GP Short Notes # 615, 19 February 2022
On 17 and 18 February, the leaders of the EU and African Union met for the sixth European Union - African Union summit in Brussels. The summit aims to lay the foundations for a renewed and deeper AU-EU partnership of greater political involvement with mutual trust and understanding. The summit defined a new financial and economic deal, supporting Africa in its post-pandemic recovery policies. The EU reaffirmed its allegiance to providing 450 million vaccine doses to Africa by mid-2022. About 425 million euros will be allocated to ramp up the pace of vaccination. The focus was also given to investment in infrastructure, including transport, energy transition and digital transformation. Besides, the summit also discussed education, culture, mobility, and migration.
European Council chief Charles Michel proclaimed, "We are not here to carry on business as usual”. At the opening address, AU's chairman and Senegal's President Macky Sall said: "Our common ambition, Africans and Europeans, for this summit, is to achieve a renewed, modernized and more action-oriented partnership."
What is the background?
First, a renewed EU-Africa relationship. The summit expects to evolve beyond usual donor-recipient commitments to a renewed special relationship aiming to deliver concerted solutions to global challenges. The objective is to establish an ambitious alliance with Africa focused on the future, to build an area of solidarity, security, prosperity and mobility.
Second, growing stability concerns and vaccine inequalities in Africa. A wave of military coups over the past 18 months, probing Islamist militancy and ethnic-regional conflicts in the Horn of Africa has become a growing concern in Africa. Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali and Sudan were suspended from the African Union over the past year after their governments were deposed by the military. Europe is also worried about the Kremlin shadow in Africa, especially the role of the Russian
Further, the AU has been requesting a patent waiver on Covid-19 vaccine production. However, the proposal by countries including South Africa is currently opposed by the EU, which is likely to be a contentious topic at the summit.
Third, the EU investments in Africa. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced USD 170 billion worth of investment in Africa under the Global Gateway scheme to fund digital transformation, green transition and sustainable development.
Fourth, Africa’s quest for equal partnership. Fred Ngoga Gateretse, head of the AU’s conflict prevention and early warning division, said: “What you want from Africa, you should also expect Africa to want from you”. For AU, the summit will be an opportunity to forge a partnership of equals that "maximizes our ability to benefit from our own resources", he added. AU expects the summit to be more participatory, as African nations are more assertive to move ahead of the donor-recipient mentality that had previously resulted in obedience to EU proposals.
What does it mean?
First, The sixth EU-Africa Summit is significant as Africa is at the centre of geopolitics. China has made a significant influence on the continent through diplomacy and major infrastructure investments. Russia, India, Japan and Turkey also have an increasing interest in the region.
Second, the postcolonial view of Africa as a continent in need of European charity has now been outdated. Europe needs Africa as much as Africa needs Europe. However, the summit outcomes are questionable to match the EU’s rhetoric on “partnership of equals”. The EU's initiatives of “prosperous and sustainable partnership” appears to be under European interest rather than shared interests of EU and AU.