More trade, less aid: EU and Africa renew their relationship

More trade, less aid: EU and Africa renew their relationship
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The European Union and the African Union are looking to renew and strengthen their relationship, from aid donor and -recipient to equal trade partners.

Both the EU and the AU made it clear at the Africa-Europe Civil Society Conference 2020 on Friday that they are looking to renew the quality of the Africa-Europe Partnership in the near future, with higher involvement for the people of the two continents.

In the short term, tightening the EU-AU relationship will result in more support for African health systems in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

The importance of the EU-AU relationship was highlighted by European Council President Charles Michel on Friday, who said “there is a huge [future] potential if we take the right decisions together with African leaders”.

Overall, improved trade relations will mean investing in local African manufacturers, so that more (nearly) finished goods can be exported to Europe rather than raw materials.

This will strengthen the position of African businesses in the international market, that often relies on raw materials but is not willing to pay top prices for metals like lithium and copper. Both are essential for building laptops, for example.

Key to the new EU-AU relationship will be a focus on involving people (or ‘civil society’) on a regional level, Director of The Southern and Eastern Africa Trade Information and Negotiations Institute Jane Nalunga said on Friday.

“Engaging civil society in new projects will encourage ownership of these developments,” Nalunga said. “Historically, these projects have been top-down. Now, they will need to be bottom-up. We need to hear those voices.”

Nalunga added that the issue of trust is very important in encouraging ownership, where African partners will also be more in charge of cooperation with the EU.

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“Putting people first will be one of our most important considerations in strengthening our future relationship with Africa,” Slovenian State Secretary Tone Kajzer said.

“If we work together in an inclusive way, we will succeed in building trust and ownership, which will result in a better Afro-European relationship in the long-term. We are determined to do everything possible to strengthen our relationship with Africa.”

On 8 October, the EU’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Josep Borell and Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič visited Ethiopia to discuss and strengthen EU-AU relations. Shortly after returning, both were quarantined after having been exposed to Covid-19.

“Africa is our natural partner and neighbour,” Borell said before the visit. “To face common challenges, we need a strong Africa, and Africa needs a strong Europe.”

In November and December of 2020 and in May 2021, the AU will meet again with the EU to further renew and consolidate the Afro-European relationship. One of the key points of the 2021 summit will be to look at debts from several African countries to see if these can be restructured or cancelled.

Amée Zoutberg

The Brussels Times

On 21 October, at 2:00PM, The Brussels Times will host an interactive webinar on ‘Africa-EU co-operation in research and science for economic recovery’. Several high-level officials from the African Union and the European Union will attend to share their ideas, and hear about yours. For more information, please visit:

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