What lessons from the African Peace Facility for supporting peace and security in Africa?

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With negotiations for the next EU Multiannual Financial Framework approaching, one of the proposals is to create an off-budget European Peace Facility. Such an instrument would include the current African Peace Facility (as suggested in a European Commission document published by Politico), the EU financial instrument that supports African-led peace and security initiatives. But what should such support look like in the future? As conflicts in Africa show no sign of decreasing and demand for international support remains high, a potential European Peace Facility should not only take into account a possibly shrinking EU budget. It should also empower African leadership in promoting peace and ensure that the civilian dimensions of peace support operations and its linkages with resilience and governance are taken into account.

The  evaluation of the successes and shortfalls of the African Peace Facility (APF) and recent discussions on the European Peace Facility (EPF) help us to better understand what lessons can be learned from the APF for a future European Peace Facility.

What can we learn from the African Peace Facility?

The European Union’s African Peace Facility was created in 2004 in response to a request from African leaders to receive support for the African Peace and Security Architecture. Today, it is a key financial instrument through which the EU supports African-led peace support operations (PSOs), capacity-building efforts as well as early responses to emergencies.

The APF has sometimes been described as a ‘bag of money’ for the African Union’s (AU) well-known AMISOM operation, but it goes well beyond this. The evaluation shows that the APF has helped African efforts to set up and run PSOs contributing to stabilisation in the Central African Republic, Guinea Bissau, Somalia and elsewhere. It has also provided capacity-building support to the AU Commission in managing the APSA, which has proven to be overall very useful in promoting peace and security across Africa.

Thus, thanks to the APF the EU is more than just a funder, but also an enabler and a partner of the AU when it comes to peace and security. The APF is not only a large and reliable financial instrument but also distinguishes itself for its approach to African ownership – in contrast to other prominent actors such as the US.  Yet, the AU’s financial dependence on the EU is painfully felt as the EU is looking for ways to reduce its PSO support.

AU PSOs have a track record of quick deployments in precarious situations and of willingness to engage in peace enforcement and counterterrorism. Yet the AU’s ability to sustain long-term operations has proven limited. European funds have granted the African Union with enough funding to pave the way for UN peacekeeping to follow up, while also complementing the UN’s doctrinal limitations when it comes to more offensive military action. This has been the case in Mali and in the Central African Republic, which has proven a degree of complementarity between AU PSOs and UN peacekeeping operations. Still, African operations focus predominantly on military responses and pay little attention to civilian aspects of security and their linkages to peacebuilding, resilience and governance.

The African Peace Facility requires some thinking on its future

But is it sustainable to keep funding African peace support operations as before? EU expenditures for peace operations – especially in the case of AMISOM – have been skyrocketing and PSO support has consumed as much as 90% of total APF resources. And while costs build up, often there is no proper exit strategy.

The remaining funds available for capacity support have helped keeping the APSA running (mainly by paying salaries), but such support to the APSA does not seem to be founded on a strategic vision on institutional development. Consequently, results on capacity-building remain mixed and administrative weaknesses within the AU remain, with negative effects on PSOs such as the Multinational Joint Task Force against Boko Haram (MNJTF).

At times, the APF had to be used creatively. New realities have called for EU  support to the MNJTF and to the G5 Sahel Joint Force, which are operating under the AU’s political authority but are not related to one of the official building blocks of the African Peace and Security Architecture. While political contexts or security emergencies may require EU pragmatism and flexibility in following African decisions, such tendencies may have an eroding effect on the APSA one should remain alert to.

Lessons for a possible European Peace Facility

Despite all efforts, recent bombings in Mogadishu and deadly attacks on UN peacekeepers in Mali are just some of the many tragic events that show that the demand for international support will remain high. And yet, the future EU support to African peace should build on a continued approach of enhancing African ownership. The AU’s institutional reforms  promoted by the Kagame proposals and Kaberuka’s financing reforms provide a window of opportunity for the AU to further take responsibility and strengthen the APSA’s institutional framework.

Financial independence for peace and security is still far from being achieved in Africa. Despite Kaberuka’s financial plan, the African Union won’t be able to deal with peace and security on its own and will remain dependent on international partnerships. The € 1 billion that could be raised annually thanks to the plan to introduce a 0.2% levy on eligible imports by all African countries will cover only 25% of the costs for PSOs. Also, the attempts to attract other partners, notably China and oil-rich countries, to provide large-scale and reliable support have so far been unpromising, and although the AU is hoping to benefit from UN assessed contributions, the political circumstances may not allow it to happen.

The demand for EU support will, therefore, remain high in the foreseeable future and the EU may be interested in answering this demand for its own security interests. In the future, the EU will need to collaborate closely with the United Nations and the AU at the policy and the operational level, supported by a high-level tripartite political dialogue to fully realise the EU’s potential as a relevant actor.

Collaborating with the AU and the UN will allow the EU to avoid the criticisms of those who see the APF as an ‘ATM machine’ for the African Union, or that see it as an tool to outsource European security to African troops. Engaging in a dialogue will also help the EU to better understand the intentions and the concerns of its African counterpart, as well as communicate its own positions and priorities more clearly.

The EU  should further promote African capacity-building, rather than mainly substitute what African-led reform processes should accomplish. This will be a hard nut to crack as the  recent institutional and financial reforms, projected to provide a 100% of the AU’s institutional funding, are encountering considerable internal hurdles for change within the African community of states.

EU discussions on the future EU external financing instruments should keep in mind that the European Peace Facility should not become a “silo” for supporting predominantly security-heavy and military-focused African responses. The instrument should be designed to take into account the civilian dimensions of peace support operations, linkages to peacebuilding and transitions to governance, in connection with other external EU funding such as the current Instrument contributing for Security and Peace.

With Brexit looming, the future of British contributions remains unsure. Negotiations on a future partnership arrangement for addressing crises which are of strategic and geopolitical relevance also to the UK will require readiness and flexibility from all parties. But even without UK contributions, the new European Peace Facility needs to have sufficient resources  to fill the gap and ensure continuity in addressing upcoming crises ahead of all of us.

Screenshot 2018-04-16 15.34.06

ECDPM’s Security and Resilience programme, together with Particip Gmbh and Cardno, has conducted an evaluation of APF’s implementation throughout the period 2014-2016.
Photo courtesy of AMISOM Public Information via Flickr.

Authors: Volker Hauck  (ECDPM) ; Matthias Deneckere (ECDPM)


  1. Nice blog. Thanks. I looked up the evaluation and couldn’t easily find an answer to this question: what share of APF expenditure is DACable? I guess not much. And is there an issue for the next MFF about diverting oda to a new extra-budgetary and (mostly) non-oda APF?

  2. Thanks, Simon. I’m glad you found the blog interesting!

    As regards the DAC-ability of the APF: Until recently, the APF was treated as a single package of non-DAC-able funds, but in 2015, the decision was taken to start reporting certain eligible APF disbursements as ODA. These comprise the support to APSA capacity-building as well as activities under the Early Response Mechanism. Support to peace operations such as AMISOM and ECOMIB have no or very few activities that would be eligible and were therefore as a whole treated as non-DAC-able.

    In 2015, the reported ODA share of the APF represented some 5% of total APF funds (some EUR 15 million out of a total of EUR 300 million), whereas in 2016 it increased to 11.5% of total payments (EUR 25 million of a total of EUR 217 million). The increase in 2016 is the result of the EU’s decision to limit funding to AMISOM (introducing an 80% cap on troop stipend payments), as well as increases in capacity-building support.

    On your second question: The view of Volker and myself would be that the creation of an off-budget European Peace Facility after 2020 would not necessarily mean a diversion from ODA to a non-ODA instrument. In the end, the EPF as currently envisioned would mostly be a repackaging of existing instruments: the APF, the Athena mechanism and probably also the “Capacity-building for Security & Development” component currently housed under the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace. Apart from the small share of the APF mentioned above, none of these instruments are currently treated as DAC-able. In fact, several EU member states have been advocating for a substantial increase of the DAC-able share under the APF. We don’t think this position would change substantially should the APF be merged with other instruments.

    Of course, everything will ultimately depend on how much resources member states are willing to put in such an EPF as compared to the external financing instruments under the MFF, which is a matter of overall policy priorities. Our expectation is that the position of the Commission will be that any reduction of the ODA instruments under the MFF in favour of the off-budget EPF should be avoided, but at this point, it’s difficult to say how negotiations will go.

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