November 8, 2011

Questioning old certainties – Challenges Inbrief 2012

Posted: 12:49 PM UTC

by ECDPM Challenges Team on November 8, 2011

ECDPM is currently reflecting on the content and orientation of the next issue of its annual Challenges Inbrief. This publication is published at the start of each year, and aims to identify key issues for policy making for EU-Africa relations in the year ahead. The paper, in traditional ECDPM style, aims to be informative and ‘facilitating’, helping readers identify key debates and moments in EU development cooperation and external action.

The writing process provides us with an opportunity to take a step back from our day to day work to look forward and to reflect - helping us ensure we do not miss the wood for the trees. The paper is a snapshot of our ongoing analytical work that gives an indication of the context and nature of challenges we foresee for Africa-EU relations for 2012:

For this year we feel the context in Europe and in Africa could not be more different. Europe is on the brink of a “double-dip” recession with the Euro-crisis. The feeling is one of uneasiness, and uncertainty. Compare this with Africa, where the Arab Spring has provided a breath of fresh air to many countries and, while presenting many challenges, sets high hopes for future democratic initiatives. African Union initiatives of shared values, regional integration, domestic resource mobilization, pan- African governance frameworks, high growth rates and new partnerships all feed into this new sense of “afro-optimism”.

As we go into 2012, Europe with the Lisbon Treaty seeks to re-emphasise a values-based approach in its foreign policy towards developing countries. Yet at the same time many EU member states governments are voicing their national foreign policy interest more strongly. How is Europe going to reconcile its values and interests in its external action?

In this context both the EU and Africa are confronted with a number of challenges and opportunities on their own grounds and, intertwined with those, regarding their future relationship. Both still have mutual but also contradictory interests. ECDPM’s Challenges Inbrief will aim to identify the European 2012 policy context  for its relations with Africa to help identify win-win situations and to enable all stakeholders involved to make more informed policy decisions.

As mentioned above, the writing process of the Challenges Inbrief is a moment to look forward and to reflect. Thus we would welcome your views on the above and ask you to share your thoughts on the following two questions:

  1. If you agree with the observation that ‘afro-optimism’ is on the rise, where do you see this ‘afro-optimism’ leading?
  2. Are there particular moments in 2012 when Europe will be confronted with the dilemma to act either in its interest or according to its values? Are there moments when it will be possible to reconcile both?


The ECDPM Challenges Team consists of James Mackie, Simone Görtz and Quentin de Roquefeuil.
James Mackie is Head of Programme Development Policy & International Relations,
Simone Görtz is Junior Policy Officer Development Policy & International Relations,
Quentin de Roquefeuil is Junior Policy Officer Economic and Trade Cooperation.

This blog post features the authors’ personal view and does not represent the view of ECDPM.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 james Hurungo November 11, 2011 at 8:55 am

The developments in Libya, Tunisia and Morocco have not only cemented the view by most African countries that the relations between Africa and Europe is that of a horse and rider relationship. These developments clearly shows that European countries can stop at nothing to exploit African resources under the guise of instituting “correct” democratic principles. Despite all efforts by the AU to avoid the war in Libya, European countries saw it fit to destroy one of the most stable and strong countries in Africa simply because Libya strongly supported the idea of creating a strong and self reliant Africa. These developments clearly demonstrates that Europe is pursuing its agenda of under developing Africa by pursuing its selfish agendas aimed at acquiring raw materials and oil at all cost. These developments coupled with the EU’s uncompromising position on a number of contentious issues under EPAs clearly shows that the EU is not interested in the development of Africa but rather is pursuing its selfish agendas as clearly show in its raw materials initiative. The EU is not willing to focus on developmental aspects of the EPAs, of which these are very critical if ever African countries are ever going to become development nations. The general feeling in most African countries is that this is the re-occurrence of colonization of Africa. Against this background, it would be only instructive for African countries through the AU, to completely abandon EPAs, and for the continent to pursue its regional integration initiatives. More efforts should be channeled towards developing critical regional integration blocs such as the current Tripartite FTA, between COMESA, SADC and EAC.

The politics of Africa should be dealt with by the Africans, Africa should develop proper economic and political structures to solve its continental challenges. This calls for oneness and a strong understanding that the continent can not expect to be transformed by Europe into a development continent. Development of Africa should be initiated by Africans and Africa should be more confident that we know exactly what we want and we can only be prepared to engage partners who are willing to participate in our developmental programmes. The AU should refuse to be dictated to by the EU and Pan-Africanism should take the center stage. The current increase in pan-Africanism will only lead to increased strained relations between Europe and Africa. This might be the end of EPAs.


2 ECDPM Challenges Team November 14, 2011 at 4:44 pm

Thank you for your comment.

The tensions between an African continent that is aspiring to be more self-reliant and an EU, which is more mindful and vocal on its own interests or values (whatever one thinks are the reasons for the Libya intervention) is exactly what we aim to focus the paper on, and we’re glad to see this resonates with you, James. As you point out, the EPAs are another issue where it can be argued that these dynamics are at play.

Now, the fact that we see these dynamics influencing so many interactions between the African continent and the EU leads us to believe that this is perhaps the biggest challenge ahead for the two continents’ relations. Does this mean an end to the current form and shape of the EU-Africa relationship? Surely not entirely, but it is up to Africans and Europeans to ensure that 2012 turns out to be a refreshing and innovative year. We are certainly mindful of the difficulties that lie ahead, but we do not despair that these new dynamics can lead to a positive outcome. The question is: what will it take from both sides to reach this positive outcome? It probably helps if both Africans and Europeans are each more frank about their respective motivations, but what can realistically be achieved in 2012?


3 Dr. Milton Harry Odida November 14, 2011 at 10:45 am

When is the Africa-EU Forum Meeting on Freedom of Expression in Tunis and who may attend?

Dr. Milton Harry Odida


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