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Africa-EU Relationships

EU-Africa relationships are strong and complex for both geo-strategic and historical reasons. Three main frameworks for cooperation between Africa and the EU co-exist and have evolved according to the international/continental contexts:

  • The Barcelona Process (1995) forms the basis of the ‘Euro-Mediterranean Partnership’ which has expanded and evolved into the ‘Union for the Mediterranean’. With the introduction of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) in 2004, the Barcelona Process essentially became the multilateral forum of dialogue and cooperation between the EU and its Mediterranean partners while complementary bilateral relations are managed mainly under the ENP and through Association Agreements signed with each partner country. This framework reflects how Europe sees its priorities with its neighbouring countries (among which Northern African countries).
  • The Cotonou Agreement (2000) defines the various aspects of the relationship between ACP countries and the EU including the development cooperation, political and trade dimensions. The Cotonou Agreement followed the Yaoundé and then the Lomé Conventions, which were historically determining Europe’s cooperation and trade framework with some of its former colonies. All sub-Saharan African countries (including – in some respects – South Africa) are parties to this agreement.
  • The Trade and Development Cooperation Agreement (TDCA) with South Africa (2004), which has now been complemented by an ‘EU-SA Strategy’, and entails the various dimensions of European relations with South Africa (trade relations, political dialogue and cooperation).

These various agreements define Europe’s multiple relationships with Africa.

1stSince the late 1990’s the EU has gradually moved towards a more specific relationship with Africa (beyond the ACP). The first EU-Africa Summit held in Cairo (April 2000) launched a comprehensive framework for political dialogue between the EU and Africa and a plan of action in the following priority areas: i) regional integration in Africa; ii) integration of Africa into the world economy; iii) human rights, democratic principles and institutions, good governance and rule of law; iv) peace-building, conflict prevention, management and resolution; and v) development issues (sustainable development challenges and poverty eradication, health, environment, food security, drug consumption and trafficking, culture).

MAPThe changing political climate in Europe and Africa laid the foundations for a new type of partnership between the EU and Africa. The launch of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD, 2001) and the transformation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) into the African Union (AU, 2002) have reinforced this trend towards a greater pan-African cooperation and given a significant boost to EU-Africa partnership, not least because the EU finally had on the African side a comparable institutional partner committed to common priorities. The rapidly adopted and ratified Constitutive Act of the AU demonstrated that there was an increasing commitment to tackle key socio-economic, political and security issues in Africa.

ECSix years after the first EU-Africa Summit, most ‘Cairo’ key thematic areas still dominate the EU-Africa agenda. The EU Strategy for Africa, adopted by the EU Council in December 2005 is a comprehensive policy framework that reflects the priorities of the EU in its relationship with Africa. The Strategy aims to reinforce coordination and complementarity across the various EC’s Directorates General (DG) and between the EC and EU member states’ (MS) policies and strategies towards Africa. It also aims to ensure greater coherence among different European policy areas that have an impact on Africa. The EU Strategy for Africa also provides guidelines for coordination in international fora such as the United Nations (UN) and the G8.

2ndSince the historic first Africa-EU Summit held in Cairo in 2000 where the partnership was strengthened through the institutionalisation of the EU-Africa dialogue, considerable change has taken place on both continents. Democratisation and reform processes have been launched and are being deepened in both Africa and Europe and efforts have continued on both continents to address conflict and crisis situations.

At the same time, integration processes on both continents have accelerated. The world has also changed: new international and global challenges have emerged, globalisation has accelerated and the world has become increasingly interdependent.

In response to these changes, cooperation between Africa and the EU has rapidly developed and diversified.

However, it was time for these two neighbours, with their rich and complex history, to forge a new and stronger partnership that builds on their new identities and renewed institutions, capitalises on the lessons of the past and provides a solid framework for long-term, systematic and well integrated cooperation. There was a need for a new phase in the Africa-EU relationship, a new strategic partnership and a Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES) as a political vision and roadmap for the future cooperation between the two continents in existing and new areas.

