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Can Africa Unite?

As African heads of state and government meet with their European counterparts to discuss how to deepen relations between the two continents, they should heed the lessons of Europe's own past. Forging a united bloc takes time, and it starts with economic integration and strategic capacity-building.

CONAKRY – When African Union members pledge to “continue to speak with one voice and act collectively to promote our common interests and positions in the international arena,” they recognize that this is not an easy feat. As with Rome, the “Africa we want” – the global powerhouse of the future – will not be built in a day.

Convening for the European Union-African Union summit in Brussels this month, African and European leaders will discuss how the partnership between their two unions can be both deepened and broadened. But when it comes to trade cooperation, the devil is in the details. The AU must heed the lessons (both the successes and the failures) of the EU’s own integration project. Only then can it build a strong foundation for a partnership of equals with Europe.

The EU is a globally recognized model of regional partnership and integration. Born from the ashes of war, suffering, and destruction, it used economic integration to create the conditions for lasting peace and security. It is now one of the world’s three largest trading powers, alongside China and the United States.

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