Zooming in on the EU-African Economic Relationship - #WhatsTheOffer in 2020?

Prof. Robert Kappel critically analyses the current EU-African economic relationship and the new EU-Africa-strategy.

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In many ways 2020 will be a crucial year for the medium- and long-term relationship between Africa and the European Union. The EU’s new strategy with Africa published in March, a new Sahel strategy and not least the EU-Africa summit in autumn might profoundly shape the future of EU-Africa cooperation. Following the guiding question #WhatsTheOffer Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) is closely accompanying these processes throughout the year. What does the EU offer its African partner? What does Africa offer the EU? What are the respective expectations on the renewal of this partnership?

With its Joint Communication »Towards a Comprehensive Strategy with Africa« the EU proposes a new strategy with its neighbouring continent that aims at taking the partnership to the next level. The document strongly builds a new narrative of a continent of opportunities, especially economic ones. And indeed, the EU is still Africa’s most important partner in terms of trade, investment, economic and development cooperation. In this vein, the strategy highlights the growing markets and young population and the creation of sustainable jobs and growth figures as a key partnership. However, the operationalization of the strategy and the concrete implementation of the named intentions and goals has yet to happen.

Prof. Robert Kappel, Prof. emeritus from the University of Leipzig and former Head of the German Institute of Global Area Studies has – commissioned by FES – taken a closer look at the strategy document. In his publication »Africa-Europe Economic Cooperation - Using the Opportunities for Reorientation« (French version HERE) he critically analyses the current EU-African economic relationship and evaluates the intended partnership for sustainable jobs and growth as put forward in the EU’s Joint Communication.

While the Comprehensive Strategy with Africa (CSA) seems to be a step forward heralding a new era of relations, it does not meet the challenges in all respects. The author criticizes in particular that the CSA is merely a pleasant collection of goals and good intentions but lacks strategic focus with regards to the implementation tools needed to achieve these objectives. Prof. Kappel is also critical about the EU’s investment approach as Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) per se have had only limited impact on the promotion of jobs and growth in Africa so far. To stimulate local employment, FDIs must be made in labour-intensive sectors and in cooperation with African (small and medium-sized) companies, he argues. He also highlights that a revised EU investment policy alone is not enough, other policy areas, such as trade and in particular EU’s agriculture policy need to change.

The author assesses that the negotiations between the European Union and the African continent have been overshadowed by the global coronavirus crisis, thus putting the relationship through a special rehearsal. He argues that the consequences of the pandemic for the African continent are so far-reaching that economic cooperation between Africa and the EU must be readjusted. Especially as the Covid19-pandemic will have a dramatic economic impact but also creates an opportunity to reshape instruments and processes. Overall, in this paper, Prof. Kappel calls for a major overhaul of Africa-Europe economic relations– not only because of the consequences of the pandemic but above all to reduce asymmetrical dependence and power relations.

Countries / regions: EU-Afrika-Beziehungen

Kappel, Robert

Africa-Europe economic cooperation

Using the opportunities for reorientation
Berlin, 2020

Download publication (1,6 MB PDF-File)


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