The purpose of the JAES is to take the Africa-EU relationship to a new, strategic level with a strengthened political partnership and enhanced cooperation at all levels. The partnership is based on a Euro-African consensus on values, common interests and common strategic objectives. This partnership strives to bridge the development divide between Africa and Europe through the strengthening of economic cooperation and the promotion of sustainable development in both continents, living side by side in peace, security, prosperity, solidarity and human dignity. This Joint Strategy, which provides an overarching long-term framework for Africa-EU relations, is implemented through successive short-term Action Plans and enhanced political dialogue at all levels, resulting in concrete and measurable outcomes in all areas of the partnership.

  • Reinforce and elevate the Africa-EU political partnership to address issues of common concern. To this end, both sides are treating Africa as one and upgrade the Africa-EU political dialogue to enable a strong and sustainable continent-to-continent partnership, with the AU and the EU at the centre.
  • Strengthen and promote peace, security, democratic governance and human rights, fundamental freedoms, gender equality, sustainable economic development, including industrialisation, and regional and continental integration in Africa, and to ensure that all the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are met in all African countries by the year of 2015.
  • Jointly promote and sustain a system of effective multilateralism, with strong, representative and legitimate institutions, and the reform of the United Nations (UN) system and of other key international institutions, and to address global challenges and common concerns such as human rights, gender equality, fair trade, migration, health, climate change, energy security and sustainability, terrorism, and knowledge-based society issues such as ICT, science, technology and innovation.
  • Facilitate and promote a broad-based and wide-ranging people-centred partnership, Africa and the EU are empowering non-state actors and create conditions to enable them to play an active role in development, democracy building, conflict prevention and post-conflict reconstruction processes. Both sides also promote holistic approaches to development processes, and make this Joint Strategy a permanent platform for information, participation and mobilisation of a broad spectrum of civil society actors in the EU, Africa and beyond. On-going dialogue with civil society, the private sector and local stakeholders on issues covered by this Joint Strategy are a key component to ensure its implementation.

The four main objectives of this long-term strategic partnership set a comprehensive framework within which specific strategies are implemented in the following areas: (a) peace and security, (b) governance and human rights, (c) trade and regional integration, and (d) key development issues.

Africa and the EU implement their new strategic partnership through an institutional architecture, which allows and promotes intensive exchange and dialogue on all issues of common concern. The partnership involves a large number of institutional and non-institutional actors in Africa and the EU at continental, regional, national and local levels, with a central role of the AU and the EU. Partners therefore place greater value on the role of their continental organisations in facilitating this partnership and task them to work closely together, including through more regular dialogue between corresponding AU and EU institutions, in the preparation and follow-up of decisions and meetings. The effective implementation of the policies and actions outlined in the Joint Strategy are also the shared responsibility of all African and EU Member States.

  • Africa-EU Summits
    Meetings of the Heads of State and Government are organised every three years, alternately in Africa and the EU. These Summits reflect the importance which the two sides attach to their relationship, take stock of progress made in the implementation of commitments made and give political guidance for further work, including through the approval of Action Plans. These Summits are prepared at ministerial level.
  • Africa-EU Troitkas
    In the period between the Summits, the dialogue between Africa and the EU is maintained through regular meetings of Senior Officials and Ministers. In order to ensure an effective and balanced representation of both Unions, these meetings are held in Troika format, whereby each side is represented by a smaller number of representatives who are mandated to speak on behalf of Africa and the EU respectively. On the EU side, the Troika consists of the current and incoming EU Presidency, the European Commission and the EU Council Secretariat, while on the African side the Troika consists of the current and outgoing Presidencies of the AU and the AU Commission, expanded to include chef de file countries at the expert and senior official levels. The biannual Africa-EU Ministerial troika meeting play a central role in the review and monitoring of the implementation of the Joint Strategy and its successive Action Plans.
  • Commission-to-commission dialogues and joint EU-AU task forces
    The two Commissions (AUC-EC) play a central role as the driving forces behind the partnership. They develop their cooperation, together with the EU Council Secretariat. The Joint EU-AU Task Force is strengthened to facilitate permanent working level dialogue, interaction and joint projects between the different institutions and hold regular meetings to move forward the agenda of the strategic partnership. The Colleges of Commissioners of the European and AU Commissions meet on an annual basis to provide political leadership and impetus to the work of the EU-AU Joint Task Force (JTF).
  • Joint Expert Groups
    The implementation of the Partnerships is undertaken by Joint Expert Groups (the so-called JEG) which brings together the African and EU implementing team and their co-chairs. The implementing team comprises of the AUC, the EC, African and EU member states, African Regional Economic Communities (RECs), international organisations, civil society organisations, etc. The JEG is usually meeting 2-3 times a year (alternatively in Europe and Africa)

