EU-Africa: We need a values-based and pragmatic approach to EU-Africa relations, one designed to benefit people, explains Carlos Zorrinho

Europe and Africa are continents united by their history, diversity, proximity and the value of multilateralism, says Chair of EP’s Delegation to the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly
African Union Headquarters, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia | Source: Alamy

By Carlos Zorrinho MEP

Carlos Zorrinho (PT, S&D) is Chair of the European Parliament's Delegation to the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly

22 Feb 2022

We are living through a challenging and turbulent period in the geopolitical arena. The world’s leading nations are moving their pieces in order to assert their political, economic and military power. Each one is making the most of its arsenal of weapons and its comparative advantages.

Europe and Africa are continents united by their history, diversity, proximity and the value of a multilateral approach to international relations. A strategy of robust cooperation offers many mutual advantages and empowers both continents for stronger negotiating power with other actors on the global stage. This will be further reinforced if the cooperation simultaneously contributes to growth and sustainable development, to the fight against inequality and poverty and improves the quality of life for their peoples.

“A strategy of robust cooperation offers many mutual advantages and empowers both continents for stronger negotiating power with other actors on the global stage”

A robust strategy must be based around strong goals and clear, shared objectives, which can make a positive difference for both individuals and communities. The multilateral approach implies competitive partnerships that will be further enhanced by the political, economic, social and environmental value they add.

The key differentiation of pursuing a strategy of partnership of equals between Europe and Africa is the sharing of common values, which oppose other strategic offers, based on increasing ties through financing networks and imbalanced power relations.

A values-based cooperation strategy has to be pragmatic and effective in how it delivers action programmes. Transforming a donor-recipient relationship into a partnership of equals will require new forms of relations. These relations would respect sovereignty and the institutional framework, cascade down into civil society, unite people in their will to succeed and provide a new impetus to the perception of what lies at stake.

Given the global nature of the challenges - particularly those posed by the digital transition, the energy transition, the fight against disinformation, radicalism and climate change - every euro that the EU transparently invests in Africa will pay back double the value in terms of progress. This will be seen in the twinned partnership through increasing levels of investment, qualifications and skills, the creation of new markets as well as improved security and mobility.

Good governance, structural security and bilateral mobility are the pillars that will ensure that the new strategy meets its objectives of growth and sustainable development on both continents. In addition to the correct management of resources, good governance must respond to vertical and horizontal fractures in access to exercising and monitoring power.

It must avoid the creation of ethnic or other ghettos and prevent the deepening of the separation between elites and society in general, instead generating open networks of shared work in strong communities.

“Europe and Africa are continents united by their history, diversity, proximity and the value of a multilateral approach to international relations”

On the security plan, mutual trust should enable coordination and the exchange of information, knowledge, logistical capacity and defence power, ensuring better conditions for conflict prevention and improved responses to potential risks and insurgencies.

On the topic of mobility, the principles of humanitarianism and respect for life and dignity must be the basis for the construction of bilateral relations. There should be flexible legal procedures that build a common policy for dealing with voluntary or involuntary migration and protect both continents from illegal migration networks.

Returning to the pragmatic approach we have proposed, the five capacity-building partnerships - namely for the ecological transition and energy access, digital transformation, sustainable growth and employment, peace and governance and migration and mobility - demand the allocation of relevant funds for projects on the African continent.

Whether this is through Global Europe (Neighbourhood, Development Cooperation and International Cooperation Instrument), the climate action funds in which the EU participates or public-private partnerships for investment and cooperation, the objective must be to make the environment more prepared as a sustainable partnership.

Encouraging the consolidation of the African Continental Free Trade Area as one of the pillars of the partnership implies that connections must also be improved in education, vocational training, health, renewable energies and science, and that sustainable development must be encouraged.

The failure of the Covid-19 vaccination efforts on the African continent provides an example of mistakes that should not be repeated, but at the same time, it will be a challenge to empower the continent to produce and inoculate its people. This will provide an example of what a pragmatic, multilateral partnership at the service of the people should look like. 

Read the most recent articles written by Carlos Zorrinho MEP - Citizens must remain at the heart of digital union project

Share this page