No. 9: The EU and Africa: From Eurafrique to Afro-Europa / Giulia Piccolino / Strategic Review for Southern Africa, Vol. 35, No. 2, November 2013

Published in: Strategic Review for Southern Africa, Vol. 35, No. 2, November 2013

Adebajo, Adekeye/Whiteman, Kaye (eds), The EU and Africa. From Eurafrique to Afro-Europa. Johannesburg: Wits University Press 2012, 531 pp.

In an era of academic hyper specialisation, the European Union (EU)'s relations with Africa are often approached through a narrow focus. Security and development issues are treated as if they were separate domains and the policies of individual European countries are rarely approached in connection with the EU's involvement in Africa. Moreover, many publications in the field of EU studies are preoccupied with very abstract theoretical issues and are thus not appealing to the wider public of non-specialists.

This ambitious and intriguing volume aims at overcoming these limitations and tries to give an all-encompassing view of EU-Africa relations. The contributions are written in a style accessible to various audiences, from researchers to practitioners to ordinary citizens interested in North-South relations. The authors' perspectives are engaged, as the subtitle From Eurafrique to Afro-Europa suggests. Invented in the 1920s, Eurafrique is a term very much evocative of the colonial past and of Euro-African relations marked by dependence and inequality. In contrast, Afro-Europa evokes a future of sincere partnership based on "genuine equality and mutual respect" (p19), which, despite the rhetoric, has not materialised fully yet according to the editors.

The 22 chapters include contributions not only from African and European academics, but also from protagonists of EU-African relations, such as the 'Jean Monnet' of West Africa Adebajo Adedeji and the former EU Special Representative to the Great Lakes Region, Aldo Ajello. The first two chapters by the editors give a historical perspective on EU-African relations. Whiteman retraces the origins of the Eurafrique concept and resumes the history of EU interregional cooperation with Africa from the Yaoundé convention to the Europe-Africa strategic partnership. Adebajo gives a fascinating comparative account of the European and African integration processes. His main argument is that, while the European integration process is rooted in the political and economic context of Europe, the African one has remained disconnected from the local context, producing more often high-sounding rhetoric than effective results.

The second part, titled "Political, economic and strategic dimension", includes five quite diverse chapters. Adedeji revisits the issue of regional integration, and is highly critical of the EU's attitude towards African integration initiatives. The Dutch diplomat Rob de Vos reflects on how to make Europe-African relations more accountable and less marked by a dependency complex. The following two chapters look at the EU relations with South Africa and the Maghreb. In the last one, Shadia Islam from Pakistan tries to extract lessons for Africa from the experience of EU relations with Asia.

Part three focuses on trade, investment and development. It includes a thorough and excellent analysis of the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) by Mareike Meyn, as well as a discussion of Africa's economic potential and a critique of the EU common agricultural policy. Part four deals with the EU involvement in security and conflict management. It pays particular attention to two key theatres of EU intervention - the Great Lakes region and Chad. Part five looks at the bilateral policies of three former colonial powers - France, Britain and Portugal - and of the Northern countries. Part six has a wider focus, with one chapter dealing with migration, one by Ali Mazrui with the racial question, and the last, by Helmut Mayer, reflecting on the EU global responsibilities in a changing and increasingly less Eurocentric international order.

Given the enormous task that the editors and authors set for themselves - providing a geographically and historically comprehensive picture of EU-Africa relations - it is inevitable that the volume suffers from a few shortcomings. Some of the limitations result from its format and scope. The collection is not meant to be an academic textbook, and some chapters lack the formal rigour associated with academic writing. The diverse backgrounds of the contributors make the book heterogeneous in its style and approach, but at the same time yield a rich and wide-spectrum perspective on the theme.

Other shortcomings are more substantial. Although a clear picture of EU-Africa relations still marked by misunderstandings and inequalities (in spite of the hollow rhetoric of 'partnership') emerges from the contributions, the authors do not offer a clear agenda for realising the dream of 'Afro-Europa'. The recommendations offered in the different chapters are not always consistent. Since a general conclusion is lacking, Adebajo and Whiteman's position on some substantial issues is not articulated. Regarding the EU-Africa trade regime, would they advocate a return to the preferences of the Lomé era? Do they have an alternative to the controversial EPAs in mind? Do they welcome or worry about the EU involvement in African security? Do they think the political conditionality associated with EU development aid undermines or supports the goal of a more equilibrated Afro-European partnership?

There are also some omissions. One of the most significant, given the enormous (rhetorical?) attention given by the EU institutions to the issue and Europe's (self?) representation as a 'normative power', is the lack of a comprehensive assessment of the EU promotion of democracy, human rights and 'good governance' in Africa and of its intended and unintended impact on Euro-African relations. Another topic that might have deserved a chapter is the impact of the cumbersome and complex institutional structure of the EU on its Africa policies, and the EU's efforts to achieve coordination and coherence in its relations with Africa. Despite these minor shortcomings, the book is a very welcome contribution to both the academic and the public debate and will be a must-read for practitioners and scholars interested in North-South relations.

Giulia Piccolino
Department of Political Sciences, University of Pretoria

Synopsis of the book »

Rate this item
(0 votes)

© 2018 Centre for Conflict Resolution 

Centre for Conflict Resolution, Coornhoop, 2 Dixton Road, Observatory 7925, Cape Town, South Africa

 Tel: +27 (0)21 689 1005 | Fax: +27 (0)21 689 1003