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EU Strategy for Africa

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EU Strategy for Africa

The Strategy for Africa is the European Union's response to the challenge of getting Africa back on the track of sustainable development and of meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. As a long-standing partner and close neighbour the EU is well placed to help Africa provide a decisive boost to this process.


Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament and the European Economic and Social Committee of 12 October 2005 - EU Strategy for Europe: Towards a Euro-African pact to accelerate Africa’s development [COM(2005) 489 final – Not published in the Official Journal].


The EU Strategy for Africa outlines a framework of action for all EU Member States aimed at supporting Africa’s efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In recent years considerable progress has been recorded in Africa, particularly as regards governance and economic growth. The African Union (AU), the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and international organisations have equipped Africa with political and economic roadmaps and a vision for the future. Nevertheless, Africa’s road towards sustainable development remains long.

A very diverse reality

Africa comprises different political regimes, historical experience and cultural, religious, economic and geographical contexts. Furthermore, areas of insecurity and centres of stability coexist. Some African countries have experienced, or are experiencing, sustained periods of peace, security, economic and political stability and democratic participation, while others remain mired in long-term conflict. Heightened instability is linked to a rise in transnational organised crime, resulting in an increased threat of drugs trafficking and consumption, human trafficking, smuggling of natural resources and arms trafficking.

Nevertheless, there is no shortage of growth factors. Sustainable exploitation of natural resources, agricultural development and investment in human resources create a sound investment climate. A number of African countries possess considerable natural resources which permit genuine sustainable development. Commodity-dependent African economies can reduce their vulnerability by acting against the long-term downward trend in prices and against fluctuations in world prices.

A fundamental driver of growth is a reliable and attractive investment climate. A country’s stability and level of governance, transparency, dialogue with the national and international business community, and regional integration are all contributing factors in economic development. New external players, such as Brazil, India and China, are increasingly attracted by Africa’s economic potential, while Africa’s longer-established partners, such as the United States, Japan and Russia, are showing renewed interest in the continent.

In these regions, interconnection is crucial to allowing people easier market access and reducing the costs of doing business. A regional integration process must therefore be developed to strengthen Africa's position in the world economy.

Social dynamics

Human development also presents a highly varied picture. While several African countries have recorded impressive economic growth, a highly unequal distribution of income often prevents this growth from having a positive impact on poverty levels.

Job creation remains one of the major challenges for poverty reduction and social development, in particular for women and ethnic minorities. The employment situation is closely linked to literacy rates, which are gradually improving. Individuals’ well-being is also dependent on health and hygiene conditions. In particular, the HIV/AIDS pandemic is a heavy burden on many African countries.

Environmental dynamics

The African continent is environmentally very diverse. Climate change will further increase the strain on water resources, affect biodiversity and human health, worsen food security and increase desertification. Flooding and drought are common and are set to increase as a result of climate change, while early-warning systems are inadequate and disaster management is weak. Climate change adaptation is therefore an urgent necessity for Africa’s development.

The desertification process affects almost half of the African continent, the worst-affected areas being located along desert margins. Furthermore, Africa’s renewable water resources fall below the world average and several countries suffer water stress or scarcity. Africa also has 17% of the world’s forests, and deforestation, both for commercial timber and to make room for agriculture, is therefore a major concern.

The principles of the EU-Africa relations

Over the last few decades, the EU has concluded an increasing number of agreements with Africa, including the Lomé Conventions, entered into with the Member States of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Countries (ACP) Group and since replaced by the 2000 Cotonou Agreement, the South Africa Agreements and the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership and Association Agreement.

So now is the time to develop the basic principles that govern the relationship between Africa and the EU. This Communication envisages three principles:

  • equality, based on mutual recognition and respect for institutions and the definition of mutual collective interests;
  • partnership, i.e. developing links based on political and commercial cooperation;
  • ownership, i.e. strategies and development policies being country-owned and not imposed from the outside.

The EU should engage with Africa’s three levels of governance – national, regional and continental – on the basis of the principle of subsidiarity: only matters which would be dealt with less effectively at a lower level should be reserved for a higher level of governance. The EU should enhance intra-African solidarity between these three levels and raise dialogue with the African continent as a whole to the highest political level.

The EU’s response strategy

The EU should strengthen its support in the areas considered prerequisites for attaining the MDGs (peace, security, good governance), areas that create a favourable economic environment for growth, trade and interconnection and areas targeting social cohesion and environment.

The EU will step up its efforts to foster peace and security by means of a wide range of actions, ranging from the support for African peace operations to a comprehensive approach to conflict prevention addressing the root causes of violent conflict. These actions also target cooperation in the fight against terrorism and the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, as well as support for regional and national strategies for disarmament, demobilisation, reintegration and reinsertion in order to contribute to the reintegration of ex‑combatants – including child soldiers – and stabilisation of post-conflict situations.

Despite the progress made in Africa, the road towards good governance remains long. With a view to reforming the State, the EU will work towards building effective and credible central institutions, to which end it will define a Governance Initiative in support of the African Peer Review Mechanism. It will reinforce respect for human rights and democracy, develop local capacity and encourage the decentralisation process, with the aim of promoting democracy and development. It will also encourage African countries to sign and implement the main international instruments of crime prevention.

In order to contribute to the effective reduction of poverty across Africa, the EU will stimulate rapid and broad-based economic growth by supporting macroeconomic stability and assisting in the creation of integrated regional markets. Limited access to transport and communication services, water and sanitation, and energy constrains economic growth. The Commission therefore proposes to establish an EU-Africa Partnership for Infrastructure. Transport policies must also be harmonised through support to the Sub-Saharan Africa Transport Programme and the energy infrastructure must be developed along with integrated water management for its improvement in trans-boundary river basins.

When we consider that 40% of all Africans survive on less than one dollar a day, the EU must contribute to the establishment of social safety for the most vulnerable. In this context, it will support education, access to knowledge and transfer of know-how as a lifelong process going beyond primary education, and promote access to water supply, sanitation and energy, as well as the improvement of health infrastructures and the provision of essential health services.

Particular attention will be paid to employment policies, the promotion of cultural diversity and turning migration into a positive force in the development process.

As regards the environment, the EU’s activities will include the management of environmental diversity, the improvement of sustainable land management to halt desertification, the conservation of biodiversity, limitation of the effects of climate change and support for the sound management of chemicals.

Despite being the main donor to Africa, the EU should increase its financing substantially. In June 2005 the EU committed itself collectively to increase official aid to 0.56% of gross national income (GNI) by 2010 and to 0.7% by 2015. In particular, some €4 billion will be available annually for Sub-Saharan Africa and this Strategy for Africa should constitute the reference framework for the programmes and action under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF).

This Strategy was adopted by the European Council of 15 and 16 December 2005.


Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council - From Cairo to Lisbon – The EU-Africa Strategic Partnership [COM(2007) 357 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Last updated: 19.05.2008