EU-Africa relations

How do African countries and the EU cooperate? 

African countries and the EU cooperate through multiple frameworks such as:

  • the Cotonou agreement
  • the joint Africa-EU strategy 

In addition to these frameworks, the Council has adopted three regional strategies for the:

  • Horn of Africa
  • Gulf of Guinea
  • Sahel

Africa-EU relations also take place through formal dialogues, such as the EU-Africa summits.

Cooperation frameworks in detail

Cotonou agreement

The Cotonou agreement is the overarching framework for EU relations with African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. It covers the EU's relations with 79 countries, including 48 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Joint Africa-EU strategy 

The joint Africa-EU strategy was adopted in 2007 as the formal channel for EU relations with African countries. This strategy was agreed by the African Union and EU institutions, as well as by African and EU countries.

It is implemented through periodical action plans. In 2014, EU and African countries agreed on the roadmap for 2014-2017. This roadmap sets out five key priorities and areas for joint action.

On 4 May 2017, the High Representative and the Commission issued a joint communication for a renewed impetus of the Africa-EU Partnership. The Foreign Affairs Council welcomed the joint communication at its meeting on 15 May 2017.

Regional strategies 

1. Horn of Africa

The Horn of Africa, a region in East Africa , has faced repetitive droughts over the past years, causing a severe humanitarian crisis.

In 2011, the EU adopted a strategic framework for the Horn of Africa. It outlines the action to be taken by the EU to help the people of the region achieve peace, stability, security, prosperity and accountable government. 

The strategic framework has led among other things to:

  • the supporting Horn of Africa resilience initiative (SHARE) (2012)
  • the action plan on counter-terrorism for the Horn of Africa and Yemen (2013)

In 2015, the Council adopted the Horn of Africa regional action plan 2015-2020. This defines the EU's approach for addressing key issues throughout the region.

The action plan takes into account challenges that have become more critical over the years, notably:

  • the influence of the wider region on the Horn of Africa
  • radicalisation
  • migration and forced displacement

The implementation of the action plan is led by the High Representative and the Commission. The Council is regularly updated on its implementation, including through annual reports.

2. Gulf of Guinea

Countries in the region of the Gulf of Guinea are facing growing instability due to a lack of control over coastal waters and the coast itself.

As a result of this, criminal activity is on the rise, such as:

  • trafficking of drugs, human beings, arms, diamonds, counterfeit medicines, illegal waste, etc.
  • piracy and armed robbery at sea
  • oil theft
  • illegal fishing

In March 2014, the Council adopted a strategy on the Gulf of Guinea. This describes how the EU can help countries in the region tackle these challenges and strengthen their maritime capabilities, the rule of law and effective governance. 

A year later, in March 2015, the Council adopted the Gulf of Guinea action plan 2015-2020. This outlines the EU's support to address the challenges of maritime security and organised crime in the region. 

A senior EU coordinator looks after the implementation of the EU Gulf of Guinea strategy and the action plan. Their implementation is closely coordinated with the Council's Political and Security Committee.

3. Sahel

The EU strategy for security and development in the Sahel was presented in 2011 by the High Representative and the Commission, upon the Council's request.

It focuses on four strands of action:

  • development
  • good governance and internal conflict resolution
  • political and diplomatic security and rule of law
  • countering violent extremism

Adopted in 2015, the Sahel regional action plan 2015-2020 provides a solid basis for pursuing the objectives of the strategy. It focuses on four areas which are highly relevant to the stabilisation of the region, namely:

  • preventing and countering radicalisation
  • creating appropriate conditions for youth
  • migration, mobility and border management
  • fighting illicit trafficking and transnational organised crime

Formal dialogues

The EU-Africa partnership is developed through formal dialogues at various levels:

  • EU-Africa summits, at the level of heads of state or government, are held in principle every three years
  • ministerial-level (or 'troika') meetings, held regularly, gather representatives from African and EU countries, the African Union Commission, and EU institutions, including the Council of the EU
  • commission-to-commission meetings

The fifth EU-Africa summit will take place on 29-30 November 2017 in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Investing in youth will be the theme of the summit, as this has become a key priority for Europe as well as for Africa.

In 2014, the fourth EU-Africa summit brought together more than 60 EU and African leaders to discuss the future of EU-Africa relations and reinforce links between the two continents.

Council preparatory bodies

In the Council, the following bodies are responsible for Africa-EU relations:

What are the areas of cooperation?

Trade

The EU has negotiated a series of economic partnership agreements (EPAs) with 48 countries from Sub-Saharan Africa, as part of the Cotonou agreement. These agreements aim to create a shared trade and development partnership backed up by development support.

To find out more, visit the page on the Cotonou agreement:

Development

The EU finances development programmes and initiatives benefiting multiple countries across Africa.

Most of the funding comes from the European development fund (EDF), which has a budget of €30.5 billion for the period 2014-2020.

Security

The EU has launched several military and civilian missions and operations in Africa, as part of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).

EU missions are currently deployed in:

  • the Central African Republic
  • Libya
  • Mali
  • Niger
  • Somalia
Response to migratory pressures

The Council and European Council are working to establish a comprehensive European migration policy

Migration

In November 2015, the EU and the African leaders most concerned agreed on the Valetta action plan. This comprises 16 concrete actions to address the mass influx of migrants coming to Europe.

In June 2016, the European Council agreed to deepen cooperation with key countries of origin and transit. Compacts tailored to the needs of each country are being put in place.

In February 2017, EU leaders adopted the Malta declaration setting out their intention to increase cooperation with Libya, which is the main country of departure towards Europe.

Counter-terrorism

The EU supports counter-terrorism initiatives and activities on the African continent.

In June 2017, the EU committed to provide €50 million to support the newly established G5 Sahel Joint Force in order to improve security in the region.

In 2013, the EU adopted an action plan on counter-terrorism for the Horn of Africa and Yemen.