Africa is a geopolitical priority for the European Union, it is Europe’s closest neighbour and our sister continent. Europe and Africa have close economic, cultural and geographical ties. Our shared history, proximity and interests bind us together. EU-Africa relations are based on two complementary frameworks, the Africa-EU Partnership and the new Partnership Agreement with the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS).

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Africa-EU Partnership

The Africa-EU Partnership is the formal political channel for the EU’s relations with Africa. The African Union (AU), an inter-governmental organisation headquartered in Addis Ababa which brings together 55 African nations, is the EU’s political partner at continental level. Beyond the joint high-level meetings (i.e. Summits, Commission to Commission and Ministerial meetings) that steer the relations, the EU engages in dialogues with various partners to advance mutually agreed priorities.

The Africa-EU Partnership was established in 2000 at the first Africa-EU Summit in Cairo and continues to be guided by the Joint Africa-EU Strategy, which was adopted at the second EU-Africa Summit in Lisbon in 2007.

Following the last Summit held in Abidjan in 2017, the EU and Africa have committed to focus on: (i) Investing in People – Education, Science, Technology and Skills Development; (ii) Strengthening Resilience, Peace, Security and Governance; (iii) Migration and Mobility; and (iv) Mobilising Investments for African Structural Sustainable Transformation. These priorities take into account both the EU’s interests and the AU’s Agenda 2063, a fifty-year strategy and continental vision.

The next EU-African Union Summit, postponed because of the COVID-19 crisis, is due to take place in 2022. The EU’s vision and priorities for a strengthened partnership with Africa are outlined in the March 2020 Joint Communication “Towards a Comprehensive Strategy with Africa”, the June 2020 Council Conclusions and the October 2020 European Council Conclusions.

Cotonou Agreement

The 2000 Cotonou Agreement with African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries replaced the 1975 Lomé Convention. In April 2021, the EU and the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS), concluded the negotiations of the Post Cotonou Agreement, setting the framework for political, economic and sectorial cooperation for the next twenty years. OACPS countries include most Sub-Saharan African countries.

The new Partnership Agreement is composed of a “common foundation”, which sets out the values and principles that bring our countries together and indicates the strategic priority areas that both sides intend to work on. It is combined with three specific regional protocols, (Africa, Caribbean, Pacific) focusing on the needs of each region.

For more information:

Joint Africa-EU Strategy (2007)

AU-EU Summit Declaration, Abidjan (2017)

Council conclusion on Africa (2020)

Central Africa and the EU

The Regional Indicative Programme (RIP) for Central Africa covers relations with three regional organisations: CEMAC, CEEAC and CEPGL. EU political dialogue in the region focuses on matters related to peace and security, such as the establishment of the African Peace and Security Architecture, security and development issues in the gulf of Guinea, and the ECCAS mission in Central Africa Republic, financed through the African Peace Facility.

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The EU Gulf of Guinea Strategy and Action Plan

The EU Strategy and Action Plan for the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) takes an integrated approach linking security, governance and development challenges both offshore and onshore, along the 6,000km coastline from Senegal to Angola, including Cape Verde and São Tomé and Príncipe. It is framed in support of the commitments taken in June 2013 during the Yaoundé Summit. This was the first time a joint-Summit between two African regions (West and Central Africa) had taken place to tackle the complex and wide ranging challenges of maritime insecurity and organised crime.

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Sahel region

The EU relationship with the Sahel region and, in particular, with the G5 Sahel countries (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger) is of strategic importance to the EU in terms of security and stability, international climate and sustainable development commitments and migration routes linked to Europe. The Sahel is experiencing several simultaneous crises, including a security crisis with regular attacks carried out by armed and terrorist groups against civilians and security forces, but also fuelled by inter-ethnic violence. Over 4,000 people died from attacks in 2019.

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The African Union and the EU

Relations between the European Union (EU) and Africa cover areas such as peace and security, democracy, human rights, development and sustainable economic growth. The Delegation of the European Union (EU) to the African Union (AU) was created in 2008. Its overall purpose is to contribute to enhancing the unique Partnership that exists between the two Unions.

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The Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the EU

Working Together for a Better Future

The European Union’s relations with SADC are political, economic, commercial and environmental. Regional integration is in the European Union’s DNA and over the last decades the EU and its member states have given strong support to SADC’s efforts to deepen the integration of its sixteen constituent states. The EU’s relations with SADC historically focused on promoting regional economic integration and infrastructure and later expanded to cover peace and security, environmental stewardship, institutional strengthening, natural resource management, and trade and transport facilitation.

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Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)

The EU is West Africa’s largest trading partner and supports the region in many areas with the goal of improving people’s living conditions and ensuring sustainable development. In this respect, the EU has a comprehensive relationship with the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS), involving close dialogue and cooperation on political and security matters, conflict prevention, development cooperation, regional integration and trade.

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The Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS)

The Cotonou Agreement also governs the relations between the European Union (EU) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), although the ECCAS is not in fact a signatory. In order to reduce the economic disparity between regions (one of the EU’s main objectives), the European Union Delegation in Gabon is currently involved in a number of different ECCAS-related regional projects. This organisation, which is in charge of the regional integration of Central Africa, is recognised by the African Union (AU). The main aims behind these regional projects include improving the skills of the local workforce, encouraging peace and security, developing infrastructure and protecting the environment.

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The Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) and the EU

The EU Delegation to the Republic of Djibouti is responsible for regional cooperation with the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD). The European Economic Development Funds (EDF) as well as the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa finance this cooperation. At the regional level, the European Union remains very active in the promotion of peace and security, the management of natural resources, addressing climate change, build resilience, migration and regional integration as well as support to IGAD as a regional organisation. In addition, several initiatives and projects are ongoing in the field of maritime security and the fight against piracy. Recently, the European Union has also provided support to the regional response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Read more about IGAD projects

Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA)

The Delegation of the European Union in Zambia is also responsible for managing official relations between the European Union (EU) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa - COMESA. COMESA was established by treaty in 1994, with the goal of being "a fully integrated, internationally competitive regional economic community with high standards of living for all its people, ready to merge into an African Economic Community" (Article 3 of the COMESA Treaty. COMESA is the largest of the 8 Regional Economic Communities recognised by the African Union, bringing together 21 Member States: Burundi, Comoros, DR Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, Swaziland, Sudan, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

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IOC and the EU

The Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) is a key partner of the European Union (EU) for the regional integration in the Indian Ocean region and beyond, and the EU is the lead development partner to the IOC. The 35 year old partnership has come with its challenges but overall the EU and the IOC have partnered successfully in areas that are key to the global agenda, namely on maritime and port security, fight against climate change and disaster preparedness, preservation of biodiversity, and renewable energy, and regional economic integration. From the Lomé Convention III to the actual Cotonou Partnership Agreement, the EU and IOC have been developing a longstanding cooperation in areas in which the IOC has proven to be of specific value added.  In 2017 the EU officially obtained Observer status of the IOC.  Since 2019 the EU is accompanying the IOC in an institutional capacity building project to modernise the IOC.

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