Looking Beyond 2013: Are EU-Africa Relations Still Fit for Purpose?

Event Type
European Think-Tanks Group High Level Conference

Location / Date
Brussels, 28.10.2013


The European Think Tanks Group: Overseas Development Institute (ODI), German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE), Fundación para las relaciones internatcionales y el dialogo exterior (FRIDE), European Center for Development Policy Management (ECDPM)

Background of the Conference

Six years after the launch of the Joint EU-Africa Strategy (JAES) in Lisbon in 2007, where European and African leaders resolved to “build a new strategic political partnership for the future, overcoming the traditional donor-recipient relationship and building on common values and goals,” familiar concerns continue to be raised regarding the nature of EU-Africa relations.

The context of the partnership has indeed evolved since 2007: needs, priorities and interests of Africa and Europe are shifting, foreign policies are under pressure to support geostrategic objectives, global challenges are multiplying. It is, therefore, urgent for Africa and Europe to clearly redefine the added value of their partnership and to step up the nature of relationship.

In light of this changing context, this High-Level Conference assessed how to ensure that Europe-Africa relations remain fit for purpose.

It provided an opportunity to take stock of the successes, challenges and failures of the efforts to launch a strategic partnership, to revisit strategic questions on the nature and objective of the partnership and to have an open debate on what both partners expect from one another in order to inform the future relationship.

The High-Level Conference provided a platform for key African and European policy makers to discuss key strategic and thematic questions around the future of the Africa-EU partnership. The outcome of the Conference feeded reflections in the run up to the EU-Africa Summit, due to be held in Brussels in April 2014. The Conference discussed how this strategic partnership can be improved in order to ensure that Africa-Europe relations are fit for purpose.

Objectives of the High Level Conference

The conference addressed both strategic and thematic questions and focus on the following questions:

  • What have been the successes and challenges with the EU-Africa partnership since its creation at the Lisbon Summit in 2007?
  • What are the interests at stake for both continents in renewing the partnership?
  • What are the burning issues both continents would like to prioritise and cooperate on going forward?
  • What is needed to ensure that the partnership is fit-for-purpose in a changing global landscape to respond to the priorities, needs and ambitions of both partners?

The conference was structured around four vital areas for future EU-Africa dialogue and relations

Supporting African Private Sector Development

Private sector has been gaining momentum in African development debates. Yet, despite the ‘political capital’ that the cause of private sector development has gained in Africa, and the steady GDP growth that has accompanied it, African firms still struggle to make their way on domestic and global markets and establish themselves as competitive actors internationally. The conference will seek to address how the EU-Africa partnership can support the African private sector to play a central role in future economic development. In particular, it will focus on how can the ‘Agenda for Change’ be used to support future cooperation on private sector development.

Food Security
In times of steady economic growth, much of Africa is still unable to make its own people food-secure. This holds particular relevance for Sub-Saharan Africa, where hunger affects nearly a quarter of the populace. In order to feed and make food-secure a growing population, Africa is in dire need of enhancing its agricultural productivity. In recognition of this reality, several African-driven initiatives on food security were launched. 2013 marks the 10th anniversary of CAADP, Africa’s comprehensive agricultural program, which was subsequently included as an area of cooperation under the JAES. In the meantime, the EU is refining its Food Security Policy Framework and reforming its much-contested Common Agricultural Policy, a process unfolding in 2013 and to be completed in 2014. The session aimed to engage participants on the potential cooperation in this field, with emphasis on the potential role of the EU in terms of technology, capital and knowledge transfer to support African-led agricultural programs and ensure coherence between the different policies that have a bearing on food security.

Governance and EU Political Conditionality in Africa
The EU has a long tradition of supporting governance in Africa. Recently, such support has started to take into account the realities in partner countries, and recognised some of the limits of conditionality and incentive-based approaches to political reform. Within the context of the JAES a dialogue on governance has been launched in order to address some of these challenges. This session explored some of the questions that were raised, including: the relevance and incentives of political conditionality pursued by the EU and whether these are conducive to domestic change. Lessons drawn from previous governance support experiences was also looked at.

Dialogue on Peace and Security Challenges
The present security context still poses major challenges to African countries. In recognition of this, the EU provides substantial funding through the African Peace Facility, and engages in regular dialogue with African countries and the AU (through the African Union Peace & Security Council (AU PSC) and EU Political and Security Council (EU PSC) meetings). However, internal EU divergences have on a number of occasions prevented a coordinated EU response (e.g. Libya, Mali), sending a mixed message to Africans with respect to EU interests in Africa. The Conference therefore, discussed to what extent the dialogue on peace and security have evolved to the satisfaction of both partners. It was also considered what could be the main elements and interests of a future EU-Africa dialogue on security issues over the next years.

Draft Programme:

9:30 - 10:00 h     Registration

10:00 - 10:15 h   Opening Session: Welcome by representative of the   
                            European Think-Tanks Group

10:15 - 11:15 h    Session I: EU-Africa relations in a new context

11:15 - 11:30 h    Coffee break

11:30 - 13:00 h    parallel sessions 

  • Session II.a: Boosting the role of the African private sectorDebates will focus, inter alia, on:
  • What are the key challenges and opportunities for the development of a competitive private sector in Africa?
  • What can we learn from private sector experiences to address the African financial sector challenges?
  • Is Europe’s experience fit for Africa? What does the African  private sector expect from the European private sector?
  • Session II.b: Governance and political conditionality in Africa                     

Discussions was focused inter alia, on:

  • What lessons can we draw from previous EU experiences of governance support in Africa?
  • How do African actors perceive the EU's push for stronger
  • Political conditionalities? Does the EU provide the right incentives to generate domestic African support for political reforms?
  • How will the declining aid and trade influence in Africa impact its ability to promote a governance agenda on the continent?


13:00 - 14:30 h    Lunch
14:30 - 16:00 h    parallel sessions

  • SESSION III.a: Food security

Debates was framed around:

  • What lessons can we draw from previous EU efforts to address food security in Africa? Beyond the existing EU Food Security Policy Framework, what are the EU priorities for action in the future?
  • What are the sources of policy incoherence in the EU related to food security? What can be done to address this?
  • What food security related issues should be prioritised in the  EU-AU level dialogue?
  • SESSION III.b: Dialogue on Peace and Security Challenges

The conference was covered inter alia:

  • Has the dialogue on peace and security evolved to the satisfaction of both partners? What is the way forward in the next years? Did the dialogue within APSA sufficiently address the linkages with the African Governance Architecture?
  • What lessons can be drawn from the gradual alignment of the EU to African positions on peace and security and from EU support for AU security operations?
  • Considering the challenges facing Mali and the wider Sahel region, what is the role for EU institutions and its member states in strengthening the AU’s role on PCRD?


16:00 - 16:30 h    Plenary Session: Main elements emerging from the thematic sessions

16:30 - 17:30 h    Concluding Session: The road that lies ahead: The process ahead of the Summit
19:00 - 22:00 h    Gala dinner: Guest Speaker - Hon. Pedro Pires, former President of Cape Verde

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