly agricultural practices, promote local production and integrate biodiversity concerns. This includes setting sanitary and phytosanitary standards and the protection of natural resources. Trade between the EU and Africa plays an instrumental role supporting opportunities for sustainable food systems.
- Partners for digital transformation
Access to safe and affordable digital services needs to be ensured for all through investment in infrastructure and reliable sources of electricity. Establishing a regulatory environment for competitive and harmonised regional connectivity markets is also key. Unfolding the potential benefits of digitalisation requires a robust regulatory framework, in areas such as data and consumer protection, digital financial services, cybercrime and e-governance. Specific policies are needed to ensure full digital inclusion and digital equality for women and marginalised communities.
Digitalisation must be accompanied by strong measures to ensure security, resilience and deterrence against cybercrime, including international cooperation within established legal frameworks. The EU and Africa should deepen their collaboration in this regard, including to prevent the exploitation of the Internet for terrorism and violent extremism.
Appropriate legislation and operational capacity will be necessary to achieve progress in these areas and curb online threats to democracy and human rights. With respect to addressing disinformation, the EU has developed useful instruments and will continue to work closely with its African partners to find common approaches and share best practices.
The use of space data and technology contributes to smart and safe transport, green cities, sustainable management of natural resources and efficient agriculture. The open and free data provided by the EU Space programmes can boost a nascent African space private sector, enabling start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to develop local innovative solutions and services. The Earth observation monitoring of natural resources, of land use, of inland water resources, and of marine and coastal ecosystems can underpin policy and decision-making in Africa.
- Partners for sustainable growth and jobs
The close ties and geographic proximity between the EU and Africa make them natural allies in bringing about inclusive and sustainable economic growth on both continents. Economic opportunities and decent job creation in Africa and the EU could be substantially enhanced through joint action on four priority fronts: (a) boosting trade and sustainable investments in Africa; (b) improving the investment climate and business environment; (c) increasing access to quality education, skills, research, innovation, health and social rights; (d) advancing regional and continental economic integration.
a. Sustainable investments
Public and private investments are crucial to stimulating entrepreneurship and sustainable economic diversification. The focus should be: core quality infrastructure that is climate-resilient; access to finance; better data to help identify the most efficient and effective deployment of new sustainable energy sources; the development of a value-adding private sector with high potential for economic growth and the creation of decent jobs. With a foreign direct investment stock reaching EUR 222 billion, the EU is the largest investor in Africa, well ahead of the United States (EUR 42 billion) or China (EUR 38 billion)6 . Under the umbrella of the Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs, EU instruments, such as the External Lending Mandate, the African, Caribbean and Pacific Investment Facility and, more recently, the European External Investment Plan, have unlocked considerable investments in Africa.
These operations should be deployed in coordinated action with European development finance institutions. Together, these institutions have the biggest presence and focus on Sub-Saharan Africa with a combined portfolio accounting for a third of all development finance institution activity and representing three quarters of the most risk absorbing capital. A more joined-up approach between EU financial instruments and European development finance institutions will increase the mobilisation of private investors and domestic resources, accelerate the shift towards more responsible and climate neutral investments, and spur the development of the private sector in Africa
b. Regional and continental economic integration
Moving economic integration forward at regional and continental levels is an essential component of a coherent, sustainable economic strategy. We welcome the African Continental Free Trade Agreement in force since May 2019 – which creates significant momentum for continental integration – and the ultimate ambition of a continental single market. It will increase intra-African trade, including with countries in North Africa, diversify exports, and improve product quality and safety.
c. Business environment and investment climate
Boosting private sector investment is crucial to speeding up sustainable economic growth and the creation of decent jobs. Increasing investor confidence in Africa will crucially depend on improved security, effective, transparent and stable regulatory frameworks, combined with investment facilitation and protection, macro-economic stability, robust financial systems, access to credit, innovation and necessary data to underpin the green transition.
d. Education, skills, research, innovation, health and social rights
Investing in people, in particular in youth, is of paramount importance for building an even stronger partnership between our two continents. Within the next 15 years, some 375 million young people are expected to reach working age in Africa.
