Policies framing AU-EU cooperation
A number of policies frame the cooperation between the African Union and the European Union.
The Lomé Convention in 1975, the Cotonou Agreement in 2000 and the recent new strategy with Africa all show the long-lasting political relation between the two continents and the EU’s relationship with Africa as a key priority.
In May 2021, the Commission also set out its blueprint for a Global Approach to Research and Innovation, Europe's strategy for international cooperation in a changing world. With it, the EU aims to take a leading role in supporting international research and innovation partnerships, and to deliver innovative solutions to make our societies green, digital and healthy.
An advisory group on African-European research and innovation cooperation was also launched in May 2021 with a 6-month mandate to provide recommendations on how to improve research and innovation strategies as part of a positive agenda between Africa and Europe.
Towards a comprehensive strategy with Africa
The European Commission’s and the European External Action Service's vision of the future Africa-EU partnership proposes to work together on 5 key global trends
- the green transition and energy access
- digital transformation
- sustainable growth and jobs
- peace, security and governance
- migration and mobility
In area 3 it is planned to incentivise collaboration between academia, research and local business as well as support innovative learning approaches. It is proposed that the EU scales up EU-Africa academic and scientific cooperation, including technical and vocational education and training, and enhances skills development (also in association with EU businesses) with a view to creating a knowledge society and economy.
The EU should facilitate the mobility of students, teachers, trainers, and researchers. It should also support capacity building within Africa; quality training for teachers; the development of research and innovation capacities; harnessing the interaction between education, science, technology and innovation for improved learning.
The Commission and European External Action Service (EEAS) proposals set out practical ways to work together to implement the partnership. The Commission and the EEAS are engaging constructively with stakeholders from across Africa and Europe to hear their feedback on the proposals. There is an ongoing dialogue with EU countries, African partners, as well as the private sector, civil society and think tanks. Read more
The partnership is the formal political channel through which Africa and Europe work together, engage in political and policy dialogues and define their cooperative relationship. It strives to bring Africa and Europe closer together through strengthening economic cooperation and promoting sustainable development, with both continents co-existing in peace, security, democracy, prosperity, solidarity and human dignity. Common interests include climate change, global security and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The partnership is guided by the Joint Africa-EU Strategy.
In 2020, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced the renewal of the EU-Africa relationship.
Report on science for the AU-EU partnership
Joint Africa‐EU Strategy (JAES)
The strategy is the overarching long-term and political framework of the African-European cooperation relations and the formal channel for Europe’s relations with African countries. It was adopted during the second AU-EU Summit in 2007 and outlines the basic principles and general objectives of the AU-EU partnership.
The main objectives are to reinforce political dialogue between Africa and Europe, expand AU-EU cooperation and promote a people-centred partnership.
The JAES has changed the nature of the relationship to an egalitarian one with shared objectives and mutual benefits and risks. Science, technology and innovation plays a cross-cutting role across all 5 areas of cooperation
- peace and security
- democracy, good governance and human rights
- human development
- sustainable and inclusive development and growth and continental integration
- global and emerging issues
Research and innovation was embedded as a pillar in the human development cooperation area. The aim is to promote human capital development and knowledge, skills-based societies and economies, by strengthening the links between education, training, science and innovation, and better managing mobility of people.
Study on the Joint Africa-EU Strategy
The Cotonou Agreement governs relations between the EU and the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States Countries (OACPS) and was due to expire end 2020. It was extended until 30 November 2021, unless the new agreement enters into force or is provisionally applied before that date.
A political deal was reached on a new partnership agreement to succeed the Cotonou Agreement in December 2020. Once in effect, the agreement will be the new legal framework and guide political, economic and cooperation relations between the EU and 79 members of the OACPS for the next 20 years.
The EU and the members of the OACPS represent over 1.5 billion people and more than half of the seats at the United Nations. With the new Agreement, EU and OACPS member countries will be better equipped to address emerging needs and global challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, ocean governance, migration, peace and security issues.
The text will go through internal procedures before the chief negotiators can initial the text, marking the end of the negotiations. The signature of the agreement will occur at a later stage in 2021. To enter into force the agreement must be concluded or ratified by a minimum selection and number of parties. The proposals will be transmitted for approval to the Council in early 2021. The Council will decide on the conclusion only after having received the European Parliament's consent.
Although a political agreement has been found, it is proposed to further extend the Cotonou Agreement to allow appropriate time to carry out the internal EU process mentioned above. The EU agrees to further prolong the Cotonou Agreement until 30 November 2021, unless the new agreement enters into force or is provisionally applied before that date.
The future of the OACPS-EU partnership will serve to further cement the close political ties between the EU and OACPS countries on the world stage. The new agreement contains important commitments, including on cooperating on science, technology, innovation, research, trade and industrialisation. The new partnership agreement will be concluded for an initial period of 20 years.
European Green Deal
The European Green Deal is in line with the comprehensive strategy with Africa, which highlights that innovation is key to enable African countries to pursue a sustainable path to development through low-carbon, climate resilient and green growth, leapfrogging fossil fuel technologies.
