Negotiations are ongoing to break the back on talks for the successor of the Cotonou Agreement, which expires in May 2020, between the EU and 79 countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP). EU policymakers are hopeful that progress will be achieved soon since there is growing assertiveness of African governments and institutions in their liaisons with Brussels. The first ministerial meeting between the EU and African Union was hosted in the European capital at the end of January at which Rwanda’s Foreign Minister Richard Sezibera said that the African Union was “coming of age, with a determination to speak with one voice on the world stage.” The continent’s partnership with the EU also needs to “come of age”, Mr. Sezibera added.
The African Union (AU) mirrors its European counterpart but lacks the institutional underpinnings that the European Commission acquired over time. This partially explains why African foreign ministers did a U-turn last fall and decided that the post-Cotonou negotiations with Brussels would be led by the secretariat of the African, Caribbean and Pacific community, which is funded by the EU. In 2018, under the leadership of Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame who was chairing the AU last year, the organization has shifted towards self-financing. The AU is at the moment to a great extent dependent on donors, including the EU.
In the meantime, Russia is trying to set foot in the door on the African continent. The first ever summit between African and Russian leaders is to take place in Moscow this year and the Commission has been annoyed by the increasing perception that China is becoming Africa’s main partner in investment and infrastructure building. Beijing promised $60 billion (€51.6 billion) in new development financing on the continent during an Africa-China summit in September last year.