A new Dawn - Towards a people Centered Africa – Europe Relations
The Africa-EU Partnership is the formal political channel through which the European Union (EU) and the African continent work together, engage in political and policy dialogues and define their cooperative relationship. It was established in 2000 at the first Africa-EU Summit in Cairo. The partnership is guided by the Joint Africa-EU Strategy, which was adopted at the second EU-Africa Summit in Lisbon in 2007.
The stated objective of the partnership is to strive to bring Africa and Europe closer together through strengthening economic cooperation and promoting sustainable development, with both continents co-existing in peace, security, democracy, prosperity, solidarity and human dignity.
The partnership has a Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES) which sets out the intention of both continents to move beyond a donor/recipient relationship towards long-term cooperation on jointly identified mutual and complementary interests. It is based on principles of ownership, partnership and solidarity and its adoption marks a new phase in Africa-EU relations. The strategy is implemented through multiannual roadmaps and action plans. The latest declaration was adopted at the 5th AU-EU Summit held on 29-30 November 2017 in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, under the central theme of 'Investing in Youth for a Sustainable Future', where EU and African leaders defined four new joint priorities for 2018 and beyond. Its main priorities include investing in people through education, science, technology and skills development, strengthening resilience, peace, security and governance, mobilizing investments for Africa’s structural and sustainable transformation and migration and mobility. The priorities are set to be reviewed in the next Africa – EU summit.
The current partnership between the European Union and the African continent is exciting yet at the same time puzzling. On the one hand you have one partner who is organised institutionally and supported by strong technical, financial and political muscle, and on the other, you have a continent that lacks all these. You have a continent whose collective interest is at times at loggerheads with national interest of its members.
At the citizenry level, both stakeholders of this partnership have failed to recognize the roles and responsibilities of the citizen in the partnership. They have both placed citizen and their Organisations at the periphery of the partnership. This is no wonder, since although the strategies look sound and sensible, their definition and application is still heavily states driven and high level. In essence they have moved to alienate people from the partnership rather than bringing them into it. It is with this in mind that a new Africa – EU partnership is important and necessary. This partnership must be democratically owned, inclusive of citizen, transparent and accountable and focus on results for the populations of both Africa and Europe.
While both the EU and African states must be commended for initiating the partnership, time is now ripe to promote this partnership among their people and have them owning it. It must move from being a project of politicians and technocrats, to principles and values that are propagated and promoted by citizens. In this regard both the African Union and the European Union must put in place frameworks and mechanisms of engaging their citizenry on matters concerning the partnership as well as priorities for the partnership. While the European Union has a history of structurally engaging its citizen through their CSOs, the same cannot be said of the African Union on partnership matters. Of concern however is that both the African Union and the European Union lack mechanisms and frameworks of engaging their Citizen on affairs and priorities of this partnership. As such the priories currently under implementation are a product of political negotiations between the political class and technocrats with no or very limited input by the citizen. A structured and institutionalized engagement with CSOs is necessary to bridge this gap and place the people at the centre of the partnership. The engagement will not only enrich the discussions but also bring the partnership closer to the people.