Ready for a Reset? – EU Rolls Out Its ‚Comprehensive Strategy‘ for Africa

Written by | Tuesday, March 31st, 2020

Concerned about the growing influence of China, Russia and the United States in close neighbor Africa, the European Union recentlylaunched what it called a new ‚Comprehensive Strategy‘ for relations with a continent whose many economies are booming and its population is forecast to double by 2050. Reflecting on these and other fresh strategic opportunities in Africa, the new head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen travelled to Ethiopia for her first official visit outside Europe less than a week after landing the EU’s top job – in a move deemed symbolic and indicative of the EU’s desire to maintain and expand its relationship with the continent.
Earlier in March, the Commission and the EEAS released the joint communication ‘Towards a Comprehensive Strategy with Africa’ that will be used as a framework for talks between the EU and their African Union (AU) counterparts when defining the new EU comprehensive strategy with Africa, which will be approved at the EU-AU summit in October 2020 in Brussels. Launching six months of consultations between the 27-nation bloc and African countries, the European Commission said the ‚Comprehesive Strategy for Africa‘ will focus on climate change, developing the computer-based digital economy, economic growth and employment, security and good governance and migration.
The EU hopes African leaders will sign on and endorse the strategy at a summit in Brussels in October 2020. EU trade in goods with Africa was worth 235 billion euros in 2018, almost twice that of China’s trade with Africa and around five times that of the US.European foreign direct investment in 2017 stood at 222 billion euros, more than five times the figure for either of the other two major powers.“We have no inferiority complex. We are involved, and we are going to continue to be and our presence will, without doubt, be accompanied by not just investment, but also the desire to be partners in the political, economic and cultural development” of Africa, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said.“It’s about making progress in a shared partnership. I don’t know if that’s China’s point of view,” he said. The strategy is short on detail and largely a list of political ambitions.
But as Africa is also a major source of unauthorized migrants entering Europe, the section on migration underlines the need for better cooperation on the return to Africa of people not eligible to stay, and tighter border controls.Northern Africa, and notably the Sahel region, has also proved fertile ground for extremist groups. Thus the ‚Comprehensive Strategy‘ aims to strengthen security cooperation and help solve long-term crises in countries like Libya, Mali or Somalia. Beyond security, the EU is seeking to innovate well beyond the number of trade agreements currently in place between EU member states and several key African countries. Through the ‚Comprehesive Strategy‘ the EU will try to leverage its economic and cultural ties to the continent as a source of unity and progress, in stark contrast to their once shared, yet unequal history.

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