Select Committee on European Union Thirty-Fourth Report

The EU and Africa: Towards a Strategic Partnership

CHAPTER 1: Introduction

1.  2005 was the "year of Africa". Five years after the adoption of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)[1], set by the Millennium Review Summit, the continent was lagging ever further behind Europe, Asia and the Americas in its climb out of poverty. Despite having the highest regional growth during 2004 for almost a decade, Africa's overall economy fell short of the 7 per cent growth required to achieve the first goal of halving poverty by 2015.[2] The international community had to act. The Commission for Africa Report and the G8 and Millennium Review Summits[3] placed Africa back at the top of the global agenda and the EU, encouraged and led by the UK Presidency during the second half of the year, played a significant role.[4]


Economic Comparisons of the AU and EU areas[5]
African Union
European Union
GDP (US$ billions)
Population (millions)
GDP per capita (US$)


Annual Average Growth Rates for the AU and EU areas[6]
African Union
European Union
GDP growth (average % per annum)
Population growth (average % per annum)
GDP per capita (% increase per annum)

2.  The December 2005 European Council adopted a new Strategy for Africa: 'The EU and Africa: Towards a Strategic Partnership'.[7] The Strategy sets out the major areas in which the EU can support African efforts to build a "peaceful, democratic and prosperous future".[8] This concept of supporting African efforts is central to the Strategy since its underlying philosophy is "African ownership and responsibility";[9] the aim of the Strategy is not to impose European values and assistance on African countries, but to work together in a number of areas. These areas are outlined under six headings: Peace and Security; Human Rights and Governance; Development Assistance; Sustainable Economic Growth, Regional Integration and Trade; Investing in People; and The Future: an EU Partnership with Africa. These headings incorporate the variety of ways in which the MDGs can be met.

3.  Achievement of the MDGs is at the heart of the Strategy which takes a broad view of the complex nature of the many challenges facing African states. However, as the above headings demonstrate, the Strategy is not restricted to traditional poverty reduction programmes such as food security, health and education—important as those are—but captures the many interconnected factors which ultimately cause poverty.


The Eight Millennium Development Goals
  • Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

  • Achieve universal primary education

  • Promote gender equality and empower women
  • Reduce child mortality
  • Improve maternal health
  • Combat HIV/AIDS and other diseases
  • Ensure environmental stability
  • Develop a global partnership for development

4.  We welcome the Strategy and agree with its emphasis on peace, security and good governance, as well as development assistance, as essential steps to be taken for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

5.  We accordingly take the Strategy itself as a given: the priority now is to consider the challenges of implementation and what the EU should do to achieve that. 2005 was a year of great international commitments: 2006 and beyond is the time to deliver on the many promises made. Hence our Report is focused on what the EU must do, in partnership with Africa, to implement the Strategy and to achieve the ambitious tasks which the EU has set itself. As the Secretary of State for International Development said in his evidence:

"It is about political commitment, and I cannot remember in my life when the world and UK politics has talked more about Africa. The question now is how do we turn that commitment into practical expressions of support …" (Q 49)

6.  We strongly agree that the problems of Africa's lack of development have been fully analysed and the necessary actions to be taken identified. The challenge now is to deliver. It is for the EU, acting under its Strategy for Africa, to make this happen.

7.  The following chapters in this Report are based on the theme of implementation. On the whole we have not attempted to suggest particular programmes and initiatives which the EU should carry out: many such programmes are indeed already in place and will continue. Rather, this Report considers the impact of the Strategy on the actions of the EU and its Member States, and broad questions of whether the EU can deliver the Strategy's aim of coherent and co-ordinated policies towards Africa determined in conjunction with Africans themselves.

8.  Chapter Two examines the advantages of EU action compared with bilateral and other multilateral initiatives. Chapter Three examines how the Strategy came about and details the main interlocutors within Africa that will enable the EU's actions to be based upon what Africans themselves want. Chapter Four then asks the question whether the EU is capable of delivering on the commitments made in the Strategy, querying both the internal coherence of the EU's policy making and the ability of the EU institutions to work with the Member States.

9.  Chapters Five, Six and Seven look at the substantive issues of development assistance, peace and security, and governance, democracy and human rights. We have chosen to limit the scope of our inquiry to these areas as being the fundamental elements for building sustainable development within Africa.

10.  There are a number of substantive issues contained within the Strategy which we do not discuss in detail in this Report: including trade, environmental sustainability, agriculture, infrastructure, education, health, disease control, food security and migration. Many of these issues, such as trade and the environment, are not Africa-specific and are best considered in a global perspective. Others, such as food security and health, are important aspects of development assistance which is considered more generally in Chapter Five.

11.  Chapter Eight addresses the underlying philosophy of the Strategy: African ownership and responsibility. We ask whether this is truly possible given the divergent nature of the different regions and countries within Africa and the large number of organisations and bodies with which the EU needs to hold a dialogue if it is to ascertain African priorities. Finally we consider the prospects for development of a joint EU-Africa strategy.

12.  We first took evidence in April 2004 from Government officials on the developing relationship between the EU and the African Union (AU). In November 2005 we then took evidence from Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for International Development and Lord Triesman, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the FCO on the development of the Strategy itself.

13.  Following the adoption of the Strategy in early 2006 we took evidence from Javier Solana, High Representative for the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy, Bob Dewar, United Kingdom Permanent Representative to the AU, Elmar Brok, Chairman of the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee, and representatives of the Belgian government. Expert assistance was provided by a number of organisations who submitted written evidence, and by Myles Wickstead,[10] Jakkie Cilliers,[11] Alex Vines,[12] James Mackie and colleagues,[13] and Nicholas Grono.[14] We are grateful for their time and counsel.

14.  We have not been able to obtain evidence directly from those representing African governments or organisations such as the African Union or the ACP. We recognise that this evidence would have been of assistance, but our comments are directed towards the United Kingdom Government and the EU institutions. Our concern is that the EU must obtain the views of Africans themselves and our Report considers how best that can be done.

15.  We make this Report to the House for debate.

1   See Box 1. Back

2   Economic Report on Africa 2005, p 25, Economic Commission for Africa.  Back

3   For more details of these and other multilateral initiatives see Chapter Two paragraphs 44-54.  Back

4   See Chapter Two, paragraphs 28-34 for consideration of the EU's role in Africa.  Back

5   World Bank, World Development IndicatorsBack

6   World Bank, World Development Indicators. Although GDP growth within the AU area has been greater than that of the EU area, a good deal of this is explained by the very high population growth rate in Africa-a doubling every 30 years.  Back

7   Council of the European Union, Brussels 19 December 2005 15961/05. Back

8   The EU and Africa: Towards a Strategic Partnership Council of the European Union, Brussels 19 December 2005 15961/05, paragraph 1.  Back

9   The EU and Africa: Towards a Strategic Partnership Council of the European Union, Brussels 19 December 2005 15961/05, paragraph 3.  Back

10   Former Head of the Secretariat for the Commission for Africa. Back

11   Executive Director, Institute of Security Studies (ISS), South Africa. Back

12   Head, Africa Programme, Chatham House.  Back

13   European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM). Back

14   Vice-President for Advocacy and Operations, International Crisis Group (ICG).  Back

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