The Joint Strategy, which provides an overarching long-term policy framework for Africa-EU relations, is implemented through successive Action Plans which build on the operational part of this Joint Strategy and cover proposed priority actions for three years. These Action Plans identify the main political priorities, as well as the policy commitments, programmes and actions that will be needed to achieve them. The Action Plans also allow Heads of State and Government to assess, on a regular basis, the extent to which implementation has succeeded or failed in key areas and, if necessary, to provide new political impetus.

  • Action Plan I (2008-2010) adopted at the 2nd Africa-EU Summit (Lisbon, Portugal – 2007) (pdf)
  • Action Plan II (2011-2013) adopted at the 3rd Africa-EU Summit (Tripoli, Libya – 2010) (pdf)

3rdThe 3rd Africa EU Summit took place on November 29-30, 2010, in Tripoli, Libya. The Summit shaped the future relations between two continents and adopted the 3rd Africa-EU Summit declaration and the 2nd Action Plan 2011-2013.

In view of the overarching Summit theme “Investment, economic growth and job creation” the meeting underlined the essential link between a reinvigorated economic cooperation and regional integration via different sectors, including the private sector, with a reinforced cooperation in the thematic partnerships under the Joint Strategy: peace and security, democratic and economic governance and respect for human rights are prerequisites of development. These assets are essential for the creation of an investment-friendly environment that makes best use of domestic resources and attracts investments. The development of Africa’s vast human capital requires a focus on skills development, innovation and entrepreneurship, which should be complemented with a comprehensive approach to social and labour market policies. Without a food-secure, educated and healthy population, both economic growth and poverty reduction remains elusive. Regional Integration, trade, migration and mobility, adaptation and mitigation regarding climate change together with sustainable investment in key sectors such as ICT, energy, raw materials or Science and Technology, agricultural research can build on these foundations to foster sustainable, knowledge-generating and competitive economies.

Logo_Globus_webThe Strategic Partnership established in 2007 in Lisbon has moved the Africa-EU relationship to a new level. Both sides agreed to pursue common interests and strategic objectives together, beyond the focus of traditional development policy. The two continents started cooperating as equal partners. Since then, successive Action Plans have reinforced the intercontinental dialogue and led to concrete action in key areas of common concern. Eight thematic partnerships ensure the operational follow-up:

1. Peace and security
2. Democratic governance and human rights
3. Trade, regional integration and infrastructure
4. Millennium development goals (MDGs)
5. Energy
6. Climate change
7. Migration, mobility and employment
8. Science, information society and space (the so-called ‘Partnership 8’ or ‘P8) (leaflet)

Africa is the continent where the scientific and digital divides are the widest. The MDGs identify the essential role of science and technology for socio-economic transformation. Investments in African scientific capacities have not been prioritized and the continent is loosing some of its best scientific and technical expertise to other regions. It is in this context, that the Africa Science and Technology Consolidated Plan of Action (S&T CPA) was developed, consolidating the AU Commission and NEPAD programmes related to Science and Technology capacity building, knowledge production and technological innovation.

The MDGs also identify Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) as key enablers for poverty reduction and growth. Although ICTs are multi-sectorial tools for socio-economic development, a dedicated coherent strategy needs to be implemented in order to develop an inclusive information society in Africa. It is on these principles, and in the context of the World Summit on Information Society, that the African Regional Action Plan for Knowledge Economy (ARAPKE), an AU initiative, was developed.

