EU’s Africa Strategy: Changing the Narrative from ‘Development’ to ‘Partnership’

Written by | Wednesday, February 26th, 2020

At the heart of the EU’s Africa strategy, due to be formally launched in early March, will be a series of policy-themed ‘partnerships’, according to a leaked draft. The EU Commission aims to “change the narrative: look at Africa for what it is becoming: home to the world’s youngest population; largest trade area since the creation of the WTO; appetite for regional integration; women’s empowerment; all creating huge economic opportunities.” The draft of the strategy covers various important areas, namely Partners for Sustainable Growth and Jobs; for a Green Transition; for a Digital and Data Transformation; Peace, Security, Governance and Resilience; Migration and Mobility; and Multilateralism.
This strategy reflects the change in the narrative during the first three months of the Von der Leyen Commission that has shifted from the focus on ‘development’ to ‘partnerships’. The leaked draft points the direction of EU-Africa policy in one of the key documents driving the so-called ‘geopolitical’ Commission. Ministers are expected to adopt conclusions at a Foreign Affairs Council in April or May, and then at an EU summit on 18-19 June. Africa policy has also been embraced by the Finnish government during the country’s EU presidency last year, whereby both the EU and the Finnish strategies “aim to strengthen an equal strategic partnership between the EU and Africa and to boost their political and trade relations,” as its Development Minister Ville Skinnari pointed out.
The strategy is likely seek to increase EU-Africa trade, business opportunities and investment, as well as EU support for the African Continental Free Trade Agreement that will come into force later this year. However, there are concerns that it will be overshadowed by the piecemeal progress of talks on the successor to the Cotonou Agreement, which is due to expire next month. Cotonou Agreement covers trade and political relations between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific community. But the EU will inevitably have to compete with other international players seeking greater political and economic relations with Africa. The Russia, UK, India, Turkey and France have all either hosted or are holding Africa-focused investment conferences in 2020. US President Donald Trump’s administration has also started to seek new trade and investment deals in Africa, which also includes the newly created International Development Finance Corporation to rival Chinese investment on the African continent.

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