No. 11: The EU and Africa: from Eurafrique to Afro-Europa / Thembani Mbadlanyana / Vol. 32, No. 2, July 2014

Published in: Journal of Contemporary African Studies, Vol. 32, No. 2, pp. 278-280, 14 July 2014

The EU and Africa: from Eurafrique to Afro-Europa, edited by Adekeye Adebajo and Kaye Whiteman, Johannesburg, Wits University Press, 2012, 526 pp., R250 (paperback), ISBN 9781868145751

While there is a burgeoning body of literature on the European Union (EU), relatively few books explore the complex and dynamic relations between the EU and Africa and, more often than not, those that do tend to have a limited focus. Such books fail to transcend disciplinary divides and to go deep into the heart of these complex relations. As one of the editors of this book, Kaye Whiteman, rightly observes in the introduction to this volume, 'most academic studies of the EU and its predecessor organizations ... have focused disproportionally on economic aspects to the disadvantage of other critical subjects in this relationship' (3-4). [He] She further observes that 'in short, there is a shortage of all-embracing treatments of the subject, extending to the history of European institutions and activities as critical part of the history of the continent' (4) and, I would add, including its historic relations with Africa.

The EU and Africa: From Eurafrique to Afro-Europa, edited by Adekeye Adebajo and Kaye Whiteman, seeks to address such lacunas in the literature on international organisations, Africa-EU relations and European integration. In an attempt to offer holistic, exhaustive and more nuanced interpretations of the evolving relations between the EU and Africa, this timely 526-page book critically examines the historic nature, current form and future outlook of these relations. In 22 chapters, this thought-provoking book assembles an 'intellectual brigade' comprised of 21 internationally renowned scholars, diplomats and practitioners from different parts of the world to reflect on and offer a critical assessment of the historic and current strategic dimensions of the relations.

Aimed at scholars as well as policy-makers and practitioners, this book critically unpacks the EU's relations with Africa, locating them in historical, political, socio-economic and cultural contexts. Convinced of the need to encourage constructive dialogue and to change our modes of thinking and writing about these relations, authors of this volume pay particular attention to dissecting the epistemological underpinnings of Eurafrique so as to provide good analytical ground for postulating 'Afro-Europa'.

What one finds as the central thematic of the book is the problematization of the current EU-Africa relations. According to the volume editors, such problematization is informed by the fact that, 'Africa and Europe still appear not to have fully escaped the burdens of history' (19). An argument is then advanced that there is a need to examine the feasibility of elaborating and practicing, in future, an 'Afro-Europa': a new relationship of genuine equality, partnership and mutual self-interest between both continents that shed the baggage of the 'Eurafrique' past.

The book is neatly arranged into six parts, each with a different theme and each including several chapters looking at different aspects of that theme. An introduction provides an overview of the conceptual thrust and argumentation of the book. It also outlines the structure of the book. Subsequent parts and chapters provide rich insights and an up-to-date guide into the EU's set of external relations.

The first part provides a critical assessment of the historical evolution of Europe's relationship with Africa. A key question is raised as to 'why the idea of Eurafrique has had such survival power beyond the colonial period, during which it flourished in certain circles' (11-12). In Part Two, the book interrogates the EU's strategic partnerships in Africa looking at the heuristic or added value and authenticity of these strategic 'partnerships' with countries like South Africa. One of the pertinent questions this part seeks to answer is how the diverse countries that make up Africa can be enabled to build enduring partnerships with the EU resting on principles of equality, mutual respect and mutual benefit. Part Three of the book focuses on trade, aid and investment. It asks very serious questions about the resilience of African economies and the sustainability of the current investment boom in the continent. Two controversial topics are discussed in this part, namely the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) and the EU's Common Agricultural Policy. It is in Part Four of the book where issues of governance and security are discussed. Looking at the interface between security, governance and development, this part pays particular attention to the EU's intervention in the Great Lakes region, Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR). Part Five provides an analysis of EU member states' individual policies on Africa focusing on bilateral relations between African countries, France, Britain, Portugal and the Nordic countries. An interesting question that forms an integral part of this section is 'how much those countries with strong historical connections with Africa have influenced the EU's own policies towards Africa in the five and a half decades since the signing of the Treaty of Rome in 1957'. The final part focuses on migration patterns and identity. It explores European migration policies which tend to be centred on notions of territorial integrity, governance of collective lives and protection of citizens against external threats.

Apart from originality, fresh perspectives and contributions from authorities in the field, this book also has other strengths such as its meticulous treatment of the subject matter and the comparative approach to the issues under discussion, which set it apart from other works. The book can also be commended for its attempt to cover the wide variety of complex and different themes comprehensively. This volume distinguishes itself from others in the field in that it has depth as well as breadth. The book is valuable also in its ability to transcend disciplinary divides, which makes it a significant addition to the academic and policy discourse on EU-Africa relations. Another strength of the book is that is allows us to hear the voices of both seasoned scholars and practitioners, providing us views from outside analysis as well as from 'insiders'.

However, despite these strengths, the book also has some shortcomings. While the book is clearly intended to reach both academics and practitioners, it ends up being more of a practitioners' text and focuses more on offering perspectives from practitioners at the expense of theoretical perspectives. In doing so, it fails to generate new intellectual toolkits and theoretical lenses through which these relations can be viewed. Furthermore, although the all-encompassing nature of the book serves as its strength, it risks also being a weakness. By focusing on a plethora of issues, at times the book almost loses direction and coherence and there is a little bit of repetition here and there. A more serious shortcoming is the absence of a final concluding chapter that sums up and highlights the issues raised in different chapters. Consequently, the different and fascinating recommendations (e.g., Adedeji's call for an EU Marshall Plan) advanced in different places in the text are not harmonised. A conclusion with key recommendations could have benefited the book and could have been of assistance to policy-makers.

Despite these shortcomings, the book is an excellent addition to literature on the EU and Africa that can be recommended particularly for practitioners, but also for scholars of the relationship between the EU and Africa.

Thembani Mbadlanyana
Portfolio Committee on Police
Parliament of South Africa, Cape Town, South Africa

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