Bridging the digital and scientific divide within African countries and between Africa and other regions, as well as fostering cooperation on space applications and technology to support Africa’s sustainable development objective underlie the Africa-EU Partnership on Science, Information Society and Space.

The Partnership 8 interlinks three Priorities for development policy, which singly and in conjunction with one another can leverage faster socio-economic development in Africa: science, information society and space applications. By strengthening their cooperation to produce knowledge-based societies and economies, Africa and the EU recognise that:

  • The development of science, technology and innovation, as well as the spreading of the digital era to all sections of society are key motors of socio-economic growth and sustainable development;
  • Competitiveness in the world economy rests increasingly on knowledge and application of modern technologies;
  • Attainment of the MDGs requires a general effort to raise S&T capacities in Africa and enable widespread use of ICTs and related services.

In that respect, this Partnership is crosscutting in nature, contributing to the attainment of all other development objectives. For optimal effectiveness, there should therefore be close coordination with other JAES Partnerships (particularly infrastructure, climate change, Migration Mobility and Employment ‘MME’, and MDGs).

  • Priority Action #1 (Science): S&T capacity building for the implementation of the Africa’s Science and Technology (S&T) Consolidated Plan of Action (CPA).

    Objectives: strengthen African Capacities in the area of science and technology, in order to enhance the use of science and technology and foster S&T cooperation.

    Expected outcomes:

    • Strengthened African S&T capacities and EU capacities for working with Africa to enhance coherence of cooperation
    • Improved training, and hence increase the quality and number of African and EU scientists, technicians and engineers
    • Improved training and exchange programmes for African and EU scientists, technicians and engineers
    • The mainstreaming of S&T into REC’s sectorial programmes and projects, including those in EDF RIPs
    • Improved pan-African infrastructure and facilities for R&D
    • The active pursuing of AU-EU high-level policy dialogue
    • Enhanced S&T cooperation at all levels (bilateral, bi-regional, bi-continental, REC-level) in key areas of the CPA
    • Enhanced innovation capability of African and European SMEs
    • Development of STI evidence–based AU EU policy making, including support to the Africa STI observatory

  • Priority Action #2 (ICT/Information Society): Support the development of an inclusive information society in Africa

    Objectives: Complement and develop new strategies to support investments made on ICT infrastructures deployment, as planned in the EU-Africa Partnership on Infrastructures. This will be done by exploiting synergies between the EU 2020 Digital Agenda and the AU ICT development frameworks as well as with support to capacity-building initiatives for mass diffusion of ICTs and related services considered as key enablers for poverty reduction, economic growth, social development and regional integration.

    Expected Outcomes:

    • A successful implementation of the AU ICT development frameworks including ARAPKE (the African Regional Action Plan for the Knowledge Economy), the Reference Framework for ICT Policy Harmonization and the 2010 Addis Ababa AU Summit Declaration on ICT for Africa’s development
    • A more inclusive and affordable access to ICT applications and services and widespread use of ICTs (e.g. the internet and mobile applications), across all socio-economic sectors in order to fast-track the MDGs objectives, notably in health (e.g. use of telemedicine and the creation of bio-data banks) and the education sector
    • Stronger cooperation regarding the digital economy and the reduction of the digital divide, including private sector, international financial institutions and UN agencies
    • A more competitive African economy through ICT uptake and innovation
    • Consultation on African-EU positions and approaches in international and regional ICT for a to enhance mutual understanding
    • Mutual beneficial economic collaboration for AU-EU industries and SMEs involved in ICTs

  • Priority Action #3 (Space): Enhance Cooperation on Space Applications and technology.

    Objective: enhanced cooperation in the use of space application and technology to support Africa’s development.

    Expected outcomes:

    • Strengthening and developing of Pan African Institutions
    • Integration of Space-related issues fully in specific dialogues and cooperation initiatives in areas such as navigation, telecommunications and Earth observation for the environment and resource management, climate change, peace and security
    • Development of specific projects (such as telemedicine), based on existing space infrastructure to achieve regional and global development goals.

