Strengthening the AU-EU partnership on the economic development and trade agenda

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This report is the outcome of a partnership initiative launched in 2021 by the European Think Tanks Group (ETTG) and the Africa-based Institute for Security Studies (ISS), with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Our initiative seeks to advance Africa-Europe relations in the run up to the 6th EU-AU summit in Brussels (17-18 February 2022) and contribute to effective follow-up and implementation of the decisions taken there.

The brief identifies some of the shared priorities between Africa and the European Union (EU) as well as challenges in their partnership as it currently stands. It also suggests concrete ways forward to strengthen the economic development and trade agenda of the AU-EU partnership. It draws heavily on discussions at a closed roundtable on 26 November 2021 of policy experts and academics aware of the agendas and high stakes on both the African and the European sides. Furthermore, it looks first at Africa’s economic development priorities and challenges, followed by areas of mutual interest with the EU and existing support measures. It then identifies some of the tensions and gaps in the partnership. These then form the basis for practical recommendations towards a more effective partnership.


Key messages

  • Industrialisation remains one of the main priorities for Africa, including within the
    context of the ongoing AfCFTA.

  • The EU is an important economic partner with free access to its market for most
    African countries but unilateral preferences have brought limited results for their
    economic development, pointing to the need for an investment partnership to
    build productive capacities.

  • African firms need to be actively supported to become suppliers of higher
    value – added products to the EU, including with the help of coherent, robust and
    context-specific industrial and trade policies.

  • The long-term objective of industrial development needs to be appropriately
    matched by short term programmes and initiatives to ensure continuity and
    coherence, by also building on existing initiatives like the Boosting Intra-Africa
    Trade initiative (BIAT).


Read the full paper here.

ETTG:ISS:UNDP report on economic development and trade agenda

Author: Poorva Karkare (ECDPM)

Acknowledgements: The author wishes to thank San Bilal (ECDPM) for having contributed to the drafting and revision of the report. In addition, the author wishes to thank Antonia Joy Kategekwa (UNDP), Komi Tsowou (UNDP), Jakkie Cilliers (ISS Africa) and Geert Laporte (ETTG) for their revision.

This report is part of a special series on Africa-EU relations in the run-up and follow-up of the 2022 AU-EU summit, produced by ETTG members in cooperation with the Institute for Security Studies (ISS Africa) and with the support of UNDP Africa.

Photo by Teng Yuhong on Unsplash.

The views are those of the author and not necessarily those of ETTG.


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