Decent work opportunities will be key to providing prospects to rapidly growing African youth. This goes hand in hand with a healthy workforce, environment and decent working conditions. In particular, this requires health and safety at work, inclusive social protection systems, universal health coverage, access to quality health services, including family planning, and fighting against inequality and, discrimination, child labour (especially in the agricultural sector) and forced labour. It also requires transitioning from the informal into the formal economy. In this respect, effective social dialogue with public authorities, workers’ and employers’ organisations will improve both the social and business climate. The EU and Africa also have a common interest in promoting investments in basic health care, clean water, housing and in developing infrastructure and capacity to cope with outbreaks of diseases.
- Partners for peace, security, governance and resilience
While the objective is to achieve peace and security throughout Africa, efforts should be made in priority in regions where tensions are the highest. African states, supported by regional and continental organisations, bear the main responsibility to act, as they are the foremost guarantors of their own security. But the EU is willing to markedly step up its support to Africa in cooperation with the international community. Resilience should in particular be at the heart of African and EU efforts to address protracted conflict and fragility.
a. Peace and security
While many good results have been achieved through the EU-Africa partnership on peace and security – notably captured in the EU-AU Memorandum of Understanding on Peace, Security and Governance – the complexity of the efforts and the deteriorating situation in certain regions require us to markedly step up our engagement together. This means also working with international partners, notably the United Nations. The AU-led “Silencing the Guns” initiative is important in this context.
The EU’s current integrated approach mobilises the full range of its instruments including top political diplomacy, regular consultations, mediation for conflict prevention and resolution, restrictive measures, and cooperation on counter-terrorism, the fight against organised crime including trafficking in human beings, and maritime security. Through the ‘African Peace Facility’ 12, the EU supports African-led peace operations and the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA). At the operational level, Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions as well as other security and defence deployments by EU Member States make a tangible contribution to peace and security in the Sahel, the Horn of Africa, the Gulf of Guinea, the Lake Chad Basin and the Central African Republic.
b. Governance, democracy, human rights and the rule of law
Security and development can only be sustainable in the long term when rooted in full respect of human rights without discrimination on any ground14, democratic principles, gender equality and the rule of law. Recognising that all human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent and interrelated, the EU, and African countries are committed to promoting and protecting all human rights and fundamental freedoms globally.
The EU seeks to continue supporting credible, inclusive and transparent electoral and democratic processes, including through increased coordination between the AU and EU on electoral observations and their follow-up. The EU also intends to step up cooperation on democratic governance and rule of law on both continents, including accountability and transparency of public institutions; independent and impartial justice, corruption and transnational crimes as well as trafficking in human beings.
Resilience, peace, security and governance are intimately linked. Therefore EU should partner with African stakeholders to enhance resilience, taking into account full spectrum of challenges deriving from root causes of conflicts to impact of crises. It will be done by deepening EU support to African peace efforts via integrated approach acting at all stages of the cycle of conflicts and crises as they unfold. This entails prevention, resolution and stabilisation efforts by well targeted humanitarian, development, peace and security actions in accordance to their added value and respective mandates.
- Partners on migration and mobility
Well-managed migration and mobility can have a positive impact on countries of origin, transit and destination alike. African migration and mobility flows are largely intra-African and regimes for free movement are being put in place at both regional and continental level. Some African Union Member States host a substantial number of migrants, refugees and forcibly displaced persons and thus face significant challenges and opportunities. Migration also represent challenges and opportunities for EU Member States.
Yet significant challenges remain. Sub-Saharan Africa hosts more than a quarter of the world’s refugee population. Dangerous journeys and attempts to cross the Mediterranean continue to cause loss of life and to fuel criminal business. To address such challenges Africa and the EU need a balanced, coherent and comprehensive approach to migration and mobility, guided by the principles of solidarity, partnership and shared responsibility and based on the respect for human rights and international law. The joint goal for EU and African partners should be sustainable and effective migration management.