  • FEAST
    This feasibility study provided the EC with a roadmap to implement the AfricaConnect initiative
  • AfricaConnect
    AfricaConnect aims at supporting the deployment of regional research and education networks in Sub-Saharan Africa and their interconnection with the European GEANT Network
  • HIPSSA
    The HIPSSA Project aims to support the implementation of the AU Reference Framework for Harmonization of Telecommunications and ICT policies and Regulation in Africa
  • The African Virtual Campus
    The Project is developing a network of fully operational e-Learning national centres across Africa. This Internet-based network is used for large-scale student and teacher training
  • ALICT
    African Leadership in ICT (ALICT) is an African Union Commission initiative, supported by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland and implemented by GESCI (Founded by the UN ICT Task Force)
  • AYIN
    The African Youth ICT4D Network (AYIN) aims to create and support at the national and sub-regional levels, a self-sustaining enabling environment under which young people can act on their own behalf, and on their own terms in the planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of strategies development efforts. The project also aims to adopt measures to improve access to ICTs and to provide young people with the skills to make use of it.
  • AXIS
    The “African Internet Exchange System” focuses on enhancing Internet deployment and use in Africa

Note: the Call for Africa (FP7-AFRICA-2010) is a main output of the Partnership 8 (Science Component). The aim of this call was to address some of the Science & Technology objectives of the “Africa – EU Strategic Partnership” putting emphasis on “Water and Food Security and “Better Health for Africa” (evaluation results).

The main objectives of the Information Society Priority are to complement investments in ICT infrastructures deployment, as planned in the EU-Africa Partnership on Infrastructures, by exploiting synergies between the EU 2020 Digital Agenda and AU ICT development frameworks, and support ICT capacity-building initiatives for mass diffusion of ICTs and related services, as key enablers for poverty reduction, economic growth, social development and regional integration.

The implementation of the Partnership 8 is undertaken by the Joint Expert Group (the so-called JEG8) which brings together the African and EU implementing team and their co-chairs (as of Jan. 2012: Portugal and Tunisia). The implementing team comprises of the AUC, the EC, African and EU member states, African Regional Economic Communities (RECs), international organisations, civil society organisations, etc. The JEG8 is usually meeting two times a year (alternatively in Europe and Africa).

Past JEG8 meetings

  • October 2009 – Addis Abba, Ethiopia
  • November 2009 – Hammamet, Tunisia
  • March 2010 – Cairo, Egypt
  • May 2010 – Durban, South Africa
  • September 2010 – Brussels, Belgium
  • May 2012 – Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania
  • November 6-8, 2012 – Cape Town, South Africa
  • June 27-28, 2013 – Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

The European Expert Group of the Partnership 8 (the so-called EEG8) is the European sub-group of the JEG8 and and feeds its meetings.

Past EEG8 meetings

  • March 2011 – Brussels, Belgium
  • May 3, 2012 – Brussels, Belgium
  • June 4, 2012 – Brussels, Belgium
  • October 4, 2012 – Helsinki, Finland (EEG8/INFSO sub-group)
  • October 24, 2012 – Brussels, Belgium
  • November 27, 2012 – Lisbon, Portugal

The P8/ICT multi-stakeholder Implementation Group (IG8/ICT) of the “Africa-EU Strategic Partnership on Science, Information Society and Space” co-chaired by the EC and the AUC is formed to provide key stakeholders active in the information society areas with periodic opportunities to meet, network, exchange views, develop collaborative work, agree on common action plans, launch consultations, etc.

The P8/ICT Implementation Group (IG8/ICT) usually meets twice a year (respectively in Europe and in Africa) and is expected to gather ICT representatives from European and African Member States (MS), the Regional Economic Communities (RECs), the research community, the private sector, the civil society and NGOs, the international financial institutions and the international organisations with the main objective of facilitating cooperation and a better coordination of national and regional programmes, as well as identifying concrete initiatives of mutual interests in support of EU and AU priorities.

