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Building an EU-Africa Partnership of Equals

When it comes to ties between the European Union and Africa, returning to “normal” after the COVID-19 crisis is simply not an option. The relationship must be rethought and reshaped – beginning at the upcoming mini-summit of EU and African Union leaders.

CAPE TOWN – This was supposed to be the year Europe and Africa redefined their relationship. In March, the European Commission unveiled its vision for a “comprehensive strategy with Africa,” intended to kick-start a six-month consultation process, which would culminate at the European Union-African Union summit in October in an agreement on a new blueprint for relations – one that would give Africa significantly more agency. Then COVID-19 arrived.

Even without the pandemic, the road to a stronger, more equal EU-Africa partnership would have been difficult. When the year began, tensions were high in many parts of the world, raising serious geopolitical and security risks. Moreover, the strategic competition between the United States and China had escalated into a trade war. Multilateralism was faltering.

As challenging as these conditions were, they also encouraged progress, by highlighting how high the stakes had become. Africa’s resolve was evident: a series of AU summits and meetings had indicated that the continent was committed finally to implement the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), to reform regional bodies, and to move onto a more ambitious development path. Such initiatives implied an overhaul of the tenets of any partnership with the continent.