European Parliament votes on new EU-Africa strategy

The European Union should renounce the donor-recipient relationship with the African continent and instead cooperate at eye level. These are the demands in a report which was adopted by a majority of the European Parliament at the end of March. Plans for a „strategic partnership“ between the EU and the African Union (AU), originally to be completed by 2020, were stalled last year by the Corona-crisis.

MEPs on the European Parliament's Development Committee adopted a draft comprehensive strategy for the new EU-Africa partnership by a majority of 20 votes to three. At the end of March, the report received broad support during the European Parliament's plenary session. The strategy underlines the need for enhanced cooperation at eye level, especially in the areas of sustainable energy and climate policy, digitalisation, sustainable jobs, good governance and migration. In addition, the future partnership is to put human development in the foreground.

The following priorities are set out in the draft:

  • Long-term technical and financial support to advance climate change adaptation;
  • Support for regional integration within Africa with the aim of reducing dependence on foreign imports and strengthening the African Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which was launched in January 2021,
  • Protect sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR);
  • Encourage international donors to increase their commitment to debt relief;
  • and advance the prioritisation of the human dignity of migrants and refugees.

More financial resources for EU foreign policy

Another key demand of the European Parliament is that substantial funds should be earmarked in the upcoming EU budget to support EU foreign policy. In the meantime, the EU institutions have agreed on around €71 billion Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI). It is intended to support sustainable development in Africa, Asia, North and South America, as well as the Pacific.

The AU has yet to issue a position paper on its expectations for the partnership. A joint strategy is to be adopted at the postponed EU-Africa summit later this year.

BDI welcomes efforts for a new partnership

The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically demonstrates the need to set fundamentally new accents in the partnership between the two neighbouring continents. Against this background, BDI welcomes the new strategy, which unlike previous ones, is not being developed for Africa but together with Africa - which underlines the close cooperation with African partners. At the same time, it is of great importance to continue the dialogue without excluding taboo topics such as security, migration and trade.

A European Commission strategy paper from March 2020 promised to „create a more prosperous, peaceful and sustainable future for all“. The EU Commission's focus is thus on exporting the environmental and economic policies of its European Green Deal. So far, there is little indication from the Directorate General for International Partnerships (DG INTPA, formerly DEVCO) that the EU will improve its trade offer beyond duty-free and quota-free trade for the poorest countries under the Anything but Arms initiative.

In view of the upcoming EU-Africa Summit, the adoption of the Africa Strategy by the European Parliament is an important step towards a partnership of equals. For the EU, partnership with Africa should create an economic relationship based on equality, trust, shared values and a desire to build lasting relationships. Europe and Africa need each other more than ever. A new and equal partnership must reflect this as Europe's well-being also depends on the well-being of Africa.