Past IG8/ICT meeting

  • May 2011 – Gaborone, Botswana
  • November 30, 2012 – Lisbon, Portugal. Held in the framework of the ‘2012 Africa-EU Cooperation Forum on ICT’ organised by the EuroAfrica-ICT/P8 partnership. A document reporting the main event outcomes and recommendations can be downloaded here. Agenda and photo gallery are available here.


The 4th EU-Africa Summit took place in Brussels on 2-3 April 2014. It brought together more than 60 EU and African leaders, and a total of 90 delegations, to discuss the future of EU-Africa relations and reinforce links between the two continents. Discussions at the summit focused on the theme “Investing in People, Prosperity and Peace”. Topics included education and training, women and youth, legal and illegal migrant flows between both continents, ways to stimulate growth and create jobs, investing in peace and ways to enhance EU support for African capacities to manage security on the continent.

The Summit had the objective of addressing common challenges and bringing concrete benefits citizens in accordance with the Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES), whose objectives are reaffirmed.

The Heads of State and Government endorsed the Roadmap that sets out strategic priorities and identifies the means to implement them in areas of mutual interest and have agreed that the priorities for the period 2014-2017 are:

• Peace and Security;
• Democracy, Good Governance and Human Rights;
• Human Development;
• Sustainable and inclusive development and growth and Continental Integration;
• Global and emerging issues.

The Heads of State and Government also reiterated the will to mobilise resources to achieve the goals set in JAES and agreed to meet again at the 5th Summit in Africa in 2017.

  • 4th Africa-EU Summit – Brussels Declaration (2014) (pdf)
  • The Africa-European Union Strategic Partnership – 2 Unions, 1 Vision (Summit Edition 2014) (pdf)
  • EC Organisation Chart – JAES/P8 related matters (February 2013) (png)
  • Key Deliverables of the JAES 2nd Action Plan 2011-2013 (July 2012) (pdf)
  • Africa-EU Joint Task Force Meeting (Brussels – 2012) (pdf)
  • The Africa-European Union Strategic Partnership – Meeting Current and Future Challenges together (2011) (pdf)
  • Partnership 8 – Leaflet (2010) (pdf)
  • Partnership 3 – Leaflet (2010) (pdf)
  • 3rd Africa-EU Summit: “Investment, economic growth and job creation” (2010) (pdf)
  • 2nd JAES Action Plan (2011-2013) (pdf)
  • 3rd Africa-EU Summit – Tripoli Declaration (2010) (pdf)
  • MoU AUC-EC (2010) (pdf)
  • JAES Key deliverables (2010) (pdf)
  • 1st JAES Action Plan (2008-2010) (pdf)
  • AUC-EC Joint Statement on the Implementation of the Partnership 8 (2008) (pdf)
  • AUC-EC Book of Lighthouse Projects (2008) (pdf)
  • Partnership 8 (2007) (pdf)
  • The Africa-EU Strategic Partnership – JAES (2007) (pdf)
  • 2nd Africa-EU Summit Lisbon Declaration (2007) (pdf)
  • ARAPKE  - A Framework for action (2005) (pdf)

  • ARAPKE – African Regional Action Plan for Knowledge Economy
  • AU – African Union
  • AUC – African Union Commission
  • CPA – Consolidated Plan of Action
  • DG – Directorates General
  • EC – European Commission
  • ENP – European Neighbourhood Policy
  • EU – European Union
  • ICT – Information and Communication Technologies
  • JAES – Joint Africa-EU Strategic
  • JTF – Joint Task Force
  • MDG – Millennium Development Goals
  • MoU – Memorandum of Understanding
  • MS – Members States
  • NEPAD – New Partnership for Africa’s Development
  • OAU – Organisation of African Unity
  • P8 – Africa-EU Strategic Partnership on Science, Information Society and Space
  • RECs – African Regional Economic Communities
  • S&T – Science and Technology
  • TDCA – Trade and Development Cooperation Agreement
  • UN – United Nations

The EuroAfrica-P8 Partnership would like to acknowledge and express its gratitude to the following institutions:

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