Only by recognizing and sharing the values derived from its unique transnational experience can Europe meet the promise of its holistic partnership with Africa.
It is widely affirmed that the partnership between Africa and the EU reflects a desire for a cooperative approach from both sides. Yet it is partly because of this very model that Europe’s partnership with Africa has so far failed to match its promise. The comprehensiveness of the EU’s partnership model paradoxically can serve to undermine its effectiveness. From the ‘blue’ economy to piracy to climate change, Europe and Africa and share a great number of strategic interests.
Best practices and knowledge transfer, however, should be tackled in a targeted way and at the local level.
Much as it has inside Europe itself, the EU in its external relations have often lacked the flexibility and institutional agility to apply some of the lessons it hopes to convey. For example, it is not practical for the EU to attempt to apply its somewhat cumbersome and bureaucratic procedures to the Africa, where the requisite institutional skills and experience simply are not available. (While the AU’s total staff complement is not more than 1600, the personnel on the EU’s payroll exceeds 30,000). As a result, the perception of an EU partnership with the AU is characterized by fatigue and frustration, reinforcing rather than overcoming the enduring mistrust that has been inherited from a painful past of exploitation and colonialism, and more recently from the inflexibility of EU paperwork.
Multidimensional dialogue and mutual respect
The EU and AU need to offer multidimensional dialogue platforms to help build confidence, to identify shared priorities and to expand domestic political support for continuing cooperative ventures. Above all, such platforms may help infuse a sense of urgency and flexibly that is in short supply in the current EU-AU cooperative structure for effective delivery on promises.
Effective delivery depends on the will, priority and capacity of the partners. Both sides need to ensure continuous dialogue to foster political will and to identify and reinforce areas of overlapping consensus. The EU side needs structural flexibility if it is to meet the essential priorities of its partnership with Africa.The EU should provide funding responsive to Africa’s priorities. There is no justification for the EU to stick to conditionalities that have not worked in the past (this, of course, does not mean that there should not be mutual accountability).
Both sides need to ensure continuous dialogue to foster political will and to identify and reinforce areas of overlapping consensus.
There should be an allocation of responsibilities, reviews of progress and proposals for addressing weaknesses. Such a process, though, needs to be conducted on the basis of mutual respect and equality, not in the light of donor-recipient or questioner and respondent. Indeed, both parties need to question and answer. But above all, a dialogue should aim at offering an impetus for policy implementation and progress review and must ensure mutual accountability. Building the capacity of the AU to deliver its mandate remains a cornerstone not only of the AU’s future but also the working out of the EU’s partnership with Africa.
By aggressively working on fewer, critical shared priorities with high multipliers on inputs and resources, the Africa-EU relationship could be turned into a natural and potentially central partnership. It must, however, avoid areas already sufficiently covered by other partnership initiatives in order to reduce a potential waste of resources through duplication of effort.
It should also strive to enhance the return on its efforts by investing in areas in which it enjoys comparative advantage. In this regard, cooperation on governance and human rights, trade and investment, education and human resources development remain critical focus areas of the Africa-EU partnership. Well-placed to promote democracy and human rights, the EU could assist the AU in the prevention of conflict through improved governance and economic development. Hence, in contrast to other partners of Africa such as China, the unique pedigree of the EU and megatrends in Africa together dictate that improving standards of governance should take pride of place in the Africa-EU partnership under the Commission led by Von der Leyen.
Cooperation on governance and human rights, trade and investment, education and human resources development remain critical focus areas of the Africa-EU partnership.
Read the full article via open Democracy | CC BY-NC 4.0.
[Photo by European Parliament | Flickr – CC BY 2.0]