What the EU should do for democracy support in Africa: ten proposals for a new strategic initiative in times of polarisation

Hackenesch, Christine / Julia Leininger / Karina Mross
External Publications (2020)

published on Together towards Sustainability, 12.06.2020 Bonn: Friedrich Ebert Stiftung The study has been developed in cooperation with the German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE) and has also been published as Discussion Paper 14/2020.

ISBN: 978-3-96250-578-3

Future cooperation with African societies will have important  implications  for  the  European  Union  (EU)’s  political  and economic position in the world. We argue that setting democracy as a core principle of the EU’s foreign relations can  contribute  to  sustainable  development  in  Africa  and  beyond. Furthermore, it is in the EU’s own economic, security and political interests, as we will outline in this paper. It concludes with proposals on how EU democracy support could be further reformed and adapt-ed in response to changing context conditions:

Proposal  1:  Bring  democracy  support  and  protection  to  the core of EU external action and implement this strategic priority in EU foreign relations with Africa (and worldwide).

Proposal  2:  Develop  a  new  narrative  and  more  strategic  approach  to  democracy  support  in  a  geopolitical  context  where  democracy  is  increasingly  being  undermined  from  within  in  (former)  democratic  countries  and  challenged  from the outside by powerful authoritarian regimes.

Proposal 3: Address the impacts of demographic change, urbanisation, digitalisation and climate change on political regimes through EU democracy support.

Proposal  4:  Invest  more  in  intermediary  organisations  (media, parties, CSOs, trade unions, business councils) and in the democratic accountability of sectoral policies.

Proposal  5:  Intensify  support  for  civic  education  and  launch new initiatives to strengthen transnational relations between African and European societies.

Proposal 6: Engage more strategically in contexts where authoritarian regimes suddenly open up or where elector-al autocracies gradually close political spaces.

Proposal 7: Continue and deepen cooperation with Afri-can regional organisations and put more emphasis on joint learning and practices for defending democracy.

Proposal 8: Create a different institutional set-up that al-lows the EU to engage more strategically in democratic re-forms.

Proposal 9: Increase the capacities of the European Exter-nal Action Service (EEAS) and the Directorate-General for International  Cooperation  and  Development  (DEVCO)  to  work on democracy support.

Proposal 10: Develop a joint European approach towards democracy support that is sustained by all European countries.

About the authors

Hackenesch, Christine

Political Science


Leininger, Julia

Political Scientist


Mross, Karina

Political Science


Further experts

Baumann, Max-Otto

Political Science 

Breuer, Anita

Political Scientist 

Dick, Eva

Sociologist and Spatial Planner 

Fasold, Maximilian

Political Economy 

Fiedler, Charlotte

Political Scientist 

Gutheil, Lena

Cultural Anthropology 

Haldenwang, Christian von

Political Science 

Houdret, Annabelle

Political Scientist 

Li, Hangwei

Political Science 

Lorch, Jasmin

Political Science 

Morare, Ditebogo Modiegi

Political Science 

Nowack, Daniel

Political Science 

Roll, Michael


Wingens, Christopher

Political Science