Well-managed migration and mobility can have a positive impact on countries of origin, transit and destination alike. African migration and mobility flows are largely intra-African and regimes for free movement are being put in place at both regional and continental level
Cooperation on return and readmission, and effective return rates should be improved. The EU and Africa should work towards more efficient and sustainable mechanisms, including through support for voluntary returns, and through the effective implementation and conclusion of readmission arrangements. Returns should be accompanied by sustainable reintegration in the countries of origin.
- Conclusion: working together to implement the partnership
In order to achieve the ambitions outlined above and effectively implement the new partnership, the EU and Africa have to find ways to work more closely together.
a. At global level: strengthen rules-based multilateralism
Collective action and outreach in support of the international rules-based order and the multilateral system is required by all EU and African Union members. In an increasingly competitive world where ideas circulate freely and values come under threat, particular attention will be paid to public diplomacy in support of multilateralism across both continents, and around the world, by reaching out to young people, academics and other stakeholders who collectively shape the future world order.
b. At bilateral level: intensifying cooperation with Africa
The AU-EU Heads of State and Government summits and ministerial meetings will provide political steering to EU cooperation with Africa. Coherence should be ensured between this strategy and the legally binding agreements between the EU and African countries, both through the protocol covering Sub-Saharan African countries under the new partnership agreement between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States as well as through the association agreements between the EU and North African countries. Such coherence will be ensured by building on the existing governance structures, such as the summits, ministerial meetings, Commission-to-Commission and the Political/Peace and Security Committees. It should also open dialogues with key actors, such as young people, women, business leaders, civil society organisations, academia and think tanks.20 The EU should be ready to support the institutional reform process initiated by the AU. The EU should also continue to work with the diasporas to enhance the different ways in which they can contribute
c. On the EU side: acting in unison and mobilising the means
The EU remains Africa’s biggest partner in terms of investment, trade and development. To ensure that the EU’s substantial engagement with Africa delivers the expected results, the EU should increase strategic and operational coordination and joint action at headquarters and partner country level with EU Member States and other actors, such as the private sector, development finance institutions, banks, development implementing agencies, export credit agencies, local authorities, civil society organisations or cultural, educational and research institutions. Better leveraging and coordination of the considerable participation and work by the EU and its Member States in International Financial Institutions is key. Ongoing efforts, such as the ‘Working Better Together’ approach via joint programming and joint implementation, are already supporting a coherent and coordinated European strategic approach at country level.
The success of the Africa-EU partnership will be measured by the concrete outcomes of the actions developed in this document and by the tangible results the partnership will have achieved for citizens on both continents.
The EU remains Africa’s biggest partner in terms of investment, trade and development. To ensure that the EU’s substantial engagement with Africa delivers the expected results, the EU should increase strategic and operational coordination and joint action at headquarters and partner country level with EU Member States and other actors, such as the private sector, development finance institutions, banks, development implementing agencies, export credit agencies, local authorities, civil society organisations or cultural, educational and research institutions
To sum up, it is proposed that the EU partners with Africa on the following 10 actions:
- maximise the benefits of the green transition and minimise threats to the environment
in full compliance with the Paris Agreement;
- boost the continent’s digital transformation;
- substantially increase environmentally, socially and financially sustainable
investments that are resilient to the impacts of climate change; promote investment
opportunities by scaling up the use of innovative financing mechanisms; and boost
regional and continental economic integration, particularly through the African
Continental Free Trade Agreement;
- attract investors by supporting African states in adopting policies and regulatory
reforms that improve the business environment and investment climate, including a
level-playing field for business;
- rapidly enhance learning, knowledge and skills, research and innovation capacities,
particularly for women and youth, protecting and improving social rights, and
eradicating child labour;
- adapt and deepen EU support to African peace efforts through a more structured and
strategic form of cooperation, with a particular focus on regions where vulnerabilities
are the highest;
- integrating good governance, democracy, human rights, the rule of law and gender
equality in action and cooperation;
- secure resilience by linking humanitarian, development, peace and security
interventions at all stages of the cycle of conflicts and crises;
- ensure balanced, coherent and comprehensive partnerships on migration and
- strengthen the international rules-based order and the multilateral system, with the
United Nations at its core.
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