Will EU-African summit reform Europe-Africa relations ?

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The whole idea for the EU-African Union Summit, which is expected to take place in Brussels next Thursday (17 February), started some two years ago after the EU set out its plan for a ‘strategic partnership’ with Africa.

The EU plans to unveil six initiatives at the Summit, including three investment packages, as part of what it calls a ‘Prosperous and Sustainable Partnership’.

“At the summit, investments will be at the heart of the discussions because they are the means of our shared ambition,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in Senegal’s capital Dakar on Thursday, after announcing that the Global Gateway would comprise an investment plan worth more than €150 billion for Africa.

Though the summit promises to establish an EU investment platform in each Africa, it will not be backed by any new financing commitment by Brussels.

Most importantly is to find out how much of the $450 billion Special Drawing Rights issued by the International Monetary Fund last year, a large chunk of which was allocated to EU member states, will be reallocated to Africa to help cover the costs of the COVID pandemic.

Redirecting Special Drawing Rights to Africa has been one of French President Emmanuel Macron’s projects, and insiders say the French EU Council presidency has made a concerted push on SDRs.

France, Italy, and Spain have so far pledged 20% of their new SDRs, while Belgium and the Netherlands also recycled smaller amounts.

One civil society leader described the EU’s slow progress on the SDR allocation as “extremely disappointing” and a “missed opportunity for the EU to up its offer” to Africa.

Macron is said to have set a target of between $40 billion and $45 billion for the SDR allocation. However, this would still fall well short of the demand made by Senegal’s President Macky Sall, that at least $100 billion of SDRs should be redirected to Africa as part of a ‘New Deal’.

Covid 19 vaccine debate

Progress on vaccine production and access is also up for discussion and already, the Eu and Africa are at odds over vaccine patents. However, Macron has promised to establish a ‘global licensing’ system, not much has been said about it.

The EU is unlikely to agree to the AU’s main demand, and on which there is unanimous African support, for a World Trade Organisation waiver of intellectual property rights on COVID vaccines.

“We haven’t seen the commitments that we need from the pharmaceutical giants or the EU on the IP waiver,” said one civil society leader.

However, there could be developments in European investment in vaccine production sites in Africa. There are signs of a progressing pharmaceutical production industry in Africa. South Africa recently produced its first batch of Moderna vaccines.

Security concerns

Mali, Guinea, Sudan, and Burkina Faso have all been suspended from the AU over the past year after their governments were overthrown by the military.

The AU and all international bodies have “condemned the wave of unconstitutional changes of government. To an extent, the ECOWAS has even been described by some security analysts as ineffective.

The EU’s high representative on foreign affairs, Josep Borrell has warned that Amisom’s structure and mandate must be reformed if the EU is to continue funding it.

The EU-African Union summit is expected to be a platform for both parties to agree on the structure for Africa-Europe Security and Stability, a joint commitment to strengthen African capacities and support African peace operations. However, this is primarily about restating existing defence and security efforts.

Trust has been badly damaged during the COVID pandemic, with widely held African complaints about the EU’s vaccine hoarding compounded by the travel bans imposed on southern African states following the discovery of Omicron in November.

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