The European Green Deal is the commitment to make the EU's economy sustainable and climate neutral by 2050. It aims to turn climate and environmental challenges into opportunities, and making the transition just and inclusive for all. It is a new growth strategy that will transform the EU into a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy.
An European climate law was proposed to turn the political commitment into a legal obligation, including all sectors of economy. It involves
- investing in environmentally-friendly technologies
- supporting industry to innovate
- cleaner, cheaper and healthier forms of private and public transport
- decarbonising the energy sector
- ensuring buildings are more energy efficient
- working with international partners to improve global environmental standards
The summits of AU and EU heads of state and government take place traditionally every 3 years and alternate between Africa and Europe. Summits take stock of the progress being made in implementing commitments and provide political guidance for further work.
The next AU-EU Summit will be the culminating moment when African and European Heads of State and Government meet to determine joint priorities for their common future. In the run up to the Summit, dialogues, consultations and feedback from African and European stakeholders will help refine the way forward.
List of Africa-EU partnership summits and key documents
African Union policies
Alongside the policies framing the Africa-European cooperation there are a number of institutional policies by the African Union (AU). These policies build the strategic framework for the future of the AU and its relations.
Agenda 2063 – the Africa we want
Agenda 2063 is the AU's strategy to deliver on its goal for inclusive and sustainable development. It was signed in May 2013 with a view to reaching the Pan African vision of an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens, representing a dynamic force in the international arena within a 50-year period from 2013 to 2063.
Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA-2024)
STISA-2024 is the first of the 10-year incremental phasing strategies to meet the need for science, technology and innovation to impact agriculture, energy, environment, health, infrastructure development, mining, security and water.
Five-year action plan 2019-2024
Other cooperation initiatives
Union for the Mediterranean (UfM)
The Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) is an intergovernmental Euro-Mediterranean organisation whose mission is to enhance regional cooperation, dialogue and the implementation of projects and initiatives with tangible impact on citizens, with an emphasis on young people and women.
SFIC Africa Task Force
The Strategic Forum for International Cooperation (SFIC) is a preparatory body of the Council of the EU that works to develop the European Research Area. Its Africa Task Force, coordinated by Spain, helps understand, enhance and develop policy-related initiatives for collaboration with Africa.
In May 2020, SFIC launched astrategic report on policy for collaboration on various aspects of research, innovation and higher education with Africa. The mandate of the working group was extended by 18 months to follow up the analysis and strategies, and to launch new initiatives.
The African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA)
The alliance brings together 16 of the region’s leading universities. ARUA develops local research excellence through collaboration to find solutions for the development problems of Africa. It is set to become a pan-African network for developing strong and viable research universities.
Guild of European research-intensive universities
The Guild comprises 20 of Europe’s most distinguished research-intensive universities in 15 countries. It is a transformative network committed to optimising the opportunities afforded by its members' world- leading research and the creation of new knowledge for the benefit of society, culture, and economic growth.
ARUA and the Guild collaboration
ARUA and The Guild call upon the African Union and the European Union leaders to support an ambitious new initiative for Africa’s universities to address the profound demographic, social and environmental changes both continents are facing. The scale of the challenges and the opportunities opened up through scientific and educational collaboration require a new level of investment which goes well beyond existing collaborations in Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+.
Past AU-EU cooperation initiatives
African and European countries and regions have actively engaged in common research, development and innovation programmes over the past decade. The experiences, the identified lacks and demands as well as the strong relationship between the partners were important drivers for the AU-EU High Level Policy Dialogue. Read about ongoing and concluded EU-funded research projects with Africa
Some of the AU-EU research networks and programmes of the last decade which represent important roots for the HLPD are
- Mediterranean Science, Policy, Research & Innovation Gateway: MED-SPRING, (2013 – 2017)
- Advancing sub-Sahara EU cooperation in research and innovation for global challenges: CAAST-NET Plus (2013-2016)
- The Network for the Coordination and Advancement of Sub-Saharan Africa-EU Science and Technology: CAAST-NET (2008-2012)
- Research and Innovation Network for Europe and Africa: RINEA(2015-2018)
- Developing African-European joint collaboration for Science and Technology:ERA-Net ERAfrica (2010-14)
Africa and Europe have a long‐term, broad and evolving relationship of cooperation across a range of diverse social, cultural, economic and political domains. In response to changing geopolitical circumstances, globalisation and the processes of integration in Africa and Europe, the African Union and the European Union Commissions cooperate closely together on research and innovation, flanked by a series of agreements, strategies and roadmaps.
Several African countries have bilateral science and technology cooperation agreements with the EU: South Africa (1997), Egypt (2008), Tunisia (2004), Morocco (2005) and Algeria (2013).
The future of African-European collaboration in research and innovation coincides with various challenges and changes
- implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
- a substantial growth in technology and innovation hubs across Africa and a growing interest in promoting entrepreneurship and supporting small business development
- the European Commission is strengthening its strategic international collaboration with Africa
- the new research and Innovation programme Horizon Europe
- the African Union Commission is calling for joint efforts to stand up for the empowerment of women and girls through education, science and technology
- the COVID-19 pandemic, which is having devastating effects on countries and extraordinary consequences